Being a mom is one thing. Being a mom while making the world a better place by sparing landfills from mountains of used baby clothes and products is a whole other thing and it’s nothing short of amazing. Supermom Sarah Garner tells us about how she got the idea for her brand new preloved baby wear business Retykle, what her biggest challenges are and her commitment to a zero waste lifestyle.
What is Retykle’s mission?
Retykle‘s mission is to encourage parents to buy better quality clothes and brands throughout their babies’ and toddlers’ lives, in order to increase lifelong value and to reduce the vast amounts of waste that lower quality clothing (known in the industry as fast fashion) produces. Retykle offers parents in Asia the chance to participate in online luxury resale for the first time. As any parent knows too well, kids outgrow an average of seven clothing sizes in the first two years of their lives, which is both expensive and hard on the environment. Retykle addresses these multiple concerns for parents, making the purchase and sale of quality items easier than ever before, as well as reducing our collective environmental impact through the sharing economy.
How does Retykle work?
Retykle is an online platform for buying and selling outgrown high-end kids fashion. The goal is to make reselling completely hassle-free and purchasing every bit as convenient and stylish as buying new. We currently stock clothing, shoes and accessories for tykes aged 0 to 6 years old from dozens of coveted global brands and we continue to expand our offering every day.
Sellers can free up valuable closet space simply by booking a free pick up on Retykle’s online calendar, sending their outgrown high-end kids fashion away with the driver and letting Retykle take care of everything else! We sort the items, create the listings on our platform and finds your stylish fashions a new home. Each time an item is purchased, the seller receive a cash transfer of their earnings, which is 50% of each sale.
For buyers, Retykle is just like any other online shopping site, except they get to enjoy a curated edit of the world’s leading high-end kids brands for up to 90% off. All items featured on the site are in excellent condition too! They are either ‘new with tags’, ‘good as new’ or in ‘gently used’ condition. Buyers can purchase with confidence, knowing that every item listed for sale has undergone a careful inspection and meets rigorous quality standards. Quality and authenticity are guaranteed and if anything does not meet a buyer’s full satisfaction, Retykle accepts returns. It’s that easy.
How did Retykle come about?
The idea for Retykle started to form before my son, Henry, was born. We were the lucky recipients of many beautiful hand-me-downs from friends and family. I found myself feeling overwhelmed by the generosity of others as I accumulated a fabulous ‘good as new’ wardrobe of luxury kids fashion. In fact, until today, we have hardly bought anything new. In return, I started to give gift certificates of the estimated resale value of the hand-me-downs as a thank you: that’s when the seed was planted.
I soon realized that most parents are desperate to do something about the stockpiles of outgrown kids clothing that are overflowing in their closets, but they just don’t have the time or energy to resell through existing channels that require doing all the listing and photographing and managing manually. I also realized that these same parents would happily accept something in return if there was an easy and convenient way to resell it.
After a lot of brainstorming, research and discussions with like-minded moms, Retykle started to take shape. Retykle is the first of its kind in Asia, so we will be listening closely to what our buyers and sellers have to say and will make changes along the way to grow and adapt with their preferences.
What is your background career-wise?
I’ve spent over a decade working with some of the best luxury fashion companies. I started my career in Toronto as a buyer for Holt Renfrew, Canada’s much-loved luxury department store. I became restless for change and was drawn to China, the geography with the most growth in my industry. I arrived here in Hong Kong in 2008 and was lucky enough to land a coveted role at Lane Crawford as their womenswear buyer!
After several years of Milan, Paris and New York fashion weeks, I moved on to a larger global role at DFS in their fashion division. From there I moved on to a dynamic and creative role at Shanghai Tang as head of product development, merchandising, planning and visual merchandising.
My experiences have provided invaluable learnings to apply to this next chapter in my professional journey, though I do hope to contribute to a more responsible and conscientious side of fashion.
What is your vision for the site over the next couple of years?
Our goal is to continue to be the online destination for buying and selling outgrown high-quality kids fashion in the minds of consumers. Though I say outgrown, at least a quarter of our offering is in ‘new with tags’ condition because let’s face it, many items don’t even make it onto our kids- they seem to grow at lightening speed!
We want to make the experience of buying second-hand clothing as good, if not better, as buying new and we hope to remove any stigma associated with doing so. We want Retykle-ing to be something you do with pride and boast about with your friends. There are so many positives to moving away from buying fast-fashion and towards buying equally affordable second-hand high-quality clothing. It’s so rewarding for sellers to know that the adorable clothes they enjoyed will be celebrated by another family. A great deal of pleasure is derived from knowing that we’re furthering connections in our community and sharing resources effectively.
