This article has been re-published from Forbes.
Today, fashion brand Madewell announced the next step within its company-wide sustainability efforts by partnering with Resale-as-a-Service (RaaS) provider thredUP for a new program: Madewell Forever.
Madewell Forever is a pilot program that will allow the brand to expand the denim trade-in and recycling program they currently offer. Madewell Forever creates a circular resale program that gives their denim a second life so it stays out of landfills.
“This effort builds upon Madewell’s sustainability focus, extending the life of the product by as much as two years,” said Liz Hershfield, SVP and Head of Sustainability J. Crew Group, Madewell’s parent company.
This isn’t Madewell’s first collaboration with thredUP. Madewell began a partnership with the online consignment platform back in 2019 and was impressed with thredUP’s technology, logistics, and the customer experience they provide.
With this launch, Madewell expands its partnership with thredUP by enabling shoppers to recycle denim and buy secondhand Madewell denim in stores as well as online for the very first time.
ThredUP will help evaluate product quality, and from there, both parties work together to decide together what should be sold in-store and online or via thredUP’s online marketplace.
The first iteration of this campaign will focus on denim, since it’s the company’s core flagship product, but it’s possible they will expand the collaboration into other product categories down the road.
For now, shoppers can enjoy over 4,000 pre-owned women’s denim styles that come in different washes, silhouettes, and sizes (including Plus). New styles are added hourly as they become available. Prices range from $35 to $50 to keep the pre-loved items at an accessible, affordable price point.
Madewell also aims to attract more Gen Z shoppers with this launch. According to Derek Yarbrough, Madewell’s CMO, “Over 40% of millennials and Gen-Z shoppers have shopped secondhand fashion over the past 12 months, so they were a big focus for us as we thought about how to launch the program.”
It’s a wise strategy, given that Gen Z is leading the way in interest for sustainable products. In fact, 93% of Gen Z believe brands have a duty to protect the environment. This generation also represents the most rapidly-growing consumer group, with more than $140 billion in spending power and a strong desire to give back to the world.
As a result, Madwell is partnering with TikTok creators Macy Eleni (@blazedandglazed) and Emma Rogue (@emma.rogue), both of whom are fans of vintage products and thrift-store shopping.
These two creators specialize in creating resale or secondhand content for Gen-Z on TikTok, which makes them a fitting choice to introduce the program to their target audience.
Madewell Forever’s ultimate goal is to collect one million pairs of denim by 2023. Hershfield describes it as “ambitious”, because this total is what Madewell has collected through its denim trade-in program over the last six years.
The program comes at a good time, as demand (and need) for more sustainable fashion offerings continues to rise. The average American throws away 70 pounds of clothing and textiles a year (many of which fall into the fast fashion category.)
Despite its affordability, fast fashion comes at a much higher environmental price.
“The advent of fast fashion means we’re tossing double the amount of clothing we used to 20 years ago,” said Ashlee Piper, eco-lifestyle expert and author of Give a Sh*T: Do Good. Live Better. Save the Planet.
Piper suggests consumers can and should shift their buying habits to reduce waste and buy secondhand, purchase fewer (but better quality) items, or make do with what they already have.
However, she also believes the primary onus should be put on companies producing these items. The good news: Madewell and select other fashion brands are making strides to offset the negative impacts of the fashion industry.
Faherty is another example of a sustainable apparel company that’s leaning into more responsible and circular methods.
“For all Faherty stores, there’s a Store Sustainability committee, which works to ensure the team is continuously evolving its sustainability efforts and implementing the best practices across stores,” said Kerry Faherty, Faherty’s Chief Impact Officer.
The company recycles and donates all remnant fabrics to FABSCRAP, an industry recycling program dedicated to keeping garments from going to landfills. Faherty is also a member of Textile Exchange, a global nonprofit organization that helps the fashion brand secure more sustainable fabrics, and Renewal Workshop, a “re-commerce” platform that upcycles, repairs, or resells Faherty products to extend the life of products.
Most sustainable brands place emphasis on product quality by using eco-friendly materials that last—which is a great start, but action shouldn’t stop there.
Madewell’s new program is a great example of what fashion retailers can do to keep their products out of landfills while also creating a secondary market for pre-loved items.