Chatting with Sarah Garner, Founder of Kids Company, Retykle

STARTUPS

The Story of Retykle with Founder Sarah Garner, Designer Kids Clothing at a Second-Hand and Green Price

Retykle, Hong Kong’s hottest second-hand marketplace for designer kids clothing, was created in 2017 by former corporate fashion world mogul, Sarah Garner, in an adventure to make use of the trawls of clothing amassed in childhood with her two children.

Mother-of-two Sarah realised she had accumulated tons of unworn or barely worn babywear, childrenswear, and maternity-wear. With babies changing seven sizes throughout their first two years and the average child going through 1,700 pieces before they are fully grown, Sarah knew her next career calling was to keep these outgrown clothes that she and many mums collected out of landfills.

In 2021, Retykle has grown exponentially. After the success of their pop-up store on Hollywood Road in October, the future is bright for Hong Kong’s largest second-hand store for children’s designer clothing.

The Beat Asia sat down with Sarah to speak about her intentions behind her online marketplace platform, sustainability in children’s fashions, her steadfast commitment to the planet, and the future for the brand.



Tell me about yourself, Sarah. What is your background with work and family?

I am a Canadian mom of two (Henry, 7 and Olympia, 5) and have been living in Hong Kong since 2007.

Both my career in luxury and being a mother inspired me to start Retykle. I spent over 10 years working in luxury fashion in a range of management roles with companies such as LVMH, Richemont, Lane Crawford, and Selfridges Group. Whilst on the frontlines as a fashion insider, I witnessed first-hand the unsustainable pace and insatiable appetite for newness across the industry.

How has your career in luxury fashion and being a mother inspired your work with Retykle?

After I became a mom, my whole perspective on my role within the industry and my desired career path changed. As soon as my son was a few months old, I saw how quickly everything he used became outgrown and obsolete and was perfectly good to be used by another family.

The seeds for Retykle were born as I wanted to apply my experience in the fashion industry to solving for waste rather than perpetuating consumption. I knew there had to be a better way to reward parents for making high quality purchase decisions, keeping those items in circulation and away from landfill.

How did Retykle begin?

I launched Retykle in 2016 as I wanted to create a circular fashion solution that addressed the problems caused by temporary- use items whilst positively impacting families, our communities, and the environment.

At the time, widespread participation in shopping second-hand was extremely low. My goal was to destigmatize second-hand by making it feel as good as shopping new. By making it accessible, easy and desirable, we were able to convert customers into adopting a more conscious mindset when it came to their children’s wardrobes, and we have gained a large community of parents who are new to preloved.

Retykle has continued to grow from strength to strength and we are now the largest online consignment platform for baby, kids, and maternity fashion, gear, and toys in Asia.





What growth did you see in the beginning?

We launched in 2016 and as a pioneer in resale in Asia, there was a great deal of educating the market in the early stages. Online consignment let alone consignment was not in the vernacular of the typical customer. Firstly, there was the education about how it works, second there was the education around the waste problem to unlock participation and third there were cultural barriers to overcome.

We contended with all of these in turn with trust at the epicentre of our mission. By inspiring, educating, connecting, and building trust with our community, we have been able to affect behavioural change and unlock widespread participation in second-hand shopping where almost none existed before.

Why did you decide to begin trading second-hand and consigned designer children’s clothing as compared to other sustainable gifts or products?

One of fundamental issues regarding sustainable gifts or fashion is that it is still perpetuating consumption. Rather than recommending consumers to just buy less, it is leading them into a false sense that they are benefitting our environment by buying from a “sustainable” collection.

The fashion industry currently produces 100 billion garments per year. That is almost 13 times the size of the global population. If we want to dramatically reduce our carbon footprint, then we need to significantly reduce our rate of consumption. If we cannot avoid purchasing something new, then second-hand is the most sustainable option.

In addition, Retykle is addressing a unique problem in that children don’t stop growing! In fact, on average, kids outgrow seven sizes of clothing before they turn two and an average of 1,700 items of clothing before they are fully grown. There is an unavoidable rotation of their wardrobes and the contents of their bedrooms as their sizes and needs change and as a result a significant amount of waste can be created.

I started Retykle as I felt children and parents should not be penalised for these changes but rewarded for making better lifestyle choices that protect our environment.

What does it mean to be a Retykler or buy apparel through Retykle?

Many are well aware of the negative impact the fashion industry has on the environment but this is magnified when it comes to children's products due to their ever-changing needs and size. Hence, to keep up with their ever-rotating wardrobes, Retykle offers a platform where parents can buy and sell their children’s clothes second-hand, reducing dramatically the environmental footprint incurred.

For example, if everyone bought one used item instead of a new one, we would save nearly 6 billion lbs of CO2e. In fact, we’re happy to share that since our founding in 2016, Retykle has recirculated 150,000 items of clothing to date, saving 407,100 lb of carbon and 313 million liters of water!

By shopping preloved locally, you are avoiding the occurrence of clothes being shipped from around the world as well as reducing a plastic bag that would have otherwise been used to individually package a new clothing item. At Retykle, we always encourage our community to buy less and buy better. By purchasing great quality brands, you are ensuring that they will be able to be kept in circulation and out of landfills.

There is no better way to impart the importance of eco-conscious habits to our children than to include them in our closet cleanouts and purchasing decisions. By doing so, our little ones learn about the impact their wardrobes can have on the environment, and how they can do their part to minimise this. Being a Retykler means that you have joined our mission and joined the cycle to Retykle!

How does sustainability play into your brand?

Sustainability is the thread that weaves our business together. Through our platform, we are creating a longer lifespan for children’s products and want to ultimately create a fully circular solution that eliminates waste associated with kids all together.

Earlier [in 2021], we became carbon neutral-certified as we recognised that although reducing carbon emissions was inherent in our business model, we were still creating emissions through our operations. We wanted to be accountable for our environmental footprint and work towards reducing it. Our certification is the first step along our journey to becoming truly carbon positive.

We avoid fast fashion brands for resale on our platform. We want to encourage better purchasing habits and a change of mindset when it comes to purchasing children’s products. They may only be used for a short period of time but can congest our landfills for a lifetime. Fast fashion is one of the main causes of our overconsumption problem along with the environmental damage associated with cheap production and we want to help facilitate change.





What is the future for Retykle after your Singapore launch and Hollywood Road pop-up?

We began our market scale-up plans with Singapore as our first overseas market launched in October of [2021]. We wanted to demonstrate that our custom technology, processes, and team were built to support replication and scalability.

Our Singapore launch could not have gone more smoothly, and we are now looking at further international roll outs. Our goal is to create self-sustaining local circular markets across Asia and beyond, maximizing our positive environmental impact and making the Retykle cycle available to all.

In Hong Kong, we also have our next pop-up lined up in Causeway Bay in January 2022. Off the back of an incredibly successful pop there over the summer we are excited to be back in the busy Hong Kong neighbourhood.

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