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Up Close: In Conversation with The RealReal’s Karin Dillie

Rivet's 2020 Denim Circularity report takes a deep dive into how the global denim industry is plotting its circular future amidst a worldwide pandemic.

Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, Karin Dillie, director of B2B and estates at luxury reseller The RealReal, discusses how she shops with an “investment mindset” and how her company is helping brands reroute extra inventory to secondhand customers.

Karin Dillie

Karin Dillie, director of B2B and estates at The RealReal. Photo credit: Kristina Perrone

Name: Karin Dillie

Title: director of B2B and estates

Company: The RealReal

How would you describe yourself as a consumer?

I would describe myself as someone that has an “investment mindset” when it comes to consuming. I love beautifully crafted and well-made items that maintain their value over time. Working at The RealReal has opened my eyes to the benefits of investing in high-quality items because the better the quality, the more likely it will be able to be recirculated.

As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?

Quality and customer service are the two most important things to me. I naturally gravitate towards companies that create products that are meant to last. Also, if the company invests in its customers and puts them first, I will invest in them.

What’s your typical uniform?

You can usually find me in a pair of Mother jeans (my favorite denim brand), or a Ganni dress. I always feel my best wearing Ganni’s dresses because of their fun, fresh patterns, and it feels good to support a brand that is responsible.

Which fashion era is your favorite?

I am loving now! Being a professional in the art world, I have always thrived on creativity. Clothing and style to me is an expression of creativity, and I feel like now more than ever people are embracing their personal style instead of just buying the next trend.

Who’s your style icon?

My grandma is my absolute style icon. She always wore such amazing patterns in such a vivid color palette and loved to dress up no matter the occasion. Paired with her fabulous costume jewelry, my grandma’s style was always the talk of the room.

What can companies learn from COVID-19?

Digitally native brands have shown throughout the pandemic that they’re positioned for long-term success. Companies that haven’t been able to create a digital presence for themselves will have a hard time adapting to the new normal, especially traditional retailers or companies that rely on brick-and-mortar. Being able to create a personalized experience for all customers is even more important now, and technology and innovation are the core factors that will help companies achieve that.

What keeps you up at night?

Two questions keep crossing my mind: How do we systemically and individually fight inequality? And what role does environmental sustainability play in our economic and socioeconomic inequality? It feels good that we’re educating ourselves more on these topics given the current climate we’re in, but I still feel like there is more we can learn and do.

What makes you most optimistic?

Within my role, my team makes me feel optimistic and empowered every day. I am lucky to be working alongside such smart and innovative people that always push me to think big and be my best.

Gen Z also makes me very inspired. I am in awe of everything they’ve accomplished, and I am inspired to see more of what they have in store for the future.

What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?

The pandemic has pushed our company to innovate like a young start up again. We are a very nimble organization, but we’ve had to take smart, scrappy action to overcome the recent challenges we’ve faced. I was very proud to see our company adapt quickly to this new normal.

The biggest thing we had to change with our business was launching virtual appointments, and I think it’s one of the best decisions we’ve made. Due to shelter-in-place orders, we had to temporarily close our luxury consignment offices and stores and suspend our in-home White Glove consignment service. Virtual appointments were how we were able to continue delivering the personalized and trusted consignment experience that we’re known for. We’ve seen such success with them that we’re making them a permanent offering.

How would you describe your corporate culture?

The RealReal’s leadership team is majority of women. From our executives to our managers, I am working alongside strong and powerful women. It’s inspiring that these women leaders are my peers that I get to grow and learn from.

What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?

The apparel industry has a unique opportunity to use this time to start designing more thoughtfully and responsibly. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, one garbage truck’s worth of textiles is landfilled or burned every second. Now is the time to change that. The industry needs to become more mindful of the amount they’re producing, how they’re sourcing, and the afterlife of goods so the industry can be less harmful to the planet.

Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction/service:

The RealReal B2B has been a green shoot of our business during the pandemic. Before the pandemic, we were already seeing brands warming up to the idea of resale, but it has created a strong appetite for retailers and brands to embrace it. For brands and retailers that have been significantly impacted by brick-and-mortar closures or are currently sitting on a supply of trapped inventory, The RealReal B2B has been a channel to connect their existing inventory with buyers who want it. The majority of our business is still individual consignment, but since the beginning of May, we’ve seen supply from our B2B channel double compared to the same time last year, and interest from new business sellers is up 10 times.

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