The Madewell Archive program, launched this week, aims to give new life to used Madewell jeans. At select stores in Austin, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, customers can now purchase pre-worn denim for a fraction of its original price. There are plans to launch the program in Charlotte, N.C., on Nov. 1.
Each pair of jeans is hand-selected by Madewell’s denim experts from ThredUp’s inventory, the brands revealed in a joint statement. Madewell then refurbishes the chosen garments and places them back into its stores for customers to purchase for $50 each.
“Our denim is built to stand the test of time so we’re excited to partner with ThredUp to keep our pieces in circulation longer and offer our customers the opportunity to get their hands on our past favorite fits and styles,” Anne Crisafulli, Madewell’s senior vice president of merchandising, told Sourcing Journal.
The effort represents the first step in a potential long-term sustainability strategy for Madewell, which hinted that the program could grow to extend to other categories outside of denim in the future.
“Madewell sees the practice of circularity and extending the lifespan of garments as an important way to lessen waste and environmental impact. Since we’re known for our quality denim, we decided to start there and really work to extend the lifespan of our denim,” the brand said.
Over the past decade, resale marketplace ThredUp has helped to invigorate the online secondhand market, which experts believe is on the brink of explosion.
According to the company’s 2019 Resale Report, which combines GlobalData research and the results of ThredUp’s own 2,000-person survey, the recommerce category has grown 21 times faster than the firsthand retail apparel market over the past three years. The report’s data supports projections that the resale market could top $50 billion in the next five years.
Despite economic anxieties and tariff disputes that threaten the retail world at large, secondhand remains a trove of potential for shoppers looking to shop sustainably and squeeze every bit of value out of their hard-earned dollars.
“The ThredUp team is thrilled to partner with Madewell to power a fun secondhand shopping experience that extends the life of their iconic denim,” Karen Clark, the company’s vice president of marketing and communications, told Sourcing Journal. “Together we hope to pave the way for a more circular and sustainable fashion future.”
Madewell is the latest mass retail brand to dip its toe in the secondhand pool, but it’s by no means the only mall staple to make moves toward a future in resale.
Department stores J.C. Penney and Macy’s will also be embarking on partnerships with ThredUp in an attempt to reinvigorate consumer interest. In August, the San Francisco-based e-commerce startup received a $175 million infusion of funding, and CEO James Reinhart expressed a desire to partner with struggling retailers in need of a strategic jump-start.
“People are not going to stop buying new stuff but the rate at which they’re getting rid of stuff and looking for new ways to change up their looks is accelerating,” Reinhart said at April’s WWD Retail 2030 event.
“This isn’t a trend, this isn’t something that’s going to go away. This is a structural shift in consumption and I think we all need to figure out how to work on it together,” he added.
Amour Vert recently partnered with ThredUp to encourage customers to upcycle their unwanted clothes with the resale platform rather than binning them, which can extend a garment’s life by 2.2 years on average. Participants receive a shopping credit they can use to purchase new items on Amour Vert’s website.