Fashion brands

Fashion brands are launching more buy-back programs, but buyers need to take a closer look

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, made headlines with her support for a local brand on September 21 in Montreal.Dave Chan / Getty Images

In September, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau wore a bright green minidress from Birds of North America, a Canadian designer, to the Liberal Party’s election victory party. His support for a local label grabbed the headlines. But if Grégoire Trudeau was serious about setting an example, she would take the next logical step in Shop Canadian’s sustainable philosophy by reselling the company for $ 259. Designer Hayley Gibson would happily welcome him to the independent brand’s new ReNesting program, where he would earn around $ 15 in store credit to get to a new home.

In March, when it first launched the Call for Used Items in Any Condition, Gibson was surprised to receive around 250 pieces spanning 15 years of past seasons. Customers who dropped off or sent clothes received Birds Dollars in return, a credit of $ 5 for a top to $ 15 for a dress. “We tried to make it as easy as possible,” she says. “It is above all a service provided to our customers and to extend the lifespan [of the piece]. As long as it’s a Birds garment, we’ll take it. The first batch of ReNesting articles – around 130 ads, averaging $ 80 each – were posted online in mid-September; most have already sold. The next delivery will take place on December 9.

Birds of North America is an active participant in the redemption economy, the growing lifestyle of environmentally friendly circular products. McKinsey & Company’s State of Fashion 2021 report examines the cultural dynamics shaping the global fashion economy and has predicted that more and more consumers will see an increasing proportion of their wardrobes made up of products from the fashion industry. used or rented. As a result, brands and retailers are gradually moving away from the linear business cycle – create, buy, dispose – to a more circular cycle, which is theoretically endless and involves almost entirely postponing the final destination of the landfill.

The North Face and Patagonia have been repairing and reselling parts collected from their customers for years. Other companies also help to facilitate the circulation of their lightly used goods. Canadian shoe brand Fluevog, for example, has hosted an independent peer-to-peer market for the resale of its shoes called FlueMarket on its website for nearly a decade.

But other brand reselling platforms and programs are not entirely altruistic. In October, LL Bean sold a selection of vintage clothing through his Instagram Stories. Called LL Bean Pre-Loved, the sale consisted of just a few dozen items, making it more of a social marketing initiative than a meaningful exchange.

Although this is a step in the circular direction, facilitating used sales is not the same as buying directly. “The problem with a circular economy has been how to create users and participants in the resale economy on the retail industry side – to create a resale economy every step of the way. consumer economy, ”says Alberta entrepreneur Lauryn Vaughn, founder and CEO of Calgary. – luxury consignment site based on The Upside. “There is a decline in brands and department stores to involve resale. “

Until recently, mainstream retail – and according to Vogue Business, luxury brands in particular – has resisted entering the resale market because it ostensibly steals sales on the primary market. As brands find that strong resale values ​​actually drive sales of first-hand or new products (as, for example, luxury consignment website TheRealReal experienced when they partnered up at Burberry to encourage consignment) the hostility melted away.

Indeed, if brands wish to retain their customers and retain their customers, it will be essential to turn to the second-hand economy.

The Kijiji digital classifieds platform, for example, is a dominant business channel in Canada’s second-hand economy. On the eve of the pandemic, the last time it released its annual Second Hand Economy Index report, the overall resale economy in Canada was steadily rising and was already worth around 27.3 billion dollars, with 2.4 billion items traded in their hands – up to 250 million from the 2014 figures shown in their inaugural study. The average number of items that Canadians gave a second life each year was 86, up from 76 in 2014, and clothing, footwear and accessories account for 30 percent of that number.

The number of used items acquired or disposed of by each Canadian in a year is also increasing. The average number is 82, of which about half were purchases. And clothing is the number one resale category, accounting for almost a third of used products overall. Kijiji claims that 88% of people under 45 participate in some way in the second-hand economy. And according to the McKinsey report, three in five consumers see environmental impact as a factor in their purchasing decisions. Wisely, brands are now actively helping to close the loop.

In the spring, Vaughn launched ReUpp, new software that integrates seamlessly with partner retailer online stores and generates a guaranteed buy-back price for the original buyer on its new products. By including major retailers and brands as partners, she now has direct access to clothing for her consignment business, while for partners, the circular system reduces returns.

ReUpp’s first circular economy partner is Smythe, whose coveted bespoke jackets sell for a premium price, even second-hand. The brand’s online store now hosts ReUpp’s transparent and guaranteed redemption prices and terms at the time of initial purchase.

“You don’t have to resell it at any time and we certainly have Hope you want to keep it, ”says co-designer Christie Smythe. “But if you’re the type of person who buys new styles every season, let’s make it simple for us in every way.”

When the holder is ready to part with a Smythe coin, he simply activates the redemption within the allotted time; ReUpp takes care of the rest of the transaction. This means engaging with consumers so that they have a more sustainable mindset at all stages of the consumer cycle and become stewards rather than owners of clothing. “It extends the life cycle of our product in a different way,” says Smythe. “We support longevity, whether it’s in your closet or someone else’s.”

Actively entering the resale market is something more and more luxury brands are doing. Stella McCartney’s partnership with RealReal offers purchase credit in her online store. And Gucci recently launched Vault, an online platform for previously worn Gucci products, from clothing to handbags, although there is no redemption mechanism – the products are all purchased and repackaged in-house. In this case, it is more of a means of image control in the increasingly lucrative designer resale market.

Gucci recently launched Vault, an online platform for previously worn Gucci products, from clothing to handbags.Gucci

But when buyback and resale programs are kicked off by unexpected brands, the question is, is it more than theater?

Fast-fashion giant H&M, for example, the world’s second-largest clothing retailer, claims to recognize “both the role [it’s] played and responsibility [it has] to change things. The chain has since 2013 a clothing collection program that accepts textile items of any brand in any condition for textile reuse or recycling. In September, H&M Canada also became the first marketplace to launch Rewear, a consumer-to-consumer resale vertical hosted on its website. The problem, however, is that by taking advantage of both the problem it creates and the so-called solution, this feeble attempt at circularity appears to be just another green-washing marketing tactic.

We are in the early stages of a radical transformation in retail. Resale disruptors who have positioned themselves as conscious alternatives to tasteless consumption have made circularity a major consideration for buyers and their primary purchases.

In the long run, the flyer is the only way to achieve a sustainable fashion economy. Whether this is new or new to you, we need to take a closer look at what drives these corporate forays and assess whether the circularity effort is making a significant difference or whether it is just spin.

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