How laundry platform Dobbi contributes to a circular fashion industry

Maurits Tiethoff and Ruben van Pelt, Dobbi

Three years ago, Dobbi started as a laundry and dry-cleaning service for individuals. Today, the platform is profiling itself as a partner for fashion retailers who want to become more sustainable. After the Netherlands and Belgium, the rest of the world is set to follow.


Extend the lifespan of clothing

"The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world. Every second, a truckload of old textiles is dumped or burned. In the Netherlands, this amounts to around 150 million kilos annually", Maurits Tiethoff explains. He founded laundry platform Dobbi in 2018, together with business partner Ruben van Pelt. "On average, people wear a garment seven times before throwing it away, and some 45 % of clothes get thrown out because they are stained. Professional textile cleaning is up to four times more durable than washing at home and can remove 90 to 95 % of all stains from clothes. That is how you can really extend the lifespan of clothing."


Dobbi can count on Henkel and PostNL as strategic investors. "Persil wants to remain relevant as a laundry brand in the future. How will people do their laundry in five to ten years? They strongly believe in the transition towards the product as a service." Thanks to PostNL's network, the laundry platform can collect laundry from any address in the Netherlands within two hours, chosen by the consumer, on any weekday between 8 am and 8 pm. In addition, the service is available at around 600 retail service points, including supermarket chains Jumbo and Spar.


Clothes-rental and second-hand business

This high-performance network for 'collect, clean & deliver' offers opportunities for new business models. In the meantime, Dobbi is more than a laundry and dry-cleaning service for consumers: the company has also entered the market for workplace clothing. "The transition to circular use has already progressed a little further for companies. We do not only clean workwear, but we also ensure that the garments of employees who leave the company get reused - previously they were just thrown out - and we also offer a recycling service."


In addition, Dobbi sees potential in the clothes-rental market, a model emerging strongly in America in particular, with examples like Rent The Runway. "It is essential for the business model to collect and clean the garments once they have been returned. We hope to capitalise on that. We also see opportunities in the vintage market. The disadvantage of second-hand is that clothes sometimes smell stuffy and are not clean. That is where we come in with the solution. Experts predict that by 2030, the market for second-hand textiles will be one and a half times bigger than that for new textiles. Just look at a platform like Vinted, or at Zalando that is now also selling second-hand clothing: the rise is in full swing."


Talks with the fashion chains

Dobbi is already in talks with Zalando, Inditex and other large clothing companies showing interest in this collect-and-clean platform. "We want to facilitate the transition to circular textiles. In my opinion, a real transition will only come about after government intervention. Electric cars are subsidised, as is green energy. In the Netherlands, there is now a scheme in the making called 'Extended Producer Responsibility' whereby fashion chains and the industry are held accountable for the collection of old clothing under the principle of 'the polluter pays'. This is the big opportunity for us."


However, Dobbi still often struggles to get into talks with big fashion chains. "We could also open service points for them. We do that now in the Netherlands for one fashion chain, Only for Men. They advertise using the slogan 'New isn't always better', have a service point in their stores and give their customers a voucher for Dobbi. We are also going to collect textiles for them to get the return flow going. I see this happening with other fashion chains as well." The time seems ripe: "Zeeman started selling second-hand clothing in the Netherlands. I think there is a perfect chance that it will be successful. It fits the formula. Collecting children's clothes is a good example of a circular economy."


International rollout

Dobbi recently expanded into Belgium: "We did so at the request of Dutch clients who are also active in Belgium. After all, it only takes twenty minutes to drive from Roosendaal to Antwerp. Currently, we only have business clients, and we are also talking to the Belgian textile cleaning industry association. We will start reaching out to consumers this year, not right away nationwide but in a few bigger cities like Antwerp, Ghent and Brussels. We truly want to roll out our model internationally. Belgium will be a pilot case. Then we want to go to France, Germany and even America. Hence the discussions with the major fashion chains: if they believe in it, we can enter new markets together."


How can Dobbi help fashion retailers on their way to a circular model? Maurits Tiethoff and Ruben van Pelt will discuss this at RetailDetail Day on Thursday, 16 September in Antwerp. Speakers from Mars Food, Colruyt Group and Zeeman, among others, will also take the stage at this marketing conference for the retail industry. More speakers will be announced soon. The event will be hybrid: participants can either experience the conference live on-site or remotely follow the live stream. You can find more info and tickets through this link.