Style shouldn’t cost the earth – Love Alice and the rise of the pre-loved designer fashion market
According to recently released figures, the UK wastes a whopping 745 million kilograms of fabric each year – which equates to the same amount of weight as nearly 300,000 London black cabs! On top of that, fabric can take as long as 200 years to decompose, meaning that the UK is sitting on a mountain of fabric rubbish, most of which comes as a result of throwing away clothes. This fabric ends up going to landfill simply because people don’t care about the afterlife of their clothes, or the environmental impact that this causes (when fabric eventually starts to break down, it generates greenhouse gases and releases toxic chemicals into the soil).
However, there are some simple things that we can all do to reduce the environmental impact caused by throwing away our clothes. One of the biggest, and possibly most obvious, ways of doing this is to stop throwing our unwanted clothes away in the first place, and this might mean buying better. The pre-loved fashion market has seen a boom from savvy shoppers who are looking to invest in statement pieces at a fraction of the price of buying brand-new, whilst also ensuring that clothes are saved from the rubbish dump. The equivalent weight of 900 double-decker buses was saved from landfill in 2020 alone due to pre-loved purchases in the UK, with a 404% year-on-year increase reported for pre-loved items since 2018. In fact, recent research suggests that the pre-loved clothing market is set to be worth £64 million globally by 2025.
One such business sharing the pre-loved vibe is Love Alice. A perfect example of lockdown entrepreneurialism, the company was set up in September 2020 in the midst of the pandemic. The e-commerce platform is seeking to disrupt the way second-hand clothing is sold online, via a combination of premium customer service, accurate photography, sustainable packaging and the ownership of all stock. Having built up unique and secret sources within the fashion industry, founder Alice De Muller says she set out to create a personal service that fixes all the gripes she had when shopping on third party online marketplaces. “I didn’t want to wait for someone to send the item at their leisure, I didn’t want [the product] wrapped in a supermarket carrier bag and I wanted someone in real time to sort out any issues for me if something went wrong,” she tells us. “Whilst we are a small business, we pride ourselves on attention to detail, and customer service is our greatest passion. We want to bring an American level of customer care to shopping second-hand which is why you can speak to us directly via WhatsApp on the site, or simply pick up the phone.”
But what of these secret sources? “I am passionate about the ownership of our own stock,” says De Muller, adding that the management of the stock is less challenging than with consignment. Alongside their secret sources, Love Alice also offers a solution to the reams of second-hand sellers looking to re-monetise their unsold inventory. “We have built up really great relationships with second-hand sellers and it’s a symbiotic partnership that adds another dimension to the circular economy,” she says.
Whilst currently a small operation, the first eighteen months of business have seen Love Alice win a business enterprise award, and rave reviews from the likes of Mariella Frostrup, who described the brand as having “more buzz than a hive full of honey.” Based in Bruton in Somerset in the UK (described in certain circles as the new St Tropez of the English South West), Love Alice has also capitalised on the COVID-induced exodus from big cities. “I wanted to start a business where the costs to do so were not as prohibitive as starting in London,” De Muller says. “Bruton was the perfect place as there is a real energetic buzz here.”
As demand for pre-loved fashion items grows, it would seem that style – quite literally – doesn’t have to cost the planet.