Some innovations take a long time to reach the mainstream, as the Spanish company Recover can attest. The maker of recycled cotton fiber and fiber blends traced its roots to 1914 when Antonio Ferre opened a textile factory in Banyeres de Mariola. The innovation came 33 years later, in 1947 when the second generation of Ferres started turning textile waste into yarn – a game-changing process that was almost unheard of at the time.
Recycled cotton was so rare in the 1940s that the Ferre family didn’t even market the “recycled” part.
Today, recycled cotton is part of a multi-billion-dollar industry that continues to grow as more fashion companies emphasize sustainability.
“My father never said this was a recycled cotton product. He simply said it was cotton,” Alfredo Ferre, Recover’s current CEO, said in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal.
He represents the fourth generation of Ferres to lead the company, which changed its name to Recover in 2006. Recover’s proprietary recycling process was officially launched in 2014 with major global brands and retailers worldwide – a list that now includes clothing retailer Lands’ End, denim brand DL1961, retail company Primark, Zara-parent Inditex, and Revolve’s own Lovers & Friends brand.
Recover’s mission is to provide high-quality, environmentally friendly, and cost-competitive products to help move the fashion industry toward greater sustainability. The company got a big push forward with a recent $100 million investment led by Goldman Sachs Asset Management.
The WSJ reported that the investment, announced on June 9, values Recover at about $1.1 billion. Also participating in the investment was California-based Story3 Capital Partners, which bought a majority stake in Recover two years ago. Goldman Sachs was attracted not only by Recover’s commercial potential but also its eco-friendly business model
“Recover is a leading disruptor in the apparel and textiles space with much-needed sustainable solutions grounded in materials science,” Letitia Webster, head of Sustainability for Private Investing at Goldman Sachs Asset Management, said in a press release.
Recover will use the funds to boost its production capacity and market reach, accelerating the adoption of sustainable processes and materials. The BBC reported that bringing more sustainability is a key fashion industry goal, accounting for about 8-10% of global carbon emissions and nearly 20% of wastewater.
The industry has been under increasing pressure to lower its carbon footprint regulators and eco-conscious consumers. Recover addresses the challenge in two key areas: through proprietary technology that produces fiber blends at a lower environmental cost and through its own recycled fiber, it sells to retail and fashion brands.
The global market for ethical fashions still occupies a small niche of the $1.5 trillion apparel industry. Ethical fashion sales worldwide are expected to reach about $10 billion in 2025 and grow at a compound annual rate of about 9.7%, according to data analysis firm Research and Markets. Most discarded clothes end up as trash, either burned in incinerators or buried in landfills.
Recover improves textile waste by recycling cotton fibers and cotton blends. Not only does this reduce waste – but it also reduces the use of solvents and water.
The company opened its first manufacturing facility last year and plans to use its recent financing round to expand internationally, focusing on Asia and Latin America.
Recover currently has manufacturing centers in Pakistan and Bangladesh. It plans to add a second location in Bangladesh and another in Vietnam this year. Because Recover locates its plants in regions rich with textile production and waste generation, it can reduce both operating costs and its carbon footprint.
Meanwhile, the company is ramping up production, with plans to manufacture more than 350,000 metric tons of recycled cotton fiber a year by 2026. That’s a massive increase from the roughly 4,000 metric tons produced annually before Story3 entered the picture. Recover expects yearly revenue to hit $1 billion by 2026.