In conversation with

Nikita Jayasuriya

Head of Europe at The Mills Fabrica



The Mills Fabrica is a go-to solutions platform accelerating techstyle and agrifood tech innovations for sustainability and social impact. The spectrum ranges from new ingredients, materials and product innovations, supply chain efficiency and digitalization to platforms & business models that drive sustainability and empower circularity. We sat down with Nikita Jayasuriya, Head of Europe at The Mills Fabrica, to learn more about their approach, how they support businesses in their sustainability and innovation journeys, and what’s next in the techstyle and agrifood world.

Question and Answer

How did The Mills Fabrica begin? What’s your purpose of being?

The Mills Fabrica was founded by our umbrella company, the Nan Fung Group, a private property developer from Hong Kong. They used to own some of the largest cotton mills in Hong Kong, but when all manufacturing started moving across the rest of Asia, they ended up sitting on empty warehouses and in turn became property developers – which they still are today. In 2018, when their last mill was about to close down, they decided to honour their legacy and give back to the apparel and textile industry by founding The Mills shopping mall, and then The Mills Fabrica was born too.

We invest in brands who can change the whole process of manufacturing, production and supply chain. As there’s a lot of crossover between fashion and food, our pillars are techstyle and agritech, both focused on sustainability. Our HQs are in Hong Kong, but we have a base in Kings Cross, London, where we have an innovation gallery and showroom, co-working space and an event space to give visibility to conscious brands.

How does your approach set you apart from other organisations?

When it comes to investment, we don’t just invest in a company and wait for the reward. We’re strategic investors. We support by offering a co-working space, where we give assistance to startups we’ve invested in, and where we try to build an ecosystem of like minded people to help them grow together. And then we have the Innovation Gallery, where we showcase the work of our portfolio brands and do business development on their behalf. The chairman of LVMH has come here to get a tour of the space and see the innovations himself. We connect our startups to big brands and help support them scale.

Can you share an example of a sustainable solution you’re really excited about in your portfolio?

It would have to be Colorifix. They make an all-natural dye, so it doesn’t damage the environment and dyes the fabric at a lower temperature. They’ve been collaborating already with big brands like Pangaia.

There’s a big problem with the dying industry in general. They are the second biggest polluter on the planet, and the second biggest water polluter in the textile and apparel industry. Colorifix is changing the game and it’s really exciting. So the way it works is they take the DNA structure that makes colour blue, for example, and replicate that with bacteria. Then grow the colour naturally with no harm to the planet.

“When we're looking to invest in a business, the first question we ask is always about the impact they’ll have on the planet. Is it sustainable? Is it good for the planet? Is it going to improve the industry? ”

How do you see the role of technology and innovation in advancing sustainable practices in the fashion industry?

The fashion industry has to evolve. Our population is growing and by 2030, we’ll be consuming 20 to 30% more garments globally. But there aren’t enough cotton fields in the world to sustain the demand, so it will be replaced with more polyester, which is the worst thing for the environment because of its micro plastics.

We drastically need to have technologies that offer solutions to replace it. Finding a technology to replace polyester is key for the world. Technology is also about scaling. One thing is doing a small sustainable capsule collection, but another one is actually changing the whole process and producing millions of garments with a sustainable material. This is what will really move the needle.

How does The Mills Fabrica support your portfolio to ensure companies prioritise sustainability in their business models?

When we’re looking to invest in a business, the first question we ask is always about the impact they’ll have on the planet. Is it sustainable? Is it good for the planet? Is it going to improve the industry? Whether it’s in fashion or food, that’s the main reason for us to give them our support and help them scale up, and as we’ve seen over the time, they get to improve on their practises.

How does The Mills Fabrica measure the impact of their sustainable initiatives, and what metrics do you use to evaluate success?

Each of our portfolio companies is generating at least one type of planet positive impact within their business model. But we recently  launched an impact program and we’ve done a report where we assessed five of our startups and measured their impact. Apart from greenhouse gas emissions, we identified five other environmental problems mostly caused by the textile and apparel, and agrifood industries. Chemical pollution and excessive use of fertilisers, freshwater use, land-system change, biodiversity loss and the release of novel entities like pesticides, antibiotics, and micro/nano plastics.

All these environmental issues can lead to a systemic ecosystem change that will reduce society’s resilience to climate change. That’s why the innovations of companies like Circ, Colorifix, unspun™, within the techstyle industry, and abillion, The Supplant Company, Bits x Bites, within the agrifood industry, will bring great solutions to those problems.

What are some of the big things in techstyle and agrifood that The Mills Fabrica is thinking about?

In both spaces we’re looking at companies that are looking for natural dyeing solutions.

Within techstyle, we need to shift our focus from just recycling and move to the bigger ticket which is dyeing. It produces 40 to 60% of carbon emissions in the industry! If you think about it, it’s a huge tank of water that gets heated up to 130 degrees, then cooled down, and then heated up again. In the far East and Asia, where most dye houses are located, it’s cheaper to have a coal burner heating up the water to save costs on energy. That is a double whammy on the pollution side. If we want to get to the goals of net zero by 2030 or 2050, we need to focus on dyeing, and Colorifix is one of the companies bringing a solution to this problem.

In the foodtech space, Michroma is revolutionising the way ingredients are produced by developing fungal-based biofactories to produce natural ingredients in a sustainable, scalable, and cost-effective way. Another one is Supplant. They are innovating by taking waste and making a new product from it. They’ve made a low calorie sugar from waste fibres of food and have also launched a pasta from the wheat leftovers.

Nikita's Storylist


  1. The Outlaw Ocean by Ian Urbina
  2. Build by Tony Fadell
  3. Red Notice by Bill Browder
  4. The Four by Scott Galloway


  1. Monocle
  2. Eye Magazine
  3. FT How To Spend It


  1. BOF

Digital platforms

More from The Journal

InterviewNatasha Collie

Natasha Collie

Senior Brand Marketing Manager at Penguin Random House UK

At the start of the year, Ladybird Books approached Sonder & Tell with a dream brief. In 2021, a year that’s been particularly challenging for...

InterviewTatton Spiller

Tatton Spiller

Founder Of Simple Politics

Talking about serious issues doesn’t mean defaulting into a serious tone of voice, or using complicated language. If anything, accessibility, clarity and a touch of...

Interviewloïs mills

Loïs Mills

Brand & Community Manager at Homethings

Creating a tone of voice from scratch can be challenging. But a blank slate to work from also mean there’s room for something a bit...

Previous Story
Lydia Bolton

Founder and Designer at Lydia Bolton

Next Story
Zoe Mallett

Business Culture Consultant