When did you first care about something? Like, really care. That initial lightbulb moment is unforgettable—it lights a fire and sets you on a path you know you should be on.

For GRAFF INC., Hult Prize finalists and champions of sustainable fashion, each founding member has a vivid and compelling story to tell. Already established in disrupting the fashion industry with a sustainable material to rival plastic—here’s how Guilia, Rikita, Annie, Francisco, and Francesco got switched onto sustainability.


I’m Italian, and I’ve always felt Europeans know their sustainability laws. There are rules in place—recycling, plastics, etc. But while living sustainably is so important, I felt I wanted to impact sustainable fashion in a measurable way.  

Working with Tetra Pak, a company that cares about sustainability was a huge step, but it was only when I met Cisco, Riki, Annie, and Cesco that things started to make sense. I’ve always been exposed to sustainable practices, but this has been the first time I’ve ever been involved in creating one. 


I have over a decade of experience in global retail and garment manufacturing. So, I know the industry. Every day at the manufacturing unit, we would have tons and tons of textile waste that we would just burn.  

Each manufacturing unit must input a percentage of rejects that the client will not buy. And that can go up to 8% easily. So, imagine on an order of 20,000 garments, how many rejects do you get? 1,600 items just lying there ready to be burned. It’s difficult not to have your eyes open after that. 


One time I was in Colombia diving, and I watched a huge amount of clothes float past in the ocean. It felt really weird—really wrong. So I started doing research and I found out about the Atacama Desert—how this once beautiful place has become a landfill for fashion brands. 

With my background as a financial lawyer, I didn’t know anything about manufacturing, so I started at point zero. Once you start knocking, all the walls come down, and you realize how connected everything is. 


Like Giulia, I had worked in other industries before, and I was paying attention to my plastic consumption, as well as other, smaller sustainable practices. But the impact I had felt like it could have more scope. 

This is where starting a business comes in. If you want to go beyond individual acts, then starting a company is the best thing you can do. The larger you are, the more responsibility you have to a fully sustainable future. And at GRAFF Inc, we can take on that responsibility. 


Being born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, which is an area of extreme poverty, I could see the problems from day one. I would go out to my friends’ houses who lived in townships, and we would play football out on the street and no matter where you looked, there would always be plastic drifting around you.  

I want to eradicate poverty—in my opinion, it shouldn’t exist. This is where the first real leap to working in sustainability came from. Sustainability for me is about effectively using our resources fulfil the needs of our current generation while still being able to maintain the needs of future generations. 

Still searching for your own lightbulb moment? Take a look at GRAFF’s entire story over on YouTube