Last week, New Balance and The Renewal Workshop partnered to debut a collection of gently used apparel. Then, just days later, H&M Canada announced plans to launch H&M Rewear, a peer-to-peer resale platform enabling Canadians to buy and sell clothing from any brand.
The two launches come amid surging consumer interest in resale. According to the annual resale report ThredUp released in June, 33 million Americans snapped up secondhand apparel for the first time in 2020. Over the next five years, resale, described as the segment of secondhand that includes more curated assortments, is poised to double to $77 billion.
Using The Renewal Workshop’s proprietary six-stage, zero-waste process, garments are sorted, graded, “thoroughly” cleaned, repaired, inspected and verified to quality standards before becoming available online. The items listed range from athletic tops and bottoms to swimwear and denim.
“To bring on an iconic brand like New Balance is a part of The Renewal Workshop’s partnership expansion plan,” Nicole Bassett, The Renewal Workshop’s co-founder, said in a statement. “We look forward to seeing New Balance Renewed become a driver of renewing products and to helping New Balance launch re-commerce in the athleticwear sector.”
The move seems to fit into New Balance’s transformation journey. It’s leaning into 3D design and digital sampling after capping off 2020 with a website revamp, evolving the transactional web store into a full-blown digital flagship. Aiming for a stronger foothold in basketball, and hoping NBA star Kawhi Leonard gets it there, the athletic brand also upgraded fulfillment, merchandising and other enterprise capabilities with Aptos.
H&M Canada, meanwhile, will launch its own resale initiative Sept. 7. Unlike New Balance Renewed, the one-stop destination will allow for consumers to buy and sell clothing from all brands. Frédéric Tavoukdjian, country manager, H&M Canada, said the company “felt it was important” to not limit the platform to just H&M products.
“We want to provide a destination for Canadians to become active participants in circularity and find new homes for garments from any brand in their closet,” Tavoukdjian said in a statement.
Though H&M Rewear is open to all apparel regardless of source, the platform will offer several features to make listing the brand’s products easier. Sellers will be able to search for H&M items directly by typing in the product number found on the care label, thereby giving the user access to pictures, descriptions and colors from previous seasons. Members of H&M Canada’s loyalty program will be able to look at their purchase history online and simply click a button to list it for resale.
Rewear also will offer “first picture retouch” on all listings and advise on prices through a recommendation algorithm. Sellers will have two options for payment: a direct deposit or an H&M gift card with an added 20 percent value.
Although H&M already collects used garments for recycling globally, Géraldine Maunier-Rossi, head of marketing at H&M Canada, said the company “felt it was important to find a second way for our customers to recycle their clothing.” According to Tavoukdjian, Canada will be the first market to launch Rewear.
“With H&M Rewear, we are not only offering a place for Canadians to recycle and reuse products, but we are giving them a platform to become active participants in circularity and give a second life to their favourite styles,” Maunier-Rossi said in a statement.
H&M Rewear will not be the first time an H&M Group brand experimented with resale. In September, the fast-fashion titan’s London-based minimalist apparel brand launched Cos Resell, a platform that allows customers to buy and sell their pre-worn Cos apparel. Like Cos Resell, H&M Rewear will be powered by the resale-as-a-service company Reflaunt.
A year earlier, Cos debuted its first line of repaired merchandise, dubbed Restore, at three stores in Berlin, Stockholm and Utrecht. Coincidentally, the previously damaged or unsellable clothing was mended in partnership with New Balance’s resale partner, The Renewal Workshop.
A week before it unveiled the Canadian resale plans, the fast-fashion retailer announced the launch of a collaboration collection with Sabyasachi, vaulting the Indian label into a rarified echelon of past H&M collaborators including Karl Lagerfeld, Balmain, Versace and Comme des Garçons. The “eclectic, bohemian” collection takes cues from India’s rich textile and craft history, mixing modern and traditional silhouettes with fresh colors and prints, H&M said. Consisting of both womenswear and menswear, it includes long flowy dresses and kaftans for women and a Henley shirt, high waist wide chinos and a photographer jacket for men.
“I am happy to announce the new launch date for the collaboration with H&M, as it gives us the opportunity to spread the Sabyasachi aesthetic to a wider audience in India and worldwide,” Sabyasachi said in a statement. “Due to the complexities of the Covid-19 situation, we had to put the launch on hold but I’m eagerly looking forward to bringing this ready-to-wear collection that will bring relaxed sophistication to everyday life in an understated yet glamorous style.”
The Sabyasachi x H&M collection debuted in select H&M stores and online Aug. 12.
Not everyone is thrilled about the upcoming launch, however. Textile experts including Laila Tyabji, Jaya Jaitly, founder of artisanal collective Dastkari Haat Samiti, The Crafts Council of India, and Calico Printers Cooperative Society Ltd., Sanganer and others penned an open letter questioning how Sabyasachi’s H&M collaboration might impact the artisan community. On the @dastkar.delhi Instagram account, they describe the designer’s Wanderlust collaboration as a “missed opportunity” to showcase artisan talent.
“The publicity material implies that the range is connected with Indian craft,” they wrote. “However, the range is not made by Indian artisans and with no visible benefit to them.” The deal, they added, could have thrust the South Asian nation’s “design and craftsmanship” onto the global map and positioned H&M as “torch-bearers of what regenerative economies can look like.”
The designer himself addressed the criticism head on, taking to his Instagram Stories to craft a response.
Sabyasachi Mukherjee, the man behind the label, insisted that his brand has “always championed our craftspeople and our great heritage of textiles and craft,” according to a screenshot of his statement. Wanderlust is meant to reach today’s “highstreet consumer” who’s someday hoping to level up as “your aspirational luxury consumer of tomorrow.”
“I firmly believe that an evolving segment of them will upgrade themselves from the mechanised to the artisanal,” Mukherjee wrote. “And instead of craft devolving to match a lower price point, the consumer will rise up to covet it for its real value.”