Elizabeth Esponnette '10, Recent Alumni Achievement Award

Elizabeth Esponnette

Beth founded unspun, a company building technology for an on-demand and circular fashion industry.

She grew up in Auburn, Maine and graduated from the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University with a degree in Fiber Science & Apparel Design in 2010. After Cornell, Beth held a variety of design and material development positions at Mountain Hardwear, Pearl Izumi, TechShop, and Ekso Bionics. She earned her MFA in Design from Stanford University before serving as an Assistant Professor of Product Design at the University of Oregon.

Beth is fascinated by science and art, especially where they intersect: design. Throughout her career she has believed man-made manufacturing systems should function like nature’s manufacturing systems, where value is retained indefinitely, and nothing ever becomes waste. She founded the company unspun on the premise that mass manufacturing in fashion is detrimental to all parties - from brands, to consumers, to workers, to the planet - and that fashion should be made only when it is needed, and products should be infinitely recyclable. In the industry, over one hundred billion garments are made every year and, since excess inventory can exceed 30% of many brands' production quantities, a lot of clothing is waste straight from production. After lifetime use, 99% of clothing goes straight to landfill or incinerator, and the rest goes within 2-3 uses.

Beth loves mentoring budding designers, and she works with incredible teammates at unspun who share her vision for on-demand and circular manufacturing. Unspun has sold custom-fit jeans from body scans for five years and is launching 3D weaving this year. The company has collaborated with a number of brands in the industry, and is funded by venture capital and grants, including the National Science Foundation, where Beth has since served as a reviewer.

Beth has been recognized for her work by the Vogue Business 100 Innovators, MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovators Under 35, and Adweek’s Sustainability Stars. Unspun has been recognized by TIME with a Best Invention award twice, Popular Science’s Best of What's New, and Fast Company's World-Changing Ideas.

Beth is grateful for the support she has received over the years, especially from the College of Human Ecology. She looks forward to continuing to explore and invent what manufacturing could look like in the future.