She spent almost half of her life living in Asia. This fashionable mommy of two was once on the front row seat of fashion developments for major brands like LVMH, Richemont, Lane Crawford, and the Selfridges Group for more than a decade.
Sarah Garner worked in the luxury fashion industry under a range of management roles and was living a glamorous life. But while she strutted through work meetings in her statement stilettos owning the scene with her career, a nagging thought always popped up in her mind – on how unsustainable the fashion industry is due to the constant need for fresh looks and materials.
“Whilst my career in fashion was often glamorous on the frontlines, I grew increasingly concerned with the unsustainable pace of the industry coupled with an insatiable appetite for newness from consumers,” Sarah told Vulcan Post in a one-on-one interview.
Those thoughts grew stronger by the day and by the time she became a mother and had her first child, the maternal instincts to protect the environment just like Mother Earth became her new calling.
“When I had my first child, it allowed me to put into focus my desire for serving him and his future. This pushed me to reorient my career, tapping into my past experiences to further my passion for a more sustainable fashion industry.”
“Moreover, seeing firsthand the experience of my son speeding through his baby wardrobe largely untouched, I knew this was something that needed fixing. In my desire to build a platform that facilitated efficient sharing and circularity, Retykle was born in 2016.”
Retykle was set up to eliminate all the hassle buyers and sellers face with resale, said the founder. The goal then was to make it an easy and rewarding experience to shop and sell preloved baby clothes – making life better for both parents and the environment.
The birth of Retykle
It seems Sarah knew what the market needed, as in just five years since its inception the business has grown to sell thousands of products each month, with over 150,000 items listed on its Hong Kong website. Following its success in Hong Kong, Retykle launched in Singapore last November, its first overseas branch.
“We have a few thousand Singapore subscribers thanks to our visibility and brand building since launching the retykle.com site…We also welcomed hundreds of new sellers in Singapore upon opening our doors and are building our brand locally, as we did in Hong Kong, one “Retykler” at a time.”
According to Sarah, prior to Retykle there were no formal channels whereby parents could go to buy or sell preloved children’s clothing. Parents back then had to turn to social media channels and classified groups to source for the secondhand items. It was a time-consuming process and some may even end up buying fake goods.
In addition, parents who wanted to resell their children’s clothes often found it a hassle to list and sell each item individually, on top of their busy schedules. Oftentimes than not, the channels or platforms they sold their items on had low reach and the efforts go to waste.
Tapping on technology
Retykle cuts the time required to source for these clothes and makes it easy for sellers to list their items, said Sarah. The business works as an online consignment platform, which means that the Retykle team collects items from customers’ homes for free. It also takes on the sellers’ responsibilities, from collection to pricing and delivery to customers.
The team at Retykle conducts quality control, photographing, pricing, and the listing of the items. Sellers just need to supply the clothes and earn cash whenever an item sells. Popular brands on the site include Ralph Lauren, Adidas, and Stella McCartney.
All of these are built through the platform’s custom technology which provides a seamless experience for sellers and buyers alike, Sarah said.
“For our sellers, we offer free home pick ups and then they receive automated messages throughout the journey as well as a personal dashboard to keep track of their items without having to do anything. Sellers just need to sit back and wait to collect their earnings of 50 per cent of selling price for cash or 55 per cent for store credit.”
“For shoppers, we offer quality assurance services to mitigate the risks of damage, fault or counterfeits that are latent in the peer-to-peer secondhand market,” Sarah said.
Retykle assures that all items listed on its site have been freshly laundered and checked thoroughly by its quality control team. It stands behind the products with 100 per cent guarantees, the founder said.
“We have a strict multi-point check to ensure that everything listed on our site meets our quality, brand, category, and authenticity criteria. For items that are not accepted for listing, we give sellers the option to collect their items (for free), pay to have them posted back to them (for S$5.00), or we will donate their items to a local registered charity on their behalf (for free),” said Sarah.
“We will accept free returns within seven days of purchase if anything doesn’t meet a customer’s liking,” she added.
Preloved children’s clothes potential
There’s a massive potential in the circular economy for a preloved children’s clothes marketplace like Retykle, said Sarah.
“Everything we buy for our kids is of temporary use and so I believe there’s no better category suited for circularity as the need for a rotating wardrobe is inherent with their never-ending growth spurts.”
According to her, the kids’ fashion space alone is worth almost US$250 billion globally and only one to three per cent of the stock reaches the secondhand market when it’s outgrown. This makes it an enormous and largely untapped opportunity.
The recent sustainability push spurred by the pandemic is supporting the resale industry to “grow exponentially” too.
“The global fashion resale market is forecast to more than double to US$64 billion of sales by 2025. Increased reliance on digital platforms due to the pandemic, coupled with a growing concern for the environment, as well as an enthusiasm to earn extra cash from our closets during these uncertain economic times are some of the reasons contributing to this accelerated shift towards circular fashion.”
Singapore is seen to be a participant in this sustainable living push, hence the company made the decision to set up operations here.
“What sets Singapore apart from other countries is that there is a high growth mindset for shifting to sustainable lifestyle choices. This openness to making everyday changes to tread more lightly on the environment are the seeds of openness to the secondhand market. There’s already quite an active and thriving community investing in swapping and secondhand for adult fashion but the kids’ segment had been overlooked, until now,” said Sarah.
Business growth amid Covid-19
The pandemic may have devastated and negatively impacted some businesses, but for Retykle, it was able to capture opportunities in this period.
“There have been multiple unforeseen benefits of Covid-19 on our business. With parents spending more time in their homes, they are more focused on keeping their closets tidy and organised and have leaped into the habit of clearing out their closets and “Retykling” habitually,” said Sarah.
“We also saw a pronounced increase in environmental concern throughout the pandemic, which prompted meaningful shifts in consumer behaviour. Secondhand is the most sustainable way to dress and parents are particularly compelled to do what is best for their kids’ future,” she added.
In addition to the surge in online shopping as more stayed home, some families who had tighter purse strings looked for alternatives like Retykle too. “The financial and job uncertainty led more people to unlock value in their idle assets in their closets and to seek discounts via shopping for their favourite brands with Retykle, as items are sold at an average 80 per cent discount.”
One setback that the business faced due to Covid-19 is that team members are unable to meet physically between Singapore and Hong Kong. So far, the team has been relying on remote interactions to stay connected, but they hope to conduct in-person meetings once the pandemic eases.
Hiring and funding plans
Moving forward, 2022 looks to be an exciting year for Retykle, as it ramps up efforts to expand its Retykle community here.
The business has accumulated almost 5,000 items on its retykle.sg website to sell and is adding more inventory daily. To support this growth, it’s planning to more than double the local team from its current team of three people. Globally, the company has 15 staff.
Retykle is also planning to raise its Series A funding round this year to scale new markets and strengthen its tech capabilities to offer opportunities for brands to plug into its platform and develop the circular economy through them.
There are plans to host pop-up events soon but Sarah adds that the business will still very much keep its eye firmly on e-commerce.
“We will still remain largely an e-commerce platform, as we believe in the value of convenience of online shopping, especially during these pandemic times. However, we do believe that it is important for customers to have a physical touchpoint with us to learn more about our brand, mission, and platform,” she said.
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Featured Image Credit: Retykle