She spent nearly half of her life living in Asia. This stylish mother of two has been in the front row of fashion developments for major brands like LVMH, Richemont, Lane Crawford and Selfridges Group for over a decade.
Sarah Garner has worked in the luxury fashion industry under a range of management roles and has been living a glamorous life. But as she rambled through business meetings in her manifesto owning the stilettos of the scene with her career, a disturbing thought always popped up in her mind — about how unsustainable the fashion industry is due to the constant need for new looks and materials.
“While my fashion career has been mostly glamorous on the front lines, I have become increasingly interested in the unsustainable pace of the industry along with an insatiable appetite for novelty from consumers,” Sarah told Vulcan Post in a one-on-one interview.
These ideas grew day by day, and by the time she became a mother and gave birth to her first child, maternal instincts to protect the environment just like Mother Earth became her new calling.
“When I had my first child, it allowed me to focus my desire to serve him and his future. This prompted me to reorient my career, and to draw on my past experiences to further my passion for making more sustainable fashion.”
“Moreover, having seen for myself the experience of my son speeding through his child’s wardrobe largely untouched, I knew this was something that needed fixing. In my desire to build a platform that facilitated active and circular engagement, Retykle was born in 2016. .”
Retykle was created to take away all the hassle that sellers and buyers have with reselling, the founder said. The goal then was to make shopping and selling adorable children’s clothing an easy and rewarding experience – making life better for both parents and the environment.
Sarah seemed to know what the market needed, in just five years since its inception, the company has grown to sell thousands of products each month, with more than 150,000 items listed on its Hong Kong website. After its success in Hong Kong, last November Retykle launched in Singapore, its first overseas branch.
“We have a few thousand subscribers in Singapore thanks to our emergence and brand building since retykle.com launched… We also welcomed hundreds of new sellers in Singapore upon opening our doors and building our brand locally, as we did in Hong Kong, one ‘Retykler’ at a time. “.
According to Sarah, before Retykle there were no official channels through which parents could go to buy or sell previously favorite children’s clothes. Parents at the time had to turn to social media channels and classified groups to get used items. It was a time consuming process and some might end up buying counterfeit goods.
Additionally, parents who want to resell their children’s clothing often find it difficult to list and sell each item separately, in addition to their busy schedules. Often times, the channels or platforms on which they sold their goods had low access and efforts were in vain.
Take advantage of technology
Sarah said Retykle shortens the time needed to get these clothes and makes it easier for sellers to list their items. The business operates as an online consignment platform, which means that the Retykle team collects items from customers’ homes for free. It also handles the responsibilities of the sellers, from collection to pricing and delivery to customers.
The Retykle team monitors the quality, photography, pricing and listing of items. Sellers only need to provide clothes and earn cash whenever an item is sold. Popular brands on the site include Ralph Lauren, Adidas and Stella McCartney.
Sarah said that all of these things are built through the platform’s custom technology that provides a seamless experience for sellers and buyers alike.
“For our sellers, we offer free home delivery and then receive automated messages throughout the trip as well as a personal dashboard to track their items without having to do anything. Sellers just need to sit and wait to collect their winnings at 50 percent of the sale price in cash or 55 percent of store credit.”
“For shoppers, we provide quality assurance services to mitigate the risks of damage, error, or counterfeiting inherent in the second-hand peer-to-peer market,” Sarah said.
Retykle assures that all items listed on their site have been freshly washed and thoroughly checked by their quality control team. The founder said she stands behind the products with 100 percent guarantees.
“We have a rigorous multi-point check to make sure everything listed on our site meets our standards for quality, brand, category and authenticity. For items that are not accepted for listing, we give sellers the option to collect their items (free of charge), and pay to have them sent back to them (for S$5.00) , or we will donate their belongings to a local charity registered on their site, Sarah said.
“We will accept free returns within seven days of purchase if anything does not satisfy the customer,” she added.
Possibility of adorable children’s clothing
Sarah said there is huge potential in the circular economy for a favorite market for children’s clothing like Retykle.
“Everything we buy for our kids has a temporary use, so I think there’s no better category suited to carousel because the need for a wardrobe is rooted in never-ending growth spurts.”
According to her, the children’s fashion space alone is worth nearly US$250 billion globally, and only one to three percent of inventory makes it to the flea market when it gets older. This makes it a huge and largely untapped opportunity.
The latest push for sustainability spurred by the pandemic is supporting the resale industry to “grow big” as well.
“The global fashion resale market is expected to more than double to reach $64 billion in sales by 2025. Increased reliance on digital platforms due to the pandemic, along with increased concern for the environment, as well as enthusiasm to earn additional money from our coffers during these Uncertain economic times are some of the reasons contributing to this accelerated shift toward circular fashion.”
Singapore is seen as a participant in the drive for sustainable living and 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 to turning to sustainable lifestyle choices. This openness to making daily changes to beat the environment more lightly is the seed of openness to the second-hand market,” Sarah said. There is already an active and thriving community investing in Swap and used for adult costumes, but the kids’ section has been overlooked, until now.”
Business growth amid Covid-19
The pandemic may have devastated and negatively affected some businesses, but for Retykle, it has been able to seize opportunities in this period.
There have been many unexpected benefits of Covid-19 to our business. Sarah said that as parents spend more time indoors, are more focused on keeping their wardrobe tidy and organized, they are in the habit of getting rid of their closets and “Retykling” the habit.
“We have also seen a marked increase in environmental concerns throughout the pandemic, which has led to meaningful shifts in consumer behavior. Second-hand clothing is the most sustainable way to wear clothes, and parents in particular are forced to do what is best for their children’s future.”
In addition to the surge in online shopping with more staying at home, some families with tighter cash chains have looked for alternatives like Retykle as well. “Financial and career uncertainty is causing more people to unleash the value in their idle assets in their closets and seek discounts by shopping for their favorite brands with Retykle, where items sell for an average of 80 percent off.”
One of the setbacks the company has faced due to Covid-19 is that team members are unable to meet physically between Singapore and Hong Kong. So far, the team has relied on remote interactions to stay in touch, but they hope to hold in-person meetings once the pandemic subsides.
Recruitment and financing plans
Going forward, 2022 looks set to be an exciting year for Retykle, as they ramp up their efforts to expand the Retykle community here.
The company has amassed nearly 5,000 items on the retykle.sg website to sell and is adding more inventory daily. To support this growth, it plans to double the local team from its existing team of three. Globally, the company has 15 employees.
Retykle also plans to increase its Series A funding over the course of this year to expand into new markets and enhance its technology capabilities to provide opportunities for brands to step into its platform and develop the circular economy through it.
There are plans to host pop-up events soon, but Sarah adds that the company will still keep a close eye on e-commerce.
“We will remain an e-commerce platform in large part, because we believe in the value of the convenience of online shopping, especially during these pandemic times. However, we believe it is important for customers to have a physical point of contact with us to learn more about our brand, our mission and our platform.”
Featured photo credit: Retykle