Tips for Selling Upcycled Clothes
By Rodney Laws
As part of our ongoing Climate Action Campaign we have outlined these handy tips and tricks to help you get started with your journey of selling upcycled and second hand clothing online.
Eager to enter the world of selling ecommerce? That’s an understandable drive given how massively the industry has grown in recent years (with the growth being particularly rapid since COVID-19 left brick-and-mortar retail in such a sorry state). It can be hugely rewarding to run your own online store. You can keep costs down while making a good living and promoting the product types that reflect your worldview — and if you’re passionate about things like environmentalism, sustainability, and protecting the ocean, an excellent option for you is selling upcycled clothing.
After all, the fashion industry is notorious for supporting unfair working conditions, paying people far less than they’re worth, and backing items of clothing that don’t last so their customers soon need to replace them. That means there’s an incredible opportunity for you to do something different: something better. Selling upcycled clothing isn’t just practical from a value standpoint, after all: it’s also fantastic for encouraging the use (and reuse) of high-quality fabrics.
In this post, we’re going to offer up some handy tips for starting a business selling upcycled clothing online. They won’t guarantee success (that’s ultimately for you to achieve), but they will make it easier for you to move in the right direction. Let’s get to them.
Choose the right ecommerce platform for you
While building your ecommerce store on a bad platform doesn’t prevent you from succeeding, it does make it markedly more difficult to get anywhere. The foundation of your site will affect everything from how quickly the pages load to how easily visitors can find what they’re looking for. It’ll also impact your ability to grow the business: not all platforms can handle heavy traffic, after all, while some are prohibitively expensive when used at scale.
When looking at possible platforms, cater to your particular needs. If cost is your primary worry because you have a meagre budget, look at services like GoDaddy: it offers a highly-affordable combination of domain registration and hosting, and features an intuitive interface. If you’re happy to pay more to get a better service, look at industry-standard platforms like Shopify. Take your time to review features and commit fully. You don’t want to have to migrate your site later.
Set up an area for product photography
When you’re selling clothing, visual representation is a mission-critical concern. The imagery you provide for each listing can make or break its changes. People are naturally doubtful of the quality of upcycled clothing: they can assume that tattered old items have been amateurishly patched up and put back on the market for some easy profit. Only through visual proof can you make it clear that you’re selling high-quality items.
To get your imagery right, you’ll need a strong area for product photography. Aim to create at least one excellent backdrop (it doesn’t have to be neutral) in an area that gets plenty of sunlight (with powerful artificial lighting at hand in case you need it), and play with positioning until you’re truly happy with how the items look. If you can have someone model them, so much the better: it’ll demonstrate your professionalism.
Focus on conveying a strong brand message
People who buy upcycled pieces of clothing online don’t do it solely because they believe in the quality of the clothing. If they only cared about quality, they’d buy new items from familiar brands or seek opportunities to buy from brick-and-mortar stores where they could feel the fabrics and try the clothing on. In addition, they do it because they believe in the sellers.
So what makes someone believe in a clothing brand? A compelling brand message, of course. People who sell upcycled clothing generally do so in part because they care about sustainability, as noted earlier, and it’s essential that they communicate that passion. Tell people why you created your business. Tell them how much waste there is in the fashion industry, and what your goals are for supporting green efforts. If your sincerity shines through, they’ll support you.
Cultivate relationships with relevant influencers
Lastly, it’s vital to consider the role of social media in shaping your fate. Interest in matters like environmentalism is cultivated through discussions on social media platforms, and key individuals inevitably rise to prominence due to their expertise, enthusiasm, insight, or sheer personality. These people then shape much of the discourse around consumerism, with their endorsements carrying a lot of weight.
Your task, then, is to engage with those influencers and convince them that your brand is fully legitimate, ambitious, and worthy of their time and effort. You can grease the wheels by sending them your products so they can try them and confirm their quality, but the focus should again be on your brand message. It’s a hard task to show a prominent influencer that your brand is special, so pay close attention to other sellers and figure out how you can stand out.
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Thanks to guest writer Rodney Lawes for producing this article.