Fashion is often all about what’s new, but an emerging group of start-ups and investors is betting on a market for reviving what’s old.
The unglamorous business of repairs and alterations is attracting fresh interest, fuelled by mounting consumer engagement in sustainability, regulatory moves aimed at curbing the rise of throwaway fashion and the growth of retail models like rental and resale that encourage clothes to be kept in good condition for longer.
Tech platforms aimed at helping brands and consumers rejuvenate old clothes and battered handbags have attracted millions of dollars in investment over the last year.
Depop-backed app Sojo, which connects users with local tailors, raised $2.4 million in pre-seed funding in April. Clothing care app Save Your Wardrobe closed a $3 million seed round in June. And high-end repair platform The Restory has raised £4.2 million (about $5.1 million) to date, most recently closing a funding round in September.
Though luxury labels have quietly offered repairs as part of their service for years, a growing number of brands are stepping into the space. Mass-market retailer Uniqlo launched repairs and alterations at stores in London and New York earlier this year, part of a wider sustainability push. Handbag-maker Coach introduced a one-year training programme focused on leather repair and restoration in January, promoting it as part of a broader effort to keep its products out of landfills.
“Repair is a really fantastic and untapped opportunity,” said Sojo founder and chief executive Josephine Philips. “Building a repair programme is not only great in terms of longevity of the items that you create, but it’s actually incredible when it comes to building brand value as well.”
More Than Just Repairs
Start-ups operating in the space are aiming to solve a simple challenge: consumers want convenient ways to revive well-loved garments, but most don’t know where to go to find those services.
London-based repairs and tailoring platform The Seam has built a network of some 2,500 garment-makers across the UK with a range of specialisms, such as leather goods or suiting.
The company has facilitated some 10,000 repairs and alterations and reported a 20 percent month-on-month increase in customers since it launched in 2020. The average customer on the platform, which also offers custom projects like embroidery and bespoke tailoring, spends £55 per booking and uses it four times a year, founder and chief executive Layla Sargent said.
Companies like Save Your Wardrobe and Sojo, which offer similar services, are also looking to offer brands and retailers plug-and-play white label repair and alteration services.
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