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We’re interviewing some of our favorite makers leading up to our event on the Business of Making on November 24th in New York. This week we chatted with Stephanie Benedetto, Co-founder of Paper No. 9, an innovative fashion and textiles company out of Brooklyn.

How do you describe your business, and can you tell us more behind the story of your name, Paper No.9?
Brooklyn-based design lab Paper No. 9 takes its name from one of the key ingredients in its proprietary textiles. We developed a process that converts recycled paper and other sustainable ingredients into luxury textiles.

The original goal was to take an overlooked, ignored, wasted material–paper–and revive it, elevating it to a soft, luxurious, and sewable material. We spent the next five years developing our process and understanding the chemistry, characteristics, and boundaries of the material.

You have a background in law and have practiced as a corporate lawyer, how did you find your way to Paper No. 9 and get involved in textiles?

With family roots in the textile industry (my great-grandfather was a Lower East Side furrier, my grandfather sold army surplus after World Ward II, and my father-in-law owned global textile factories), it was perhaps inevitable that this would be my calling.

As a corporate attorney in New York, I represented public and private companies in up to multi-billion dollar transactions, but something felt like it was missing from my life so I decided to counsel more entrepreneurs and pro bono clients. It’s through those experiences that my passion for sustainability and helping people really took hold. In 2012, I co-founded Paper No. 9.

Why is it important to you that your materials are eco-friendly and sustainable, in addition to being innovative?

The textile industry is second only to agriculture as the biggest polluter of clean water globally. The dyeing, rinsing, and treatment of textiles release toxic chemicals into our water supply that cannot be filtered or removed. Think of your favorite cotton tee shirt. It requires 700 gallons of water and ⅓ of a pound of chemicals to produce. That’s enough water for one person to drink for three years. And that’s just one shirt; over two billion shirts are sold worldwide each year. If we continue at the current pace, by 2025, two-thirds of the entire world’s population will face shortages of freshwater and be exposed to these hazardous chemicals.

Replacing the conventional cotton in a single tee shirt with organic cotton cuts your chemical-use down to zero and requires only 10 gallons of water to produce. Organic cotton is also softer, thicker, lasts longer, and on trend in a growing market. That’s why eco-friendly and sustainable materials are so important for the future.

We believe that sustainable production methods are a key part of the ethos of our brand and that, hopefully soon, clients will be able to expect and demand it from every designer in the world.

36. PAPER NO. 9 - The 2 am clutch - Boogie

What has been one of the biggest surprises since starting your business?

I did not have formal training in fashion or textiles when I started this business. So I eschewed the traditional methods and did it my way. For example, we don’t follow the fashion calendar and only put out new fabric collections when it makes sense to do so. This has enabled us to truly stand out from the crowd and tell our story in a unique, authentic way.

What’s coming up next for Paper No. 9 that you are excited about for either the end of the year or 2016?

Paper No. 9 is founded on the principles of perpetual innovation, eco-friendly ingredients, and old-world production methods. We conduct ongoing research and development with respect to new generations of our textiles and additional potential applications, including in the wearable tech and luxury automotive industries.

We are now selling pieces of our fabrics on a new e-platform,, that features innovative and sustainable textiles and other raw materials and supplies available immediately in smaller quantities.

Do you have any words of advice for young makers looking to start textile/fashion businesses – what are some key learnings from your journey so far?

Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid to take risks, put your ideas out there, and test your solution in the market – these are important steps to being able to improve your offering and iterate your product effectively.

Another thing no one tells you: Don’t be afraid to move into a crowded market space with many competitors. You can learn from the mistakes of those who came before you, do it better than them, command their market share, and be the last player in the market who really dominates!

41. PAPER NO. 9 x Sylvia Heisel - Ready-To-Wear-Away Dress - Custom Color Raw Reveal (1)

In our Maker Spotlights we try to add in a section on the “business of making” so that our audience can see how projects get off the ground. We have three questions we ask as part of this:

How are your projects typically funded?

Our design lab consults and collaborates directly with designers to develop bespoke colors, textures, and effects for their own designs and for exhibitions and shows around the world. Because each fabric is custom and made to order, the funding of our projects is typically done by our customers directly.

What materials/tools do you use in order to manufacture and prototype your product?

Paper No. 9 textiles are made of recycled paper, fabric remnants or fabric that is organic/ethically sourced, and natural glues/waxes/oils/emollients. Everything is crafted by hand using minimal waste and zero toxins and we do not do any dyeing to produce our one-of-a-kind colors.

Have you partnered with any organizations in your city (Makerspaces, small-batch manufacturers, schools) that have helped you in your process?)

Our material can be found in showrooms around the world through Material ConneXion (based in New York) & The Sustainable Angle (based in London). We have also exhibited at international textile and fashion shows such as The London College of Fashion, The Future Fabrics Expo, MADE-BY, Model Citizens NYC, and the New York International Gift Fair.

Paper No. 9 was a finalist for the Verizon Powerful Answers Award, LAUNCH Innovation Challenge, WGSN Global Fashion Awards, and Source Awards. These organizations are very supportive of us and have helped us in our process. We also speak at FIT, Pratt, Wix Lounge, Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator, and Fashion Is Your Business podcast.

I currently serve on the Board of Advisors of the New York City Fair Trade Coalition and am an active member of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In (particularly the Entrepreneurs Circle in New York).

Learn more about Paper No.9 on their Website and follow their updates on Facebook and Twitter. You can also meet Stephanie in person on November 24th in New York at our Business of Making event with


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