Archive CEO and Co-founder Emily Gittins was working for a thrift store when she first discovered one of climate change’s biggest causes: fashion. “While sorting through clothes, I noticed the store only had space for a tiny fraction of donations,” Emily said. “The ecosystem of waste behind the scenes was scary.”
Flash forward 15 years, and Emily was pursuing an MBA and Masters in Environment and Resources at Stanford Business School. While there, she learned that fashion makes up 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Fashion wasn’t changing quickly enough to beat climate change.
At the same time, Ryan Rowe, Archive’s CTO and Co-founder to-be, was building a produce delivery platform to reduce food insecurity in Texas. After reading the memoir of Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s founder, Ryan became obsessed with reducing waste to tackle climate change. A mutual friend introduced him to Emily, and Archive began to take shape.
Emily and Ryan spoke to hundreds of brands, looking for a way to meaningfully address the climate crisis. They discovered that brands wanted to pursue resale, but didn’t have an affordable, simple way to do so.
Brands were missing out on a massive business opportunity. In 2019, the secondhand clothing market grew 21 times faster than traditional apparel — buoyed by the appeal of lower prices and concerns around sustainability.
After the pandemic hit, Emily and Ryan were inspired to take the leap: “Suddenly people were at home, buying secondhand much more, and brands were focusing on ecommerce. It was the perfect moment.”
And so, Archive was born. Archive builds each brand partner a customized resale platform, so consumers can purchase both new and secondhand styles on the brand’s website. With a peer-to-peer model, consumers list, sell and ship their pre-loved apparel themselves. Brands reap the benefits of owning their resale market, without buying back inventory or managing the logistics of a new supply chain.
What’s the benefit for consumers? For sellers, Archive pulls in original photography and data about the product, taking the hard work out of putting up a listing. For buyers, it’s a delightful, curated shopping experience — like buying new, at secondhand prices.
Converting consumers to eschew fast fashion and throwaway culture will be difficult. However, Ryan believes they can do it: “Given the choice of same day delivery from Amazon or an 18–27 day wait from eBay, people tend to choose convenience over sustainability. To ignite large-scale adoption of secondhand, Archive needs to give users an experience that matches that of buying new.”
Results from Archive’s first brand collaboration with women’s professional clothing brand M.M. LaFleur have been striking, surprising even Ryan himself. “It was shocking to me how much this group of busy, high-income women have engaged with our platform. One person listed 68 items, and has already sold 22.” In just the first week, 300 of 1,000 listed items sold, with every seller choosing brand store credit over cash.
These results confirm the hypotheses of Bain Capital Ventures partner and Archive investor Sarah Smith, who recently explained in an interview with Vogue Business: “When brands design clothing and other products with quality materials well-suited to rental or retail, everyone wins. What’s most surprising to many is that resale can drive even greater customer loyalty for brands, rather than cannibalizing sales.”
While Archive is working with apparel brands for now, Emily and Ryan are dreaming big. Pointing to IKEA’s plans to become a circular business by 2030, Ryan asserts: “Eventually, all brands will own their resale channel. And being able to sell a product 10 times will lead brands to invest in durability.” This could transform landscapes in which planned obsolescence dominates.
Reducing fashion’s environmental impact is Archive’s M.O. We do it by giving brands the incredible upside of joining the circular economy and creating delightful experiences for customers. As one customer commented, “It’s fun to see my beloved M.M. Lafleur’s go on to someone else so they can have fun with them — and bank a bit for my next purchases!”