We hope that buyers will continue the cycle for as long as possible with each item sold by re-selling with us after their family has outgrown their purchases. We take special care to feature brands we believe will stand the test of time.
What have been the biggest challenges you have encountered so far while setting up the business?
Setting up your first business coupled with a brand new business model and the responsibilities of being a new parent is full of (mostly exciting) challenges. Pre-launch, there has already been a tremendous amount of trouble-shooting, testing and adaptation to reach a first version of our site. The biggest challenge was who to marry for the site design and build: it truly is a marriage of sorts. The hunt for the perfect programmers took me longer than I had anticipated but in the end, I found a wonderful team.
We have figured out how to reduce the seller’s time and effort to zero, but the inventory management that happens behind the scenes is time-intensive, so we’re always looking for ways to make our process more efficient and more effective.
Technically, the hardest part was setting up a backend that seamlessly ties sellers’ products to their accounts and links payments to them after a successful sale.
Another hurdle has been finding eco suppliers, and we are still working on that.
We have a wish list of improvements that we will continue to chip away at to improve the experience for our buyers and sellers.
What have been the biggest surprises on your journey?
There have been many surprises during the initial development phase. For example, the never-ending discovery of handy tools and shortcuts that I have adopted from fellow entrepreneurs, courses I have attended and my own online research. My top picks are Slack for team communication (unbelievably, not a single email has been exchanged with my design and development team!), Canva for social media post creation and Go Animate for animated video creation. There are many more and each one I happen upon feels like a little gift.
Another surprise has been the supportive and resourceful community of entrepreneurs, specifically female entrepreneurs in Hong Kong. I have benefited from many talks, seminars and courses put on by generous and insightful experts and have been pleasantly surprised by the openness expressed to connect and help fellow entrepreneurs. Sonalie and Tracy from Green Queen just happen to be two of those lovely ladies. There is a real ‘pay it forward’ spirit here.
Finally, a delightful surprise has been the initial reception to Retykle’s concept, which is new to Hong Kong. Although we are slightly behind other international cities when it comes to ‘reselling’, we are fast-adopters. Hong Kong is truly a great place to start a business.
As a mom yourself, how important is it for you to make environmentally conscious shopping choices?
I don’t claim to be the greenest mom out there but I am committed to doing better on this front. I will say that becoming a mom to my son Henry played a huge part in my heightened eco-consciousness. Not only is he the inspiration for my change in perspective regarding the fashion industry and my career, thinking about Henry’s lifespan has made me think seriously about how my actions will affect his generation and those beyond.
My husband and I do try to make eco-friendly shopping choices from Henry’s toys to our home cleaning supplies to our family’s personal care products. Sadly, making these choices in Hong Kong is time-consuming, often times inconvenient and tends to require an added cost. I’m hopeful that one day, choosing environmentally conscious products will be so widely adopted that the better choice will be the cheaper, easier choice.
I do believe that everyone wants to live a greener life but not everyone wants to go the extra mile involved in doing so. The goal of Retykle and other like-minded companies is to make the choice as easy as possible.
What are some of your Hong Kong eco lifestyle tips?
I’m thankful for resources like Green Queen as it isn’t always easy to uncover ways to live an eco lifestyle in Hong Kong!
I still vividly remember how horrified I felt the first time I threw away a plastic bottle in a garbage can when I moved here from Toronto. It was such an unnatural reflex after coming from a city that is passionately committed to recycling. We quickly invested in a filtered water system built into our sink. We fill up glass water bottles in our fridge and have cold water at the ready. It’s such a small change, but it has such a huge impact on water waste and plastic packaging!
I have been a strict vegetarian for 25 years and though it has always felt like a natural inclination, it has become a lifelong commitment that I strongly believe has a net positive impact on the environment. I’m delighted to see the positive changes in the F&B industry over the past decade, with so many more fantastic plant-based options. I also appreciate that many of the new restauranteurs seem to have an all-encompassing dedication to more sustainable business practices. I particularly love MANA’s in this regard, and am happy to see them thrive.
My single largest piece of advice is firstly to buy better quality fashion pieces, thereby allowing for your items to live beyond you, and secondly to buy second-hand where it makes sense for your family. There are enough clothes in Hong Kong to circulate for years. Let’s work on ways to redistribute what’s already out there rather than contribute to landfills.
Lead image courtesy of Retykle.