CANDID WITH CADRE | Stephanie Benedetto, Founder Queen of Raw

CANDID WITH CADRE | Stephanie Benedetto, Founder Queen of Raw

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Stephanie Benedetto launched her business-to-business digital deadstock materials marketplace, Queen of Raw, in 2018 as a way to be the ultimate matchmaker for those looking to unload their supply of unused material and those looking to source it at a lower cost. Since then, she’s been recognized for her sustainable efforts by the United Nations and the Cartier Women’s Initiative but has expanded the business to include a software that helps collect data for businesses to help their bottom line and track their sustainable goals. Queen of Raw recently partnered with Shein to incorporate more deadstock materials into their collections. Says Benedetto about these big shifts: “It took a pandemic and a recession but in some ways the world woke up to these issues. I feel invigorated by that. They’re now front and center as they should have been. It’s mission critical for all the obvious reasons: customer demand, regulation, survival of our planet.” We caught up with her about how her business and the industry has progressed over the past few years, one yard of repurposed fabric at a time. 

We know a lot of sustainable fashion starts with sourcing, how does using deadstock fabric help cut down waste?

When we first started looking at this issue and that word deadstock, I’ll be excited when there’s a better word for it, a lot of people didn’t know what it meant or what it was. Or didn’t understand that there were positive benefits to the rescuing and reusing. I remember early on when we were building Queen of Raw and it was just a retail marketplace for deadstock, we got questions like, but you’re selling leathers and skins and synthetics, how could this be sustainable? This was inventory that was otherwise going to be burned in the landfill. By rescuing it and putting it back into the chain or supply and demand, we’re lowering the amount of waste and cutting down the rate of new textile production.

Should designers be thinking of deadstock as a starting point?

So many designers want to be sustainable and want access to these high quality materials but a lot of times it may be out of their price point or they can’t have access or meet minimums for these factories. Traditionally it has been a very broken, fractured system for emerging designers. For us, it has been about democratizing access digitally to these high quality, vetted materials that have some inherent sustainable properties, but also at a discount and lower minimums that can help empower them to integrate these practices and materials into these designs. They can work sustainability into their ethos and produce products at a price point their customers can afford.

What major changes have you noticed in the industry as far as your business is concerned? 

We now, beyond our marketplace, have full enterprise software. Part of that has a full criteria of a vetting process to know that inventory is deadstock. Excess inventory that has been made pursuant to some order or anticipated order, it has been sitting for a certain time period and is otherwise going to be burned at landfill. By reselling across our chains, it is sold at a discount and is being reused and repurposed and we can see who and what that is. We can also look and track whether a supplier is increasing or decreasing in their amount of deadstock over time and we can intelligently help them minimize waste going forward. One of our big enterprise customers was actually able to take action on ten metric tons of excess inventory within weeks of using our software. We converted 95% of that from going to landfill and incineration and saved them over 4 million dollars in holding and storage costs alone.

Where do you think the industry still needs help most?

In many ways, all the changes and laws that are here or are coming have actually been really supportive of our business model. As long as [a business] is able to show what they are doing with excess inventory, deadstock, waste, that’s one of the ways they can help show how to offset that legal liability. We are going through third-party audits of our software because these are books and records that Fortune 500 companies can show to their auditors and we can be included as a line item in their ESG reporting to show and prove it. You can’t change an entire system overnight. [As a business] you can’t get paralyzed, you need to know what to do and where to go from day one. And to us, that’s been so important to show and work together with these companies and give them a way to start today, take action on this excess for a better tomorrow.

Queen of Raw will now be partnering with Shein as a deadstock material distributor. How is a deal like this a huge step in sustainable production?

Obviously everything we do as a business has been about being able to measure and report progress and see that someone can start in one place and move forward with that impact economically and environmentally. The Shein example is a great use case: one of the world’s leading retailers really making a bold commitment to consume deadstock and purchase volume at scale and to report that progress. It’s really powerful and it really says something to the industry.