• PreSeed Now
  • Posts
  • Is this the secret to sustainable sparkle?

Is this the secret to sustainable sparkle?

Radiant Matter's BioSequin is the start of its mission

PreSeed Now brings you a new super-early-stage B2B or deep tech startup every Tuesday and Thursday - profiled in depth.

Subscribe for free to get it straight to your inbox:

Not many of the startups we cover at PreSeed Now can claim to have worked with Stella McCartney.

In fact, none of them could… until today, as we meet Radiant Matter.

But first:

  • Featured in PreSeed Now back in February, Ittybit has announced a £1.5 million round, led by Mercuri and Sure Valley Ventures (the latter’s first deal in the North of England), with participation from Oxford Capital, Baltic Ventures, and angel investors.

  • Our Startup Tracker keeps you up-to-date with the latest news from all the startups we’ve featured

  • If you’re at the Climb24 conference in Leeds today, come to the Summit Stage at 2pm, where I’ll be leading a conversation on pre-seed and seed investment.

– Martin

This issue of PreSeed Now is brought to you by EHE Ventures.

Known for backing high-growth tech, EHE just announced they're building a £15m AI tech fund, and have finalised their core Fund Advisory team. The fund itself seeks to support and accelerate the growth of AI technologies, empowering the brightest minds in tech at pre-seed, seed and Series A.

Learn more about their mission and the fund here

Radiant Matter says it has the secret to sustainable sparkle

Radiant Matter co-founders Elissa Brunato and Cyan Williams

In summary:

Premium subscribers get the full version of this article, plus a TLDR summary right here, and access to our Startup Tracker for updates about what this startup does next.

We take colours for granted in our world. Red car, yellow dress, blue door… They’re just colours, right? There can be more to it than that if you want to be environmentally conscious.

One startup that doesn't take colours for granted is Radiant Matter, a London-based team developing what founder Elissa Brunato describes as “a new generation of colour and materials solutions for the circular economy.

“We engineer bio-inspired and structurally coloured materials. They're non-toxic, biodegradable, low-carbon, and they have no plastics, metals, minerals, or pigments,” she explains.

‘Structural colour’ refers to when the structure of a material refracts light to create colour, rather than the colour coming from a pigment. Examples of these in nature include the feathers of a peacock or the wings of a jewel beetle.

In short, Radiant Matter is developing naturally sparkling materials with a cellulose-based nanoarchitecture. 

Because they are free from minerals, metals, and microplastics, they help reduce the environmental impact of products made with them. There can be an ethical benefit too, helping remove questionable mining processes from supply chains.

Environmentally friendly and ethical supply chains are increasingly more than just a nice to have. Legislation around the world such as the EU’s restrictions on microplastics impose greater pressures on a range of businesses.

And the markets Radiant Matter could serve are diverse:

“These types of sparkling materials are seen everywhere and in all sorts of different markets, from textiles to packaging, automotive, and cosmetics. And so we're really looking at how we can make as much impact as possible within these spaces,” says Brunato.

Radiant Matter’s BioSequin embellishment

The story so far

Brunato has a background in manufacturing, textiles, and design, having spent the early years of her career working with fashion companies. 

This taught her a lot about supply chains and why different materials are used to benefit both the manufacturing process and the eventual wearer of a garment.

“I was able to travel a lot of different manufacturing countries, and I spent a lot of time looking at how the materials flow through the supply chain,” she says.

“I got a full-spectrum view of how these materials travelled through this very complicated and disjointed manufacturing system. And I saw a lot of problems with the materials along the way; a lot of pollution.”

And while environmentally-friendly, sustainable materials were available at that point around five years ago, they were largely in quite plain colours such as brown and beige.

How could the fashion industry fully transfer to more planet-friendly processes without finding a way to handle the sparkles that were very popular with consumers?

Those sparkles often rely on plastic sequins. These tiny embellishments generate a huge waste problem, especially as they can often be found on clothes that aren’t worn much before they’re disposed of (think party dresses, for example). And it’s not practical to recycle them.

2019 research for Oxfam found that 1.7 million sequined items are thrown away in the UK alone after the Christmas party season, even though they’ll never biodegrade. 

“I really wanted to make an impact, but an impact that focused just as heavily on the aesthetic qualities of the material, as well as the environmental qualities,” Brunato says.

What became Radiant Matter began as a project during Brunato’s masters degree in Material Futures, which she took at University of the Arts London after several years in the fashion industry.

She started the company in 2020 as a solo founder with a bootstrapped, “mission driven” approach.

“I was very much looking for the right people to build this with, who were also very mission-aligned,” she says.

This eventually led her to bring in Cyan Williams as co-founder and CTO last year. Williams previously studied the utilisation of cellulose nanocrystals for the fabrication of photonic materials for her PhD, making her well suited to developing the underlying technology behind Radiant Matter.

So far, the company is focused on what it describes as “the world's first BioSequin embellishment” as a replacement for environmentally problematic traditional sequins.

Radiant Matter’s BioSequin (a name the startup has trademarked) embellishment had a high profile showcase last year when Stella McCartney designed an all-in-one outfit which was photographed by Annie Leibovitz and modelled by Cara Delevigne for Vogue

The startup has also partnered with brands BEEN London and Patrick McDowell.

Those are not a bad set of endorsements at all for an early-stage startup, it has to be said.

And there’s more!

Premium subscribers get the full story about rightsHUB:

Upgrade your subscription now to learn about:

  • Radiant Matter’s funding and investment plans

  • Founder Elissa Brunato’s vision for the future of the companys

  • How Radiant Matter squares up to the competition

  • What challenges the startup faces as it grows

Subscribe to Premium Membership to read the rest.

Become a paying subscriber of Premium Membership to get access to this post and other subscriber-only content.

Already a paying subscriber? Sign In

A subscription gets you:
Full profiles of early-stage startups every Tuesday & Thursday with investment info, their future plans
Access to our Startup Tracker database
Support our work to bring you the best startups