Ruth, the founder of ‘Recycled By’, has a mission. Her ambition goes beyond persuading people to buy pre-owned clothing; it’s to encourage them to be proud to be seen in second-hand. Recycled By seeks out the best pre-owned clothing available. Its current selection includes Prada mules, a skirt by Stella McCartney and pieces from top-end high street brands including Reiss. Yet unlike other luxury-orientated second-hand platforms, Recycled By doesn’t conspire with customers to pass off their pre-owned finds as brand new. Every item of clothing sold by the comes with an elegant charm attached to show it’s unmistakably a Recycled By piece.
Although the preloved movement is growing, encouraging people to be unapologetic about buying pre-owned is necessary and timely. For every person who’s embraced a preloved wardrobe, there are several others for who the word ‘secondhand’ conjures images of musty charity shops and moth balls: associations that couldn’t be further away from the elegant styles curated by ‘Recycled By’.
Platforms such as Recycled By, with an emphasis on sophisticated and grown-up style, are helping to broaden the demographics of preloved shoppers: while Gen Z’s enchantment with “Y2K” clothing has fuelled explosive growth for Depop, other age groups are less excited by pre-owned clothing as data from McKinsey shows. Perhaps that’s because anyone much over 30 was brought up to believe that wearing secondhand was a sign of poverty – something to be slightly embarrassed about. Happily, those perceptions are fading as people come to realise that preloved clothes are not only just as stylish as brand new, but also a discerning choice for those who don’t want to be complicit in the environmental disaster that is fast fashion. Since the bulk of environmental impacts attributed to fashion come from the manufacture of new clothes, buying pre-owned instead of new reduces carbon emissions substantially as well as saving water and chemical pollution.
Buying pre-owned is something to be proud of. Wearing ‘Recycled By’ is one way to demonstrate being part of the sustainable fashion movement, and perhaps inspire others to discover they can look good while doing good.
Enhancing Women’s Lives
Ruth is determined that Recycled By will benefit both humanity and the environment. To that end, partnering with a charity is integral to her business plan.
Women’s employment outcomes have suffered disproportionately since the covid pandemic began, meaning that intervention to support women looking for work is more necessary now than ever. Recycled By will partner with a charity that assists women in finding employment through coaching to help women succeed at interview. Working with a charity that advances women’s life chances seems a natural progression for Ruth, whose career began with fifteen years spent as an emergency care nurse. She then transitioned to working with vulnerable women in the UK – something she continues to do alongside running her fashion start-up.
Recycled by will support organisations that match pre-owned clothes with women who are seeking work. As any job-seeker can confirm, having a chic interview outfit is the ultimate confidence boost. Not only that, nowadays clothing is massively under-utilised; many clothes sadly find their way to landfill after being worn just a few times, or are transported to developing countries where they damage local textile industries. Instead, matching clothes to new owners who can benefit directly from them is good for people and planet.
Ruth’s motivation for launching ‘Recycled by’ was twofold: To support a charity and to address the negative environmental and social impacts of the textiles industry. But there’s also a side benefit that delights her: “I also love the idea that more people can access the luxury market,” she says. “Having gorgeous designer clothes brings out an inner confidence in my customers.” To that end, Recycled By goes to great lengths to ensure that every garment it carries is genuine. The business exclusively sources clothing from suppliers that have watertight authentification processes in place. Customers can be certain that the Chloe or Prada bag they’re buying is not only genuine but also in impeccable condition.
A tipping point
“The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire,” according to Malcolm Gladwell. The way we buy and wear fashion as a society is changing rapidly – because it has to. The environmental consequences of failure to change would be too severe. The Recycled By brand is part of that sea-change, not only by answering a customer need for stylish secondhand clothing, but also by inviting customers to be proud of being at the forefront of this fashion revolution.
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