“It’s not every day that the fashion industry finds a trend that’s potentially saleable, scalable and sustainable, that checks all the earth-loving boxes consumers are craving, and upholds the tender images that luxury fashion houses guard assiduously. While the list of luxury brands embracing sustainability continues to grow, there are still many notable holdouts.
The RealReal, which has been one of the leading proponents of fashion’s circular economy, has made hay of recycling luxury ready-to-wear and handbags. Now, the resale platform is set to spin thread into currency – and au courant fashion – by taking on the scrap heap of luxe fibers and fabrics and turning them into high-end one-off creations.
“We’ve focused on extending the life of luxury goods from day one, and continue to expand on that commitment, from repair services to upcycling,” The RealReal’s president Rati Levesque told me, noting that experts authenticate watches and handbags and horologists repair the timepieces. “We have to get brands and consumers thinking about the life cycle of what they make and buy. We believe collaborating directly with luxury brands to create innovative paths toward a more circular future for fashion, as we’re doing with ReCollection, will be a catalyst for more conscious production and consumption.”
“The natural next evolution for us is to address the high volume of goods that can’t live on in their current state and are at high risk of being part of the garbage truck’s worth of textiles that are [sent to] landfills or burned every second,” said Allison Sommer, senior director of strategic partnerships at The RealReal. “For the past decade, we’ve championed the circular economy, engaging more than 21 million members in creating a more sustainable future.”
Director of sustainability James Rogers said The RealReal is building a library of scraps with any leftovers from the new collections, which it plans to make available to other designers, showing the way to better practices. He added that the library will be a repository of sorts.
“You can recycle something to the point where you’re breaking it down into component parts,” Rogers said, citing turning plastic bottles turning into fiber for apparel. “What’s so exciting about ReCollection is that it can go in many different directions. We could get materials from consigners.
The RealReal on April 1 will launch ReCollection 01, followed by ReCollection 02, which will bow during Earth Month. The San Francisco-based platform is partnering with brands such as Balenciaga, Dries van Noten, Stella McCartney, A-COLD-WALL, Jacquemus, Zero + Maria Cornejo, and Ulla Johnson.
Upcycling was a rising runway trend during the most recent New York Fashion Week when The RealReal collaborated with Collina Strada and Imitation of Christ of Christ, while Gabriella Hearst’s first collection for Chloe in Paris featured her earth-friendly ethos.
“As a designer, I think it’s the biggest compliment for your designs to have an afterlife,” said Stella McCartney. “To me, that’s luxury, and something I take into consideration from the beginning of the process.
“The timelessness of the design, how it’s made, what materials are used to produce it – it’s all part of our ethos at Stella McCartney,” the designer added. “We invest a lot to make sure that our products are made to last, rather than end up in a landfill. To me, a luxury product is something that can be handed down to family or friends.”