In July, Eileen Fisher finally ran out of storage space.
For a decade, the New York-based brand had been asking customers to bring back unwanted pieces in return for a gift card. Eileen Fisher collected 220,000 items of used clothing in 2018, with take-backs having risen by an average of 15 per cent year-on-year. Clothing in pristine condition — about 60 per cent of collections — is cleaned and resold under the Renew brand, while lightly damaged pieces are upcycled into new pieces.
Fashion has long operated on a linear model, and luxury houses are famous for burning excess stock. But take-back programmes are becoming increasingly popular. The labels that offer these initiatives range from Patagonia and Levi’s to Madewell and Theory. The North Face alone processed 14,342 garments through its Renewed initiative between January 2018 and May 2019.