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How Hemster’s ‘Rescue Kits’ Aim to Curb Textile Waste

Digital tailoring platform provider Hemster is launching “Rescue Kits” as part of its mission to add 20,000 years of life to garments by the end of 2022.

The Rescue Kits give consumers a way to extend the lifespan of their wardrobe by repairing clothes instead of throwing them away. The kits will include a recycled shipping bag that customers can fill with garments that need mending.

Shoppers can access the fit tech startup’s self-service portal to place their repair order, and ship their labeled Rescue Kit directly to Hemster, where a team of garment experts will refurbish all items by using sustainable materials to patch holes, repair seams, replace snaps and add in missing buttons.

Hemster includes a recyclable poly mailer made with 100 percent polyethylene material in every kit.

Shoppers don’t have to provide their own trims or buttons, Hemster says. The experts can use the spare buttons or trims the garment comes with, which are often hidden at their inside side seams. If not, the company has eco-friendly stock options that it can use for the repairs.

Orders can be placed on Hemster’s website for $40 (or $35 for users of the Rinse laundry service) and include up to four repairs, which is equivalent to 14 wearable years, the company claims. Shoppers will receive a Rescue Kit within two-to-three business days of purchase. All repair orders are processed and shipped back within five business days.

“So many people want to be more sustainable but have no idea where to start. Clothes will sit in people’s closets with broken zippers or buttons, and end up getting donated, recycled or thrown away, filling our landfills with garments that could have been given another life,” said Allison Lee, CEO and founder of Hemster. “We launched rescue kits to help encourage shoppers to look into their own closets to repair the items they love that they may have thought were long gone. Every time a garment is repaired, 3.5 years are added to its lifespan. Our goal is to expand the lifespan of as many garments as possible.”

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In a pool of approximately 5,000 active Hemster users, 56 percent report they have at least three to five damaged garments in their closet. More than 60 percent of users don’t know of another option other than throwing these garments away.

An alum of retail tech incubator XRC Labs, the startup also said that 75 percent of its community would like to send their garments to Hemster to be repaired, and 62 percent said they want more the innovator services to power a circular closet, leading to the birth of the Rescue Kits.

Repairs and alterations are big business for fashion, and more brands are tying the services into sustainability or ESG initiatives. For example, Neiman Marcus aims to divert 1 million items from landfill through its investments in in-house services and the circular economy by 2025. During 2021, tailors and artisans altered 172,304 items and repaired 155,258 products at the luxury department store’s service center, totaling $81 million in merchandise. In recent months, global brands like Uniqlo, Ugg and Zalando have debuted their own repair and alterations programs as they set circularity goals. And Coach, which already has repair shops in select stores to fix broken bags and accessories, is launching its own product repair apprenticeship program in June.

And while Hemster wants to help curb textile waste with its own repair program, it also seems to be taking inspiration from ThredUp in the launch of the kit system. “Cleanout kits” are a staple of the secondhand consignment store’s brand partnerships in an effort to extend the life of clothing through resale. The difference is that ThredUp’s kits are designed to take in items that can be resold, and are not for shoppers looking to revive products that need a little TLC.

The rescue kits augment Hemster’s ongoing efforts to support sustainable fashion, with the company already offering basic hems and repairs on all bottoms, tops, dresses, jumpsuits and sleeves.

Since Jan. 1, Hemster says it has added a combined 4,900 years to garment lifespans, reaching nearly 25 percent of its 20,000-year goal.

Hemster partners with brands to go beyond traditional sizes by offering customization in the form of virtual tailoring. From the tailoring process, Hemster collects reusable fit data as “Patterns,” which customers use to purchase their next garments with their own personalized fit over small, medium or large.

The tech-enabled platform captures reusable data to create an individual customer’s perfect fit through mass customization, with the company saying it’s accurate to within a quarter inch. When garments fit the customer, retailers can see higher conversion, lower returns, and significantly higher repeat purchases.