Walpole Insight | Pioneers Leading the Reuse, Resale and Rental Revolution

On 6th May, we held the first in a series of Sustainability webinars, in which we discussed the transition to a circular economy. Walpole’s Helen Brocklebank and Charlotte Keesing were joined by McKinsey’s Corinne Sawers and three past-and-present Brands of Tomorrow founders who are leading the way in the reuse, resale and rental markets: My Wardrobe HQ’s Sacha Newall, Kresse Wesling, Elvis & Kresse and Emily John, Co-Founder of The Restory.

Overview

At Walpole, our aim is for the UK to become the leader in sustainable luxury. It is an ambitious vision and we will support our community of 270 member businesses by helping them share the benefit of their passion, knowledge and expertise with each other, and by galvanising and facilitating collective action. Working with McKinsey & Company throughout 2019, conducting extensive consultation with industry experts, we developed our Sustainability Manifesto and strategy.

The British Luxury Sustainability Manifesto defines the issues that matter most to our sector and stakeholders – circular economy innovation, environmental stewardship, supply chain excellence and workplace equality – and our 12 aspirations are designed to establish a pathway for future sustainability success. Importantly, they help member businesses fulfil the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals, becoming part of the broader, global push for a fairer, more sustainable world.

On 6th May, we held the first in a series of Sustainability webinars where we discussed one of the Manifesto principles: leading the transition towards a circular economy. Walpole’s Helen Brocklebank and Charlotte Keesing were joined by McKinsey’s Corinne Sawers and three past-and-present Brands of Tomorrow founders who are leading the way in the reuse, resale and rental markets: My Wardrobe HQ’s Sacha Newall, Kresse Wesling, Elvis & Kresse and Emily John, Co-Founder of The Restory.

Report

Last year, Walpole launched the British Luxury Sustainability Manifesto with McKinsey, part of its long-term programme for members that aims to make the UK luxury sector the global benchmark for luxury sustainability. Key to this is the transition to a circular economy, with the most accessible routes in for customers being the four ‘R’s of sustainability – Reduce, Reuse, Repair and Recycle.

Of the four, recycling is still perhaps the best understood by consumers, with savvy brands building it into their businesses from the outset, such as Elvis & Kresse, whose Fire-Hose line converts London’s decommissioned firehoses into luxury accessories, using provenance and storytelling to connect with consumers in a profound way.

The recently launched Walpole report also showed a growing focus on durability and repair — and brands such as The Restory are tapping into this, transforming aftercare into a luxury experience, and taking advantage of the innate quality and longevity of luxury products. At its busy in-house atelier, it now succeeds in leveraging the emotional investment of a customer in luxury, but also provides brands with a powerful indicator of brand love.

However, retailers remain very product led, and bringing services forward as a highlighted option will be a key psychological shift. Businesses like these are showing not only what can be done, but the inherent opportunity for creative and innovative solutions in this space. Qualitative research shows consumers have a genuine aspirational drive to reuse, recycle, upcycle and engage in resale, the most mature of the Rs. This channel shows extraordinary growth and is set to be as big as fast fashion in five years’ time, leading the way for the other ‘Rs to follow suit.

Luxury products are changing from acquisitions to assets, prolonging their roles in the circular economy — at online fashion rental platform My Wardrobe HQ, customers can rent out their designer items and rent new ones, creating new expectations for consumers at both ends of the transaction.

For all brands engaging with the challenge of sustainability, though, the biggest impact will be had through mass collaboration – the central message is still that no company can create a circle by itself.

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