Matt Hanrahan, co-founder of Reskinned

Greener Retailing Champions: Reskinned co-founder Matt Hanrahan

In this series we talk to the individuals and companies helping retailers become greener businesses – highlighting the tools, technologies, and options available to support a change in environmental focus.

Pre-loved fashion platform Reskinned heralded last week’s arrival of fashion and gift retailer Oliver Bonas as a new partner by describing the business as “another brilliant brand choosing to make a difference”.

Via the Reskinned tie-up, Oliver Bonas will be encouraging its customers to access a clothing and accessories take-back scheme enabling them to give their unwanted items a new life rather than throwing them away.

Consumers who want to donate their pre-loved goods via this method can register the products on the Reskinned-Oliver Bonas website, send them away via courier, and once these items have been verified and made available for resale they will receive a discount code for future Oliver Bonas purchases.

Co-founder of Reskinned, Matt Hanrahan, spoke at this year’s IRX 2023 event in Birmingham in May, so Green Retail World felt is was a suitable time to highlight the key talking points from the session in the form of our Greener Retailign Champions series.

What is Reskinned and who are its partners?

The Reskinned website says “we collaborate with brands to find a new home for the clothes less loved”. Fundamentally, the idea behind the platform is to help keep clothing in circulation rather than ending up in landfill.

Through Reskinned’s partners, which include Joules, Dune, River Island, Sweaty Betty and Seasalt, consumers can package up their unwanted goods for Reskinned to sell on its website. Every brand in the scheme has a different programme and credit value, with individual retailers able to choose how they reward their shoppers for thinking more circularly – often it manifests itself in the form of a discount on future purchases.

Some brands also offer in-store takeback schemes and will give shoppers instant credit to use straight away in acknowledgment of their donation.

If Reskinned cannot resell an item it promises to recycle the material responsibly, and alongside its pre-loved platform it actually runs a clothing processing facility which was set up by Reskinned co-founder Ross Barry.

In an interview with Retail Reflections founder, Andrew Busby, live on stage at IRX 2023, Hanrahan said: “It processes about 700 tonnes a month, mostly from clothing banks and the charity sector.”

Highlighting the need for such a facility in light of a throwaway culture that has embedded itself in UK society, he added: “You can stand in front of the line and in a few minutes you’ll see clothing with brand new tags on it.”

Reskinned also has an established partnership with eBay, helping brands roll out second-hand ‘shops’ on the online marketplace’s pages

Fashionable to buy second hand now

The tide is slowly turning, though, with so many retailers acknowledging there is a growing market for second-hand clothing. Part of it is consumers becoming more aware about how their shopping behaviour impacts the planet and another reason is that ongoing economic challenges are prompting people to look for more affordable ways to purchase garments.

Platforms such as Vinted, eBay, and Depop have also fuelled a culture where consumers can pass on goods they no longer want and receive a financial boost in return. It has become fashionable to pass on fashion, and find a bargain away from the front-line fashion stores and websites.

As several of the IRX panel discussions highlighted, second-hand clothing is “cool” now rather than harbouring negative connotations as it has in the past.

Hanrahan said when Reskinned was established in 2020 the “blockers” to progress in the pre-loved market were around consumer concerns relating to sizing and peer to peer selling never being quite like it was advertised, as well complaints such as “it smells of other people’s Daz”.

“We tore up the rulebook,” he explained.

“Got rid of smells, made returns possible, and used great photography. We’re looking at opening up preloved up to audiences that normally would never have considered buying pre-loved.”

He added consumers not only buy on product efficacy and what it looks like, they now increasingly want to understand what the brand is doing to be a better global citizen

“We first started to see this around food – people looking at what they were eating, and what’s going into the food,” Hanrahan noted.

“[Then] in beauty, the biggest brands that are growing it’s all about transparency about what’s in the bottle, removing all the nasties – we’re starting to see this in clothing.”

Brands as a result are seeing circularity as an important selling point, not just a corporate social responsibility tick box item. There is also mounting legislation around what retailers and brands are putting out into the market meaning there are multiple drivers for businesses to consider the benefits of pre-loved and how to reduce the planetary impact of the materials they use in their products.

“We’re helping brands understand how they achieve that,” Hanrahan said.

“How you design for end of life, how you actually design garments so they can be taken apart, and [matters around] IDs and passports on products so we know what’s in them.”

Skin in the game?

In Europe, there is legislation dictating businesses must put more info on their garments indicating material composition, providing more transparency about the supply chain.

“Increasingly customers are looking for it, which will mean brands start to do it,” Hanrahan argued.

“We’re doing a lot to circulate what it costs environmentally to make clothes – once that is out there, progress will be made. [That] impacts consumer behaviour.”

The Reskinned co-founder said there is “a massive opportunity here for brands to make huge gains when they actually start to communicate this”, although he argued there are many retailers and brands making “fairly vacuous statements” around sustainability.

“Brands who have skin in the game and are actively getting involved not only in production but also starting to embrace their responsibility around dealing with the end of life of what is out there, those are the brands that are increasingly going to be seen as the truly sustainable brands.”

Hanrahan talked up Reskinned partner Finisterre as “probably the most hard-wired sustainable clothing brand” in the UK, and he said Reskinned would not work with companies that are based on trading models of overconsumption. He did not mention names, but in Green Retail World’s view that would cover companies in the fast fashion space.

Yulex rental is now available at Finisterre

There is an education piece required to continue shifting the dial towards pre-loved clothing, better-made garments, and less reliance on so-called “throwaway” fashion culture, Hanrahan acknowledged. There is still an element on social media of people not wanting to be seen in the same clothing more than once, he said.

“We want to change this behaviour. Increasingly [retailers] are starting to charge for returns – that is a good thing as it makes you consider what you are ordering,” he continued.

“We believe in a world where you start to reward people for returning things they no longer want, and probably about 50% [of items] coming back through our takeback schemes are in really good condition.”

A key reason behind items being donated to Reskinned is people change size, Hanrahan said.

“We’re creating system where we can get those [items] back in the loop to people, and create a world where a garment might have three or four owners in its lifespan before it is retired and recycled responsibly.”

At Green Retail World we are giving greener retail champions, like Matt and Reskinned, a chance to explain how they are helping retailers become greener businesses. Please contact editor, Ben Sillitoe, if you’d like to put yourself forward for an interview on this key subject. Sharing good practice can help the wider sector move in a positive direction.

[Image credit: Green Retail World]

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