By Emma Kahmann

The RealReal is extending clothing’s lifespan with its new upcycled project.

Second-hand clothing has become one of the biggest trends in fashion over the last five years, as sustainably-minded customers are increasingly opting for vintage items, over disposable, fast fashion. Fashion companies are now seeing this an opportunity to profit off older pieces that would otherwise go to a landfill. In that vein, second hand luxury fashion retailer The RealReal launches a new zero waste initiative focused on upcycling, making the fashion ecosystem more circular.

This week, the RealReal debuts its ReCollection 01. The first upcycling line in the project is made in partnership with brands A-Cold-Wall, Balenciaga, Dries Van Noten, Jacquemus, Simone Rocha, Stella McCartney, Ulla Johnson, and Zero + Maria Cornejo, rebuilding unusable pieces from the brands into an entirely new luxury item.

By repurposing existing pieces in collaboration with Los Angeles repair shop Ateliers & Repairs, the ReCollection follows The RealReal’s sustainability standards, including no virgin fabric, zero-waste pieces produced in the United States by fair-wage workers. To make the old pieces viable to wear, Ateliers & Repairs have revamped the items with vintage quilts, thus creating an entirely new piece altogether. The new pieces are available at The RealReal’s online store, with prices ranging from $195 to $2,450.

“To me, a luxury product is something that can be handed down to family or friends. We’ve seen many designers come out of this moment of pause and begin to upcycle old fabrics, to repurpose and redesign and give things a second life,” says designer Stella McCartney. “This is one way the industry can tackle its enormous waste problem. We see the world crying out for change with the younger generation standing up. My dream is that we come together as an industry to achieve sustainable change to help build a better future.”

ReCollection’s ethos is about owning the entire sustainability project. Rather than paying the participating brands for their pieces, The RealReal will instead donate that commission back to One Tree Planted. Each dollar of commission raised will plant one tree for the project, creating an environmental element to the sustainability effort.

Repurposing also gives a smaller business the opportunity to make their production more sustainable in a simple way. “A brand or designer can be at a very different place in their sustainability journey, but if they embrace resale, and upcycling, that’s one of the best things that you can do from a sustainability standpoint, is keeping items in circulation as long as possible,” James Rogers, Director of Sustainability at The RealReal tells Mission. “So you’re almost helping these companies leapfrog into being a more sustainable company.”

To keep evolving the fashion industry’s sustainability efforts, the next generation of fashion designers must think about extending the lifespan of an item from the very beginning. “We’re looking at the idea of partnering with design schools so we can teach students concepts as part of the process,” Rogers says of the plan to give the ReCollection project an educational component as well as a creative one.

ReCollection captures how vital circularity could become in the fashion ecosystem.The RealReal is laying a blueprint for other businesses about what a clothing’s afterlife should be in tandem with inspiring a conscious consumer culture. With a higher demand for ecologically friendly pieces, fashion industries must produce lines with the clothing’s end of life journey in mind.

Image credit: Loamis Rodriguez/The RealReal

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