London-based Reture surfaced in November 2020, breaking ground as the industry’s first upcycling marketplace for premium fashion. With a mission to repurpose the vast number of garments relegated to the back of our wardrobes, the digital platform connects consumers with an international network of designers – including E.L.V Denim, Patrick McDowell and Duran Lantink – to transform anything from wedding dresses to denim dungarees. Alongside the bespoke service, “Reture Boutique” has been introduced more recently, inviting customers to buy upcycled and other eco-friendly garments off the peg. We caught up with Reture co-founder Nina Van Volkinburg to find out how the two concepts complement one and other and how fast fashion enthusiasts can be enticed to spruce up what they already own as opposed to buying new.
Please describe Reture in a nutshell…
Nina Van Volkinburg: We have two ambitions – to preserve human craft in the digital age and to prolong the life of garments. We have to get the message across that there is real value in items you already own, and this of course applies to fashion as much as furniture and anything else in your life. Even if you don’t wear that dress you used to put on to have Sunday lunch with your grandparents you can continue treasuring it in a new context by allowing a designer like, say, Duran Lantink, to expertly upcycle it. That way you’ve added another layer to this circular story.
A repurposed Reture look by Anna Schuster
You came up with the Reture idea while writing an ethnography studies thesis “the effects of digital disruption on value creation processes within fashion”. Tell us about your findings, and how these are feeding into this type of retail concept.
Though it will take time to filter through properly, there’s a definite shift and a drive to become more sustainable. The future of fashion lies in the moving away from the desire to own tangible goods, putting more emphasis on the actual experience. Connecting with a designer in the Reture upcycling process allows you to collaborate with a huge talent. This taps into the booming experience culture, while also promoting craft and the work of designers – both established and new, though with focus on emerging names. We’ve seen quite a lot of emphasis on co-creating across the experience economy, but mainly through the lens of marketing by way of trying to connect with consumers and make them listen and engage. Now, you are involved – your pieces matter and your voice matters.
How can you inspire fast fashion