It’s no secret kids grow at the speed of light, often outgrowing clothes before they even get a chance to wear them twice. Now, instead of trashing their clothes, you can resell them and get back your money’s worth at RETYKLE.
A mash-up of “recycle” and “tyke,” RETYKLE is an online platform for the hassle-free re-selling and buying of preloved luxury childrenswear. Founded in Hong Kong in 2016 by Sarah Garner, the idea struck her when she received a heap of second-hand, high-quality baby apparel for her newborn from a friend. After sorting through the pile, Sarah estimated the second-hand value of the hand-me-downs and thanked her friend with a gift card. “It was a huge convenience for her, because obviously you want outgrown clothes out of your house, yet you want them to live another life. And there was also a monetary exchange, so she was happy and I was happy,” Sarah recalls. This simple transaction was her ‘ah-hah’ moment.
The experience opened her eyes to the unimaginable amount of waste caused by the fashion industry. With over 10 years of frontline experience in the luxury fashion business – buyer at Lane Crawford, global planning manager at LVMH, and eventually director of merchandising and product development at Shanghai Tang – Sarah decided to put it to good use and do something about the looming problem. “Fashion was a very consumer driven environment and we were always looking for what was next,” says Sarah. “When I had my first child, a huge switch went off. I realised what I was doing did not have a positive impact on both my son’s future and the environment.”
Her solution was to create an efficient platform that would give parents the opportunity to recycle their quality children’s clothes – without requiring them to do the dirty jobs of photographing, pricing, listing, and shipping. All the seller has to do is gather their kids’ outgrown clothes, which usually averages between 50 to 100 pieces at a time, and put them in a bag for RETYKLE to collect free of charge. The items are then listed, and, when sold, the seller gets 50 percent of the value. Only working with a clear list of high-quality brands, Retykle takes a curated approach that stood out from Facebook groups and Ebay, resonating with parents who wanted luxury kids clothes in a more affordable and sustainable environment.
To ensure RETYKLE was a sustainable business, Sarah conducted a lot of research, market tests, and attended countless seminars. “I think you can learn a lot from other entrepreneurs because everyone struggles with similar challenges getting started,” she says. “I received a lot of good advice in the beginning, such as getting a bookkeeper since the first day of business – that was really crucial advice. It’s been a learning journey.”
However, that doesn’t mean her trajectory was all smooth. It took a long time to piece together RETYKLE – mostly because it was a new business model. “It took me between three to six months to find a developer team that could build the website – I found that to be the hardest part,” Sarah admits. “There’s been a lot more development in Hong Kong than there was three years ago when I was looking. Now, there’s so much homegrown knowledge and a system that supports entrepreneurs. Startup support is maturing, so it’s a really exciting place to be.”
With just two interns working with her, Sarah launched RETYKLE in 2016. At first, there were concerns that the stigma the Chinese community attach to buying second-hand clothes could stunt their growth, but the tables quickly turned. With a customer base that’s predominantly Chinese now, Sarah explains, “things change quickly here. As opposed to other cultures where things might take decades to catch on, new businesses and trends can take hold very quickly in Hong Kong and China.”
She credits that change with the bargain her luxury pieces afford parents and a pervasive sense of urgency when it comes to a desire to change our retail habits for the sake of the environment. That, and the convenience she has built into her business model. “I think it just takes a first engagement with a resell platform, particularly one that adds a lot of value to your life when it’s hassle free. You just have to do it once and you’ll see it’s great,” Sarah urges. “We want to keep basically as much, if not all, kids clothing in circulation for as long as possible.”
RETYKLE currently carries over 1,100 brands, adding new brands to its collection every day, and is suitable for children aged 0-12 years, with plans to include teenagers soon. They recently widened their market to include maternity clothes as well. Any clothes that don’t sell are donated to local charities, such as PathFinders and Refugee Union, or her customers can request to take them back. With a business that reflects the circular economy in all its convenient cost-saving and sustainable glory, Sarah is riding a new wave of retail that is only set to grow.
“One of the most exciting quotes I just came across is, ‘It’s anticipated that the resell market will be bigger than fast fashion in 10 years,” she says. “So, that is great news for resell and for the environment because fashion is just moving at such an unsustainable pace – we should have a pretty good fashion future ahead.”