Why PR is a the Ultimate Stakeholder for Fashion Brands with Christina Dean, The R Collective (episode 462)

Christina Dean is the founder and CEO of The R Collective, an upcycled fashion brand and social impact business that rescues luxury brands’ excess materials and collaborates with award-winning sustainable designers to create circular fashion.

Dr. Christina Dean The R Collective on eCommerce MasterPlan Podcast

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Dive in:

[03:57] From dentist to journalist to sustainable fashion.
[06:31] Businesses donate excess materials to nonprofits.
[11:19] Complexity of using luxury brands’ excess stock.
[14:55] Recycling luxury brand materials into new products.
[17:16] Supply chain analysis proves recycling is environmentally beneficial.
[21:48] Inventory control is crucial for sustainable businesses.
[24:04] Press involvement is crucial for business success.
[28:07] Fashion waste creates opportunities for sustainability.

Unconventional Journey to eCommerce

Christina’s journey to eCommerce was unexpected. She started as a dentist and later became a journalist in China, covering environmental issues.

She founded the non-profit Redress in 2007 to promote circular fashion and address the textile industry’s environmental impact. Afterward, she started The R Collective, a company that turns leftover fabric into products sold online. The business emerged from the pressing issue of textile excess faced by large fashion companies and the desire to collaborate on tackling this problem.

Christina says that the fashion sustainability movement is now more collaborative. People now understand that working together is important in order to solve the complex challenges in the industry.

About The R Collective

The R Collective is a registered business entity with offices in Hong Kong and the UK. They do waste rescue and manufacturing in different regions like Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Italy, and the UK. The company’s direct-to-consumer customers are primarily located in the US, UK, Hong Kong, and Australia.

Christina says they want to keep manufacturing and fulfillment within the same area to reduce transportation miles. However, due to the complexities of dealing with waste materials that sometimes need to cross borders, the process is not always simple. There are also cost considerations to take into account.

Rescuing Waste

The R Collective focuses on rescuing materials that have no use or commercial value to their current owners. They do not buy materials, and their primary goal is to reduce waste.

They work with luxury brands to rescue materials, including those with marks, logos, and prints that are IP-sensitive. The process involves breaking down these materials to fiber level, removing all brand identities, and then recycling them into new materials.

They also work with businesses to recycle excess unsold inventory. This is a challenging task given the IP sensitivity and the industry’s growing aversion to incineration. Incineration is costly and problematic, and warehouses worldwide are filled with unsold stock. This makes recycling a more viable and sustainable alternative.

Recycling vs. Incineration

Recycling is better for the environment than incineration, as proven by life cycle analyses.

While the exact impact can vary depending on different factors, in most cases, recycling usually saves more carbon and water than incineration. People also often forget how much resource is needed to create materials like cotton and silk, making recycling a more sustainable option.

Managing excess stock and considering end-of-life options can be expensive and inconvenient for businesses. However, the current trend is shifting away from incineration.

Get Control of Inventory

To bring circularity into your business, start by controlling your inventory, says Christina. Knowing what stock is available is important, but businesses struggle to gather data on excess stock. Without this knowledge, it’s challenging to make progress toward sustainability and waste reduction.

eCommerce Book Top Tip

  • Read any novel instead of a business book. It can stimulate the mind and generate excitement about the world.

eCommerce Traffic Top Tip

  • Press, as a marketing method, is underrated. Christina says it’s important to work with the media to convey your business values and viewpoints.

Tool Top Tip

  • For Christina, it’s more meetings. She prefers direct communication over lengthy emails, finding it more effective and time-saving.

Carbon Top Tip

  • Minimize emails to decrease overall carbon emissions.
  • Adopt carbon-neutral shipping methods.

Interview Links

*Thank you to Oliver Spark from Sweet Analytics for the guest recommendation!

Related episodes

  • Building a lucrative second-hand market with Kalkidan Legesse founder of Sancho’s and Owni (episode 372)
  • Embedding ethics and sustainability into luxury brand Elvis & Kresse – super inspiring story (episode 392)
  • How Boden Hit Their Carbon Neutral Target in 2022 with Ben Dreyer, Strategy, Sustainability, and Operations Director (episode 421)
  • Fashion and the Circular Economy with Zoe Rowswell, co-founder of Tern Eco (episode 435)

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