Engineering News

How McCormick Students are Helping Fashion Become More Green

Lura is an online fabric marketplace for sustainable textiles, giving brands access and information needed to source materials

Lura offers designers information about a fabric’s characteristics and environmental impact.Lura offers designers information about a fabric’s characteristics and environmental impact.
Regina Morfin and Avantika Raikar are working to help the environment via the fashion industry.Regina Morfin and Avantika Raikar are working to help the environment via the fashion industry.

Northwestern Engineering students Regina Morfin and Avantika Raikar wanted to help the fashion industry, often accused of harming the environment, become more sustainable.

Instead of creating a new sustainable brand, they developed an online fabric marketplace for textiles, giving clothing designers access and information about the sustainability of source materials.

The result is Lura, a website that offers designers information about a fabric’s characteristics, environmental impact, and even the carbon footprint involved in making it.

Often, designers at small fashion brands lack the right connections, and they are ignored by fabric mills when asking for sustainability information. 

“With Lura, brands know they’re getting truly sustainable fabrics and transparency into their supply chain,” said Raikar, a rising junior studying industrial engineering.

The idea for Lura came in 2019 after Morfin, now a rising junior studying manufacturing and design engineering (MaDE) with a minor in entrepreneurship, read an article about climate change and the fashion industry’s role, often accused of churning out “fast fashion” at an affordable price but with high costs to the environment. Morfin joined forces with classmate Raikar to use their entrepreneurial spirit to help the planet through the fashion industry.

They put their idea into practice with the help of Northwestern Engineering faculty.

Together, Morfin and Raikar took “IEMS 325: Engineering Entrepreneurship,” taught by Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation lecturers Billy Banks and Neal Sales-Griffin. That experience taught the team how to use an analytical framework for analyzing problems and having a true understanding of customers. Verinder Syal, whose class “ENTREP 395: Making Your Startup Market Ready” helped their overall productivity as a team, also served as a mentor.

As their idea grew, Hayes Ferguson, associate director at The Garage at Northwestern and incoming director of the Farley Center, encouraged the duo who had joined The Garage’s Propel program, aimed at encouraging female entrepreneurs by providing networking, mentorship, and immersive experiences.

“We met Hayes in our first year as Propellers,” Morfin said of Ferguson. “She has always been a great role model.”

Before launching, the team thought production costs would be the biggest challenge for sustainable apparel. After conducting their research, Morfin and Raikar found that efficient sourcing was the toughest obstacle.

Success in sourcing the right fabrics depends heavily on knowing the right people in the right places,” Morfin said. “It’s an inefficient process every time they look for unique or new materials. And often, they are unable to find what they are looking for and compromise based on the connections they have.

“Why should small fashion brands have to compromise their creative vision?”

Lura already has worked with smaller fashion brands pursuing environmentally-friendly production methods including the student-run company Heliopolis, Dinosaur Hampton, and Soft Haus. They are currently working with Natural Swim, a company focused on sustainability.

“What we do depends really on what that brand needs,” Morfin said. “Essentially, we consult with them on the types of material they should use. We send them samples and connect them to manufacturers.”  

For now, Lura addresses sustainability only in material selection; however, the team believes there are several steps in clothing production that can be improved, such as sustainability during the manufacturing process.

“At Lura,” Raikar said, “we want to tackle the sustainability of the entire supply chain.”