Fashion repair is key for new RforPeople footwear and apparel brand – WWD
MILAN – As the fashion industry increasingly educates consumers that second-hand shopping and rental are the means to disrupt the fashion waste circle, the extension of the clothing lifecycle by the through repairs and modifications did not get the same buy-in as a solution.
Tommaso Melani founded men’s and women’s clothing and footwear brand RfForPeople last September to tackle this problem, believing that repair needs to be built into fashion business models. A seasoned businessman, Melani is also the co-founder, president and CEO of luxury footwear company Stefano Bemer; as well as CEO of tailor Sartoria Vestrucci; member of the board of directors of the Scuola del Cuoio leather workshop and president of the Schola Academy, a workshop for leather craftsmen, all based in Florence.
After running the New York Marathon in 2005, he had a pair of Nike shoes he just couldn’t throw away. It took him about 15 years to come up with a solution, but when he asked Stefano Bemer’s Tuscan artisans to remodel them, the finished product was “very cool,” as he put it.
The memory-filled sneakers got him thinking about challenging the traditional fashion manufacturing model and putting circularity and repair at the center of the conversation.
“I started to think about circular fashion and how to turn upcycling into a scalable and worthy business… my goal was to prevent clothes from ending up in a landfill, or at least to find solutions for recycle all the other components that need to be disposed of, ”Melani said speaking on Zoom from New York, where the brand recently opened a pop-up store at Doors, a retail platform for emerging design talent at 27 Greene Street in SoHo.
Clean and stylish sneakers, along with understated and timeless basics, including t-shirts, jeans and peacoats with a normcore crease, are made within 300 miles of Florence, where the company’s headquarters are located, and Melani carefully selects its suppliers, including the denim company Berto. and Manteco, a woolen mill with a sustainable vocation.
While producing more fashion seemed counterintuitive to Melani’s mission, every sneaker (designed to be resolvable) and garment comes with a return label allowing customers to return their damaged or worn items and apply for the Refashion program of the company designed to give a second chance and extend the life cycle of products through work-study programs carried out by the company’s craftsmen. This also applies to sneakers – and clothing – from other brands.
“It’s a low-margin business, but I believe in it so much that I’m committed to keeping the service alive no matter what,” Melani offered, noting that he was also planning to introduce customization on timely remodeled items.
Parts that cannot be reworked and upcycled are responsibly managed, their components recycled for new productions. RforPeople is also committed to offsetting its carbon footprint linked to logistics by planting trees in partnership with Treedom. It avoids overstocking by carefully monitoring its inventory levels and does not provide for sales or discounts.
When it comes to new clothing and footwear, the entrepreneur explained that the brand’s sustainable pillars focus on four areas, in addition to recycling powered by Refashion. They include the use of circular and GRS certified fabrics, such as recycled cotton, denim, wool and recycled rubber; procurement of dead animals from local craft workshops; use of second-hand fabrics offered by luxury and premium labels, and animal welfare, guaranteed by the supply of leather from the consortium of ethical tanneries Leather Working Group.
“The brand was built on and around the key [sustainable and circular] message and [unique selling proposition] we wanted to wire, ”Melani explained. “We were able to tick all of the boxes that we set out so we are confident in communicating what we have achieved so far. “
RforPeople has already applied for B Corp certification and hopes to obtain the label in 2023.
“Sustainable development is the face of the brand. Whoever runs the company in the future will have to comply with the statute and its values, ”he stressed.
With clothes selling for between $ 105 and $ 1,190 and shoes priced at $ 340, or $ 390 for Refashion-ed editions, the brand started selling direct to consumers through its proprietary e-commerce site, but Melani is in talks with showrooms to test the wholesale channel by landing in select stores from fall 2022.
After the Green Street pop-up, more retail experiments are underway with similar activations in New York and Milan.
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