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Shares in circular fashion store soar

BUSINESS

Shares in a US fashion website that specialises in luxury, second-hand clothes soared by more than 40% following the company’s debut on Wall Street. Launched in 2011 with a start-up investment of $100,000, the e-commerce platform — The RealReal — is now valued at $1.6 billion. Founded by entrepreneur Julie Wainwright the idea of selling second-hand, high-fashion online came when she spotted luxury clothes hidden away at the back of a designer store. 


“That’s when the lightbulb went off,” says Wainwright. “I went home and looked at my closet, and I had 60 designer pieces that I had never worn or had stopped wearing. I thought, ‘How big is this market?’” From the beginning, Wainwright was convinced The RealReal would be able to compete successfully with eBay. “The truth is,” she says, “if you’re selling luxury goods, you need trust, and eBay’s not set up for trust.” 


To avoid fake goods being sold on the site, Wainwright’s company employs expert product authenticators to vouch for gowns, shoes, handbags, watches, and gems. Prices are calculated by an algorithm that combines the designer name, with the item type, and its age and condition. 


In an era of fast fashion, circular fashion (minimising waste and making the most of resources) is growing fast. It’s a concept Wainwright is keen to promote. “You’re keeping things out of landfills and preventing items being melted down and energy applied,” she says. “When you buy things of value, they have an afterlife, and they should recirculate in the economy. You’re helping the planet doing that.”

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