When I was approached by the 202030 Summit with the question:
How might we strengthen local fashion communities, businesses, and innovators to strive for a regenerative future?
I stumbled over the term regenerative future because that means, to regrow or renew or restore resources, especially after they have been damaged or lost.
If clothes are burned or buried in landfills, there is no restoring, no renewing, and no regrowing.
So my position on regenerative fashion is this: whatever gets brought into and bought within Germany should never leave Germany again.
With my small Start-Up Rebound Stuff, I bought unwanted clothes from over 800 people in the last year.
About 12.000 kilos in total. I was aiming to build a ReCommerce business that was more flexible, more demand-driven, and more understanding than others.
I wanted to educate people about the resell value of things. But instead I learned a hard lesson.
With the experience from the past year I came to a conclusion:
I believe 100% that we are in need of professional companies and innovations to collect, sort, repair, rework and upcycle clothes within Germany, in order to keep them in their highest value.
Simply reselling them somewhere is not good enough. Even if we produce better.
But at this moment, the costs of doing any of these things, sorting, repairing, reworking, upcycling, within Germany are simply too high to make it work for the masses. This makes most clothes a total economic loss.
Therefore, I believe that we will also need specialized technologies and higher investments to build new companies that can step up in this field because I don’t see the majority of people starting to mend and repair their own garments at home or go to a tailor.
On the other hand, selling secondhand clothing online is very expensive, when it comes to displaying and describing, and shipping single pieces. Also, the returns rates are adding up to the costs even more.
I believe the future of secondhand and upcycling fashion lies in well-sorted local Secondhand Stores, which are more than just shops but can also act as social places. With brands, vertical fashion chains, and fashion retailers going a strong digital route these days, I call the times for owner-led local Second-hand shops to claim the abandoned inner cities to create pre-owned fashion culture.
To strengthen local fashion communities and innovators in the field of ReCommerce, we have to leverage these two opportunities and not see them contradicting: we need to build businesses that innovate need-based textile sorting and refurbishment and cooperate with local fashion communities to even just create a chance for a regenerative future for us all.
In order for this to work, I see one major challenge not only in getting investments and getting the network of small stores, but the majority of people in Germany need to finally understand that buying secondhand is not a thrift or a bargain. The marketing headline can not be, get 70 % off the original price. Saving a buck or two should not be the reason to choose Secondhand. Restoring clothes is no anymore just an option to shop, it is an absolute necessity for all of us in order to survive.
Because in the end, pure textile recycling can never be the solution for an industry that still aims for growth."