Recycle Boutique’s circular fashion fairytale

We speak to the general manager of Recycle Boutique, Mark Cowie, on vintage clothing in an over-populated industry.

Interview index Photography Luke Foley-Martin
fashion Adam Bryce and Sara Black
Hair by Benjamin James MU by Hannah Francesca
Model Sabina Sysantos from 62 Management

recycle boutique

above
levi’s vintage blazer & Country Road sleeveless puffer.

Recycle Boutique has grown considerably in recent times, what do you attribute to the growth — externally and internally?

From humble beginnings, we’ve grown to 10 stores, 100 staff and over 80,000 consignors. The growth and evolution of the brand has been incredible and very exciting to be part of. The journey of the company has been directly influenced by the creative driving force of our staff and loyal customers who have been there from the start. We have responded to the changing retail market by never settling and always striving to make second hand shopping accessible to everyone.

As sustainability becomes a vital part of the fashion industry, what are the biggest challenges the industry faces in order to improve its reputation and results in this area?

As consumers become more aware of their shopping habits and the effects they have on the environment, it’s pushing the fast fashion industry to respond to this new demand for change. There’s been vast improvement around factory conditions and a shift towards sustainably-made collections within large-scale fashion brands, but there’s still so much more that needs to be done with the excessive amounts of clothing already out there in the world.

Yes, it’s about slowing down the fashion industry but there’s already a huge problem we need to deal with. Organisations like The Formary and their Textile Reuse Programme are doing amazing work in this area — they work with industry partners, driving the reuse of unwanted clothing and textiles, preventing them from going to landfill, and instead creating a circular system that fully utilises textiles to their fullest capacity.

above
shirt by CALVIN KLEIN &
LEVI’S SLEEVELESS JACKET.

recycle boutique

above
shirt by RALPH LAUREN,
LEVI’S SLEEVELESS JACKET,
THE TOG SHOP PETITES SKIRT
& COUNTRY ROAD BOOTS.

ABOVE
levi’s jacket, levi’s skirt & superette belt.

ABOVE
ESCADA COUTURE BLAZER & DAZZLE TROUSERS.

Buying vintage is an obvious solution to the sustainability issues the fashion world has created. What are the key factors in making vintage and second-hand choices desirable to the consumer?

We did a company rebrand about a year ago, moving towards a more fashion- and lifestyle-focused aesthetic with our campaigns, social media and in-store experience which has enabled us to tap into a new area of the market as we remove stigma around what secondhand shopping looks and feels like.

Our in-store and now online experience is now a refined and creative retail experience that customers enjoy. In terms of the bigger picture, it’s also about education — making secondhand shopping desirable through the benefits to customers and the environment.

The digital consignment market has grown enormously in recent years with the likes of StockX and The RealReal gaining mass attention for their increasing company valuations and turnovers. Entering into this market at this time, what do you see as the key to success?

We’ve already expanded into 10 different regions and we’ve been in the business for 15 years now — it’s a natural progression to move it online because we already know what our customers want. For us, our ongoing key to success is always about getting enough stock to meet the ever-increasing demand from our customers. Online opens up our business to areas where we don’t have physical stores so this will only increase, which is why we’ve also created a new pick-up service and express drop-off service, to make selling with us even easier.

You’ve invested in an innovative software system for consignees — tell us how this works.

We have. It’s something we’ve been working on for a while. Our new software gives our customers so much more control over their selling experience with a profile dashboard. You can now book pick-ups or express drop-offs, get more notifications when your items sell and expire, and use your account balance to shop online.

I imagine one of the key factors in the success of Recycle Boutique is its ability to source elevated pieces. How do you compete against the likes of Grailed and other platforms for the more collectible market of consignees?

We have a consignor base of over 80,000 people nationwide who sell with us and we have strict clothing criteria to ensure the best quality items for our buyers. But we are actually working on a few initiatives at the moment that will be super beneficial for both buyers and sellers of luxury designer fashion. Keep your eyes peeled.

ABOVE
NO BRAND JACKET, NO BRAND BIKE
SHORTS & COUNTRY ROAD BOOTS.

ABOVE
JUNKFOOD JERSEY, MAXMARA
BUSTIER & LEVI’S JEANS.

ABOVE
ERDEM X H&M BLAZER, ESCADA COUTURE
BELT, LEVI’S JEANS & BASSIKE SINGLET.

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