Dubbed the ‘Airbnb of clothing’, can this Aussie start-up help solve fast-fashion waste?


Those around her at the time told Hannon Comazzetto that leaving her EY consulting role to launch a startup was risky. But her determination to solve the global fast-fashion waste problem outweighed the risks, and in 2018 she founded Airrobe, a platform dubbed the Airbnb of clothing. 
Hannon Comazzetto. Image: Supplied

Hannon Comazzetto is in Australia for a short while when we speak, but then it’s back to the world’s fashion capital, New York. Originally a Melbournian, Comazzetto moved to the Big Apple this year after a year-long stint in San Francisco. Now, the United States – where her mother is originally from – is home.   

“It [the move] was really to grow AirRobe into the US market,” Comazzetto says. “Then I found myself constantly in New York because that’s the fashion hub. I was spending a little too much time on people’s couches, so I decided to make the move and live there.”  

AirRobe started in 2018, but Comazzetto built the first iteration of the AirRobe marketplace herself after going through the Startmate accelerator program in June 2019. She says she spoke to consumers, brands and retailers and eventually landed on a circular wardrobe concept there. 

Brands integrate with AirRobe’s circular wardrobe technology, and their customers (who sign up for an AirRobe account) are given a digital twin of their purchase. Then, the consumer can easily resell, rent, recycle or donate a previous purchase on AirRobe’s marketplace. Customers can also list other items on AirRobe’s  marketplace for sale or rent.  

In 2020, AirRobe raised $1.28 million in its seed round. Comazzetto confirms the business has raised more funding since, but the amount is undisclosed. “We will be raising again in the future,” she says. “We see that there is just such a breadth of opportunity.”  

AirRobe is Comazzetto’s second startup – her first was Borderless, a solution for remittance transactions that used blockchain technology. While it didn’t work out, Comazzetto says she learned a valuable lesson from the experience – that timing is everything.   

And in 2018, the time was right. The idea for the AirRobe startup came to her after spending time working on strategy and consulting with a global fashion house. There, she saw first-hand the fast fashion economy and its devastating environmental and ethical impacts.  

A 2019 World Bank Group study found the fashion industry emits more than 10% of all annual global carbon dioxide emissions, and 87% of all manufactured worn textiles end up in a landfill.   

“At the time, conscious consumption was a huge topic. A Deloitte study showed how purpose-driven companies were growing three times faster than their competitors,” she says. “It led me to think how this would impact the retail industry, and I believed there was a way to work with fashion retailers, designers and the ecosystem to make change for the better.”  

Her colleagues, partners and clients tried to warn her against quitting her job to launch a startup (after all, studies show around 90% of startups fail). But her passion for solving the global fast- fashion waste problem and building a more sustainable fashion industry propelled her.   

Business-wise, the proposition made sense. “There’s big money in it for brands and retailers. There’s a huge commercial opportunity.” AirRobe reports a 20% to 35% increase in the average order value and a two-times increase in customer frequency. This is because consumers are incentivised to spend more on grander purchases if they know they can resell it and make money back. AirRobe is free, but charges a commission when the item is rented or sold.  

“Our mission is to incentivise the creation of and the investment in timeless, long-lasting pieces,” Comazzetto says. “A lot of the pieces that are more sustainable and more ethical are typically at that higher price-point.” That’s reflected in AirRobe’s premium brands (Zimmerman, Gucci, Chloé, Versace, Celine) and brand partners (Oroton, The Iconic, Viktoria & Woods, By Johnny and more than 100 others).  

And her time in the US has been fruitful – she launched AirRobe over New York Fashion Week with a new, up-and-coming demi-couture brand called One Off, founded and designed by Patricia Votto.  

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