The first iteration of the recycled clothing collection from resale company The RealReal, ReCollection 01, was created with the help of a third party and performed minimal repairs and modifications on damaged products donated by brands. But the second iteration of ReCollection, launching this holiday season, will see the company take on the responsibility of designing and releasing a collection in-house.
The second collection, made from waste and recycled materials from damaged products salvaged by The RealReal, is currently being designed as part of the company’s new innovation lab, called Circular ReSource Lab. The pieces transform more drastically than those used in the first collection, offering no indication of the brands or products that were used to create them.
As the lab works on multiple projects simultaneously, its primary focus will be on building The RealReal’s internal design capabilities, according to Allison Sommers, head of strategic initiatives at The RealReal.
“The purpose of the ReSource Lab is to test and learn, and to make sure that we invest in areas where we can move the needle in an environmental way,” Sommers said. “It made sense for us to work with an external partner for our first collection, but now that we have determined that this is a good use of resources, we can start investing more in these collections. “
Sommers said the lab will focus on three pillars: reinvent, revive and resell. Reimagining, as in the upcoming collection, will see The RealReal craft more original parts from scraps and damaged merchandise components. Reviving consists of introducing repairs and modifications to its range of services. Finally, resale will see the lab looking for new ways to transact and reinvent the business side of the business.
Sommers said the lab, which was officially created in-house in April right after the first ReCollection, required minimal recruiting. Less than a dozen new people were hired to staff the lab, with the rest coming from in-house technology and design teams.
Circularity is a big selling point for customers of The RealReal, Sommers said. In audience surveys for The RealReal, 40% of shippers and 43% of buyers said environmental impact is one of the most important motivations for using resale.
“From 2019 to 2021, sustainability and environmental motivation have been the main deciding factors for our customers,” Sommers said. “Brand value and selection are obviously important, but increasing circularity is an important selling point for us. “
Brands like Madewell and Adidas have all launched new initiatives around circularity over the past year, finding ways to take old and damaged products and turn them into something new and resalable. Rental company Nuuly launched a similar recycling concept called Re_Nuuly in April that took old and damaged products and turned them into new styles. In addition to appealing to the consumer’s conscious desire for circularity, these initiatives can also provide an additional revenue stream for brands to get the most out of products that would otherwise go to landfill.
“We started to put away damaged styles and put them in buckets such as denim, anything that was white, things with small but unremovable stains, etc.,” said Sky Pollard, product manager. at Nuuly. “We didn’t know exactly what we were going to do yet, but we knew we wanted to make something out of the clothes and give them a second life. “
For The RealReal, which saw its highest gross merchandise value on record at $ 350 million in Q2 2021, ReCollection 02 will be the first step towards more varied options on how to repurpose old clothing into new sales.
“Any object that can have a second life should have a second life,” Sommers said. “We want to have a place for all of these elements on our site. “