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, Erin Wallace, vice president of integrated marketing at ThredUp, speaks about her affection for secondhand shopping and her company’s work to make fashion more circular.
Name: Erin Wallace
Title: vice president of integrated marketing
Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?
I’ve been really inspired by how the plant-based meat industry has created a far more sustainable alternative to traditional meat without sacrificing taste or being inaccessibly priced to the mass consumer market. I think for the fashion industry to truly become sustainable, they must not only focus on improving the sustainability of their sourcing and production practices, but also take responsibility for the end of life of garments. This means embracing a more circular fashion model and closing the loop to make the most of natural resources and power a sustainable fashion future.
Do you consider yourself a typical consumer?
If you had asked me 10 years ago if I was the typical consumer, I would have said not at all! My closet has been nearly 100 percent thrifted for decades. Today, however, we’re seeing secondhand become the new normal, and thrifted clothes are getting a bigger spot in more consumers’ closets than ever before. I suppose I’m a more typical consumer today than ever before, which is very encouraging.
As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?
I love to support companies that are extremely transparent about how they treat their employees, how they produce the items they make and how they think about the end life of their product. One of my favorite go-to resources is Good On You, a source of thousands of brand ratings focused on ethics and sustainability in the fashion industry.
What’s your typical work uniform?
At any given time, I would say 90 percent of my outfit is secondhand. I used to love dressing up when we were in the office, but since [quarantine], my daily uniform is some combination of my favorite old Levi’s or Rachel Comey jeans, a vintage T-shirt or oversized sweatshirt and one of several pairs of Birkenstocks—socks optional.
Which fashion era is your favorite?
Right now! I really love seeing trends come back around and be reimagined by another generation. I was a teen in the ’90s, and much of the street style today could have been in my closet back then.
Who’s your style icon?
What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?
I think the best decision that ThredUp has made this past year is expanding how we educate consumers on the eco impact of their fashion choices. Earlier this year, we launched the first-of-its-kind Fashion Footprint Calculator, an online quiz that measures your carbon footprint as it relates to your fashion habits.
Another decision I’m excited about is our Resale-as-a-Service platform platform that allows brands and retailers to plug into the infrastructure we’ve built and offer resale experiences to their own customers. Whether it’s a secondhand shopping experience with Walmart or an apparel recycling partnership with Gap, I’m thrilled that ThredUp is helping secondhand go mainstream and reach new waves of conscious consumers.
How would you describe your corporate culture?
ThredUp’s corporate culture is felt in everything we do as a company. Our core values are focused around infinite learning, speaking up, thinking big and truth seeking. We move really fast, welcome hard questions and view mistakes as opportunities to learn. It’s a very exciting place to work.
What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?
The fashion industry needs to prioritize building a circular fashion future—one that makes the most of natural resources used to create new garments and keeps them in use and out of landfill. During this time in history, we’ve been given a unique opportunity to reimagine what the fashion industry looks like; the future of sustainable fashion must be in its democratization, so that all are able to participate, regardless of income or style.
What keeps you up at night?
There’s so many things right now, but raising compassionate, empathetic humans is always high on that list.
What makes you most optimistic?
Gen Z! I continue to be inspired by my two young teenagers and this generation overall, who seem more empowered, self-aware and clear eyed about the problems and changes they see in the world. Gen Z is also the fastest growing adopters of secondhand, so they’ve got great style going for them, too.
Tell us about your company’s newest service:
Last year, we launched our Resale-as-a-Service (RAAS) platform to allow brands and retailers to plug into what we’ve built and power secondhand experiences for their own customers. Most recently, we partnered with the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, to offer the first-of-its-kind, online secondhand shopping experience. We also recently launched apparel recycling partnerships with Reebok and Abercrombie & Fitch last month. It’s exciting to continue expanding our platform to help the entire fashion industry go circular.