Madewell launches a circular shopping experience with thredUP

Photo: thredUP
Sep 27, 2021

Madewell has opened a pop-up called A Circular Store in partnership with thredUP, the fashion resale site. The location in Brookly, NY,  includes a selection of used Madewell clothes, but the focus is on re-commerce education.

The pop-up features:

  • Stats about fashion waste and steps for creating a circular wardrobe shared throughout the store;
  • QR codes at each station to offer a deeper dive into how to buy, wear, care and pass on clothes;
  • Educational programming with local designers and sustainable brands including upcycling and repair workshops with Patagonia’s Worn Wear team.
  • An in-store mending station.

Among the messages the store delivers is that the fashion industry is on track to consume 26 percent of the world’s carbon budget by 2050 (Ellen MacArthur Foundation) and that 36 billion apparel items end up in landfills every year (thredUP’s 2021 Resale Report).

The store builds on Madewell’s agreement in July to use thredUP’s Resale-as-a-Service platform with a focus on denim. ThredUP also works with Macy’s, Gap, Walmart and other retailers on resale programs.

“The fashion industry wasn’t built with sustainability in mind, but with the future of our planet at stake, we collectively must do better,” said Liz Hershfield, SVP, head of sustainability at Madewell. “At Madewell, we make quality products designed for longevity and are doubling down on solutions that keep clothing in circulation as long as possible and reduce apparel waste.”

She said Madewell hopes the location represents “the first steps toward creating a blueprint for other retailers to follow as they integrate circularity into their business model.”

“We believe that retail and resale working together is a necessary next step in achieving our vision of a circular future for fashion,” said Erin Wallace, VP of integrated marketing at thredUP.

The pop-up, located inside a Madewell men’s shop and steps from a Madewell women’s store, will be open until Oct. 31.

ThredUP and competitor RealReal both operate stores selling secondhand merchandise but Madewell’s pop-up most closely resembles Patagonia’s Boulder, CO-based Worn Wear shop, which allows customers to trade in, repair and shop for used items.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does Madewell’s A Circular Store work mainly as a marketing vehicle or do you see elements that could be used in permanent locations? Does the pop-up offer a blueprint for how the fashion industry can transition to more of a circular future?

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"Brands that sell kids' apparel and footwear would be good candidates for this, since kids outgrow clothes and shoes so quickly."

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12 Comments on "Madewell launches a circular shopping experience with thredUP"

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Christine Russo

Brands creating high quality product with brand equity are now able to participate in the revenue of the second, third and fourth sale of their product.

Nikki Baird

I think this is the beginning of what will ultimately turn into full lifecycle ownership of products by brands – certainly by any premium brands, and possibly even those who are not premium but have positioned heavily on sustainability. It’s a very interesting move for thredUP to position as resale-as-a-service for these brands. I’ll be very interested to see if that is a sustainable business proposition (pun intended) – at some point, these brands are going to want to keep the slice of the resale pie they give to thredUP today, once they learn enough about how to run a resale business themselves.

David Spear

This pop-up will do well given the current dynamics. It’s feeding off of a huge ESG push by nearly all large companies, with carbon emission leading the way. Also, did you catch the recent Levi’s new TV ad on clothing longevity and circular strategies? Clearly a blueprint is in the making — with many opportunities to morph in new and interesting ways. I do like the mending/repair shop — this is a brilliant idea that’s long overdue.

DeAnn Campbell

Resale helps Madewell on multiple levels — as a marketing initiative, a values strategy, a secondary income stream and, most importantly, managing perception of their brand by reducing the likelihood of their products showing up at less reputable resellers.

Melissa Minkow

For now, this pop-up shop feels more like a marketing vehicle than an actual tool to make the brand and retail industry more sustainable. With all the teaching that is happening in this store, it’s almost a content platform rather than a destination designed to reduce waste. Educating consumers on the importance of sustainability is great, but I’d love to see more examples of how Madewell is lowering carbon emissions, electricity usage and water waste itself.

Jenn McMillen

Brands that sell kids’ apparel and footwear would be good candidates for this, since kids outgrow clothes and shoes so quickly. This virtuous circle is good for the environment and a win-win for both retailers and customers.

Katie Thomas

Brands have to remember that for these initiatives to be a success, they often rely on consumer participation. While any and all of these initiatives are a step in the right direction, it will take time for consumers to adapt and engage, especially those that aren’t actively looking to be more sustainable (and these programs seem to target people who are).

Liza Amlani

Madewell’s strategy could very well be fueled by a marketing ploy but this is still a wonderful thing to see. Denim production’s environmental impact is staggering and every change a retailer makes towards circularity and sustainability is a good move.

Lee Peterson

There is no question that re-commerce is a huge opportunity, and partnering with someone like thredUP (an already established leader) is smart. But the real “get” with re-com is, who’s going to actually make money, significant revenue, doing it? Especially since there are already players that are at the top of the consumer mind like Facebook, eBay, Depop and the aforementioned thredUP. However having asked that, my take is you pretty much HAVE to do something, even if you’re not going to pull down big revenue — it says more about you if you don’t do it than if you just take a swing at it and so, subsequently, you’ll continue to see efforts like this with Madewell. Meh.

Kathleen Fischer

This is a great blueprint for how we can rethink consumption and sustainability within the fashion industry. We have created an environment where clothes are often viewed as disposable and there needs to be a shift back towards sustainability.

Ricardo Belmar

This feels more like a marketing strategy for the moment, but also like a test to understand customers’ acceptance of an area like this in the store. Assuming it is well-received (which I expect it will be given the current environment and trends around sustainability in fashion) then we should expect to see more of these pop-ups as being core to the Madewell brand. This is also an interesting model for other fashion retailers to follow and those that partner with thredUP may soon follow.

James Tenser

This reminds me of the hockey skate exchanges in some communities with youth leagues. Not every children’s garment will be suitable for re-selling, but, as Nikki posits, the Madewell experiment could point the way toward a new business model for fashion brands.

"Brands that sell kids' apparel and footwear would be good candidates for this, since kids outgrow clothes and shoes so quickly."

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