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Outerknown and Net-a-Porter Cash in on Circular Fashion

Outerknown and Net-a-Porter add to the growing list of fashion companies looking to own a piece of the resale pie.

The apparel label founded by pro-surfer Kelly Slater on the premise of sustainable sourcing recently launched Outerworn, a platform that allows fans of the brand to resell their used goods. Through the brand’s e-commerce site, shoppers can also purchase the products for a fraction of their retail price.

Outerknown launched in 2015 as a ‘sustainable’ brand,” CEO Mark Walker told Sourcing Journal. While the company uses almost all organic, recycled or renewable inputs in its clothing, in recent years, brand leaders have been discussing “where to go next.”

“We really started talking about the next progression or evolution of sustainability to circularity,” he said. The brand has begun revising its material blends with an eye toward disassembly at a garment’s end-of-life stage, placing an even greater premium on designing for durability. With those commitments in mind, creating a dedicated platform for repurposing goods seemed like a logical next step, Walker said.

As consumers become more conscious about the impact that their purchases have on both people and the environment, resale has blossomed into a bona fide retail phenomenon. Online leaders like ThredUp—which IPO’d earlier this year—and Poshmark, along with The RealReal and Depop are growing in popularity with young shoppers. It hasn’t taken long for brands to catch onto resale’s potential, and attempt to pull some secondhand revenue away from marketplace platforms and back in-house.

“Resale is on fire right now, which is great from a circularity standpoint to see the amount of businesses thriving on people selling used products,” he said. Outerknown has been seeking the right back-end partner to power its program.

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The company picked peer-to-peer re-commerce platform Recurate, which specializes in providing “Resale-as-a-Service,” according to Wilson Griffin, the company’s co-founder and chief operating officer. The company integrates its software directly into the brand’s e-commerce site, allowing its previous customers to list clothing for sale. Checkout is managed in the same manner as a run-of-the-mill purchase, he said, and Recurate facilitates the shipment from buyer to seller.

All listings on the Outerworn microsite are vetted by back-end partner Recurate.
All listings on the Outerworn microsite are vetted by back-end partner Recurate. Outerknown

“We track it, we make sure that it arrives on the buyer’s doorstep, the buyer has a chance to review and confirm the condition of that item, and then we facilitate a payout again through the brand for the seller,” he said. Sellers can receive Outerknown credit to be used toward future purchases, or a cash payout, he said, adding, “We really manage the entire operations on these transactions.”

In order to ensure the authenticity of items sold on the site—and ensure they accurately represent the brand—Recurate relies on purchase history data. “That’s really the easiest way for [a seller] to start a sale listing—they’ll log into their Outerknown account, they’ll see every item they purchased from the brand, and that will enable a ‘sell’ button next to each of those items,” he Griffin. Sellers submit their own photos and a quick item description before it’s approved for sale.

“We actually have access to all of that data about what a customer purchased, when they bought it, what they paid for it—all of the attributes about that product that really allows us to remove a lot of the friction from the seller experience,” he added. “And then on the other side, we have those images and brand product descriptions that allow us to create a great buyer experience and a premium, on-brand experience for buyers.”

While Recurate recommends prices based on the original amount a seller paid, and the garment’s age and condition, sellers can instead price the goods at up to 50 percent off MSRP. A men’s pair of Local Straight fit jeans, originally priced at $128, is listed for $80 on the microsite, for example, while a women’s Zeitgeist jumpsuit, bought for $168 by its original owner, is selling for $75.

“We explored some white-label opportunities with some of the other marketplaces, but we were really worried about how our brand was going to look,” Walker said, adding that Outerknown was looking to control the experience. Sub-par photography can render even the best-made items less than appealing, but Recurate vets user photography, presenting the assets alongside lifestyle photography that better illustrates the product’s true look and feel.

Walker hopes the resale program will reach new audiences. Sustainable products can be price-prohibitive for many shoppers, but he believes having the opportunity to access Outerknown at affordable prices will drive brand awareness.

Resale offers other opportunities as well. “We could actually train consumers to think about clothing the way that they think about a car,” he said—as a long-term investment, rather than a seasonal wardrobe staple. “When you buy a shirt, you would actually take really good care of it, knowing there could be a second, a third and a fourth owner.”

Net-a-Porter x Reflaunt

Reflaunt will enable Net-a-Porter's new resale program, launching in late October.

Luxury e-tailer Net-a-Porter, along with its sister sites, menswear marketplace Mr Porter and designer outlet The Outnet, on Friday announced their most extensive resale effort to date. Parent company Yoox Net-a-Porter has teamed with resale tech provider Reflaunt to give shoppers the ability to resell designer fashion, from ready-to-wear to bags and shoes, in the name of creating a more circular fashion economy.

Reflaunt’s reselling infrastructure enables luxury shoppers to sell “well-preserved” secondhand items from their designer wardrobes into new homes, in exchange for cash (direct-deposited into a seller’s account) or Net-a-Porter store credit, along with a 10-percent added credit incentive. Reflaunt’s back-end technology enables the collection of items from sellers, digital authentication, pricing structure and photography management needed to present the items for sale. When the company decides that an item is fit to sell based on authenticity and condition, it is uploaded to the site and presented in keeping with the retailer’s existing look and feel. Net-a-Porter has opted to offer an immediate buy-back option for designer handbags, giving sellers an instant credit once Reflaunt accepts their bag.

The program will launch first on Net-a-Porter later this month in the U.K., followed by the U.S., Germany and Hong Kong. Yoox’s other sites will follow in early 2022 across select markets.

“More than ever, our customers are looking for fashion that is not only designed to last, but for ways in which it can go on to be re-loved,” said Alison Loehnis, luxury and fashion president for Net-a-Porter, Mr Porter and The Outnet. The collaboration between Yoox and Reflaunt represents a significant step in the company’s long-term mission to achieve a “more circular fashion ecosystem,” she said. “We see re-commerce as a true enabler to tap into greater product longevity by extending the lives of pre-loved purchases.”

Last fall, Yoox Net-a-Porter published a 10-year sustainability plan inspired by the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, naming four areas of focus for the coming decade: circular business, circular culture, planet positive and people positive. The company committed to piloting its first resale schemes this year.

Stephanie Crespin, Reflaunt’s co-founding CEO, praised YNAP’s move to “embrace resale as a critical element of their service offering,” noting that the consumer data the company will glean through the effort “is invaluable, and will help them fuel their next phase of growth.”

“Net-a-Porter, Mr Porter and The Outnet customers will be able to explore a fully branded and trusted resale experience and extend the life of their luxury products,” Crespin added. “It is greatly encouraging to see one of the global leaders in fashion ecommerce take this positive step forward into the circular fashion economy with us.”