Madewell’s new initiative puts its name to the test.
The millennial-centric denim brand announced Tuesday the launch of its expanded resale program called Madewell Forever. Powered by ThredUp, which bills itself as the world’s largest online consignment and thrift store, the program incentivizes consumers to bring in their pre-owned denim to Madewell stores to earn Madewell shopping credit.
ThredUp is well versed in denim resale. Madewell first linked with the resale technology and logistics platform in 2019 for Madewell Archive, an in-store program that brought a curated selection of secondhand Madewell jeans to six U.S. stores. ThredUp has also partnered with Frame, Abercrombie & Fitch, Reformation for resale programs, as well as Walmart and luxury e-tailer Farfetch.
With Madewell Forever, however, the J. Crew Group-owned brand becomes ThredUp’s first resale-as-a-service partner to launch a fully circular model in which customers can clean out denim in Madewell stores and shop secondhand Madewell denim in stores and online.
“We know the next best way to extend the lifespan of your product is with resale, that is why we’re launching our online experience with ThredUp,” said Liz Hershfield, Madewell SVP of sustainability. “We’ve piloted this program that will allow us to tap into their inventory as well as their expertise around logistics, but the experience on the site will feel native to Madewell.”
Madewell Forever will incorporate a full range of sizes, including plus, and will launch with over 3,000 pre-loved pairs of denim with new options being added on an hourly basis. Shoppers can purchase secondhand women’s Madewell denim styles in select stores or from the new Madewell Forever section on the retailer’s e-commerce site. Garments retail for $30-$50, or about half of what a new pair of full-price Madewell jeans goes for.
With this partnership, Madewell and ThredUp aim to double the lifespan of each recirculated garment. They have set a goal of collecting one million denim articles by 2023, or double what Madewell has collected over the past six years through its denim trade-in program with Cotton Incorporated’s Blue Jeans Go Green program, which recycles jeans into housing insulation.
For each pair of denim donated at a Madewell store, customers earn $20 off their next purchase of full-price Madewell denim. The garments are then sent to ThredUp, which sorts through the inventory to determine what can be resold. Women’s Madewell denim that meets the brand’s pre-set standards will be re-sold in stores and on the “Madewell Forever” site. Madewell denim that is deemed unsellable will be sent to Blue Jeans Go Green program to be recycled.
Non-Madewell denim that meets ThredUp’s standards will be re-sold on the ThredUp site. Those that are deemed unsellable will be donated to Blue Jeans Go Green.
“As a denim brand we have focused on creating a circular journey for jeans,” Hershfield said. “While recycling denim is the best thing to do when denim is no longer wearable, for jeans that can still be worn the best thing to do is to keep them in customers’ closets longer. Madewell Forever is the solution that allows us to give customers the tools needed to easily give new life to their old denim.”
Stepping into resale is both a strategic and eco-conscious move for Madewell, which through its Do Well program has set a mission to enact long-term commitments that will further sustainable and circular practices across the business. New research from ThredUp’s 2021 Resale Report shows that secondhand is projected to double in the next five years. In 2020, 33 million Americans snapped up secondhand apparel for the first time. Over the next five years, resale is poised to double to a whopping $77 billion.
Competing denim brands such as Levi’s, Guess and Tommy Hilfiger have entered the resale space with their own short- and long-term schemes. Madewell consumers, however, are well acquainted with shopping pre-owned fashion. According to Madewell’s ‘Group Chat’ program—a collective of roughly 5,000 customers who have signed up to give the brand feedback—61 percent say they have purchased secondhand.
“We know our customer cares deeply about sustainability and the environment,” Hershfield said.