Is re-commerce the future of sustainable fashion?

Written by
Jon Kauffman

Purpose, Inc., episode 1.18: Geri Cupi of MonoChain

Key takeaway: “This shutdown can be a big opportunity for fashion companies to reinvent themselves around more sustainability-driven missions.”

In this episode of “Purpose, Inc.,” podcast host Michael Young interviewed Geri Cupi. Geri is the CEO of MonoChain, a blockchain platform that allows fashion brands and retailers to join the circular economy. Before starting MonoChain, Geri built Social DNA, which he sold to Levi’s. He has also co-written a book on commercializing blockchain.

“The fashion industry is one of the world’s largest polluters,” Geri said straight off the bat. “This is not news.” What is news? The massive growth in sustainability-driven clothing brands like Allbirds. In addition, new legislation set to take effect in France prohibits large fashion companies from destroying unsold stock and planning for new products’ end of life.

The big fashion brands, Geri said, are now paying serious attention.

The second-hand fashion solution

“Gen Z and Millennials prefer access rather than ownership of (clothing) items,” Geri said. “They’re also driven by two big trends. They live their life on social media like Instagram and TikTok, and they have a big need to be seen wearing new outfits. But also they are driven by sustainable behavior.”

Their solution: buying second-hand.

Geri quoted data from Boston Consulting Group that showed 54% of Gen Z and 48% of Millennials have participated in the resale market. Even more significantly, he added: “When they buy an item, 57% of Gen Z already consider the value of that item on the resale market.”

They’re participating in the circular economy from the very start.

In the past 10 years, re-commerce marketplaces like RealReal, Vestiaire, and StockX have sprung up. Major fashion brands and retailers like Farfetch, Galeries Lafayette, Nordstrom, even Burberry have entered into this new sector. Many see re-commerce as a way to recruit new customers who will later buy brand-new items.

Blockchain and re-commerce

Where MonoChain comes in is to solve a growing problem in the new circular economy: the authenticity of high-end fashion items.

In the past, companies like Chanel or Dior sued resale marketplaces over authenticity concerns. Counterfeit remains a big problem in re-commerce.

“We make it very easy for fashion brands and retailers to start their own white-label resell solution,” Geri said of MonoChain. “We make sure that the item is authenticated, and we connect that with a blockchain certificate. Blockchain, and distributed ledger technology (DLT) in general, can help to increase the confidence of the consumer that what they’re buying is authentic—and from a brand perspective, it’s the defensive play.”

In addition, customers who use MonoChain Wallet can see, in real time, how much all of their items of clothing are worth on the resale market.

The COVID-19 effect

The surprise of 2020: During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, resale experienced a massive growth spurt. Geri claimed re-commerce is currently growing 20 times faster than retail.

In previous recessions, fashion brands might have shelved their sustainability plans while they scrambled to recover financially. But the pandemic shutdown has had the opposite effect. “Now (major brands) are saying sustainability is a key priority, mostly because they have realized that the future consumers, the future big spenders, pay much more attention to sustainability credentials of a brand,” Geri said.

“This can be a big opportunity for companies to reinvent themselves.”

Listen to the full episode with Geri Cupi:

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