We have discussed factory shops, surplus, salvage, recommerce, ad nauseam, but because of South Africa’s high cost of living, it remains lucrative. Today we look at a business that satisfies both people’s need to pinch pennies and their desire for designer fashion: the “sustainable” fashion retailer.

What is a sustainable fashion retailer?
A sustainable fashion retailer (in theory) often targets high-end fashion with the pitch that they will resell their clothing so 1. that it does not end up in landfills and 2. that it does not dilute their brand. This is done with a waste reduction USP.

But where does this angle come from?
Most designer brands would rather burn their clothing than have it end up in a salvage stream. This business cynically exploits both from a retail perspective and from a supplier perspective the negative publicity around fashion waste and positions itself as a sales channel that will not cannibalise new sales from the retail perspective; in fact, the opposite: from the supplier perspective, they get to crow about how they are reducing waste and they getting money no different from what they would from a factory shop or a salvage operation but without the harm to their brand of their product selling for cheap (it’s good for the environment, lads). That is because that is exactly what this business is: a glorified surplus and salvage operation for the fashion industry. The rest is all theatre. But people are lapping it all up, so you might as well stand behind a cash register.

Business Model
This business is no different from the “ewaste” guys that approach businesses looking for free computers they are going to resell or the salvage operator that says their expired foods reduce food waste. It tugs on similar heartstrings to a social enterprise but in the opposite direction: the often demonised fashion house looks good, and the (often left-leaning) millennial buyers who often complain about expensive fashion can now fulfil their capitalistic urges and buy designer fashion for less.

You already know the story, lads: Say after me: REUSE, REDUCE, RECYCLE.
Plaster that all over your website and start pitching to fashion houses how you are reducing waste for surplus, overstock, unsold stock, end of range, end of fashion, and returns. Make a TikTik for the millenials crying about having to work 9–5 and PROFIT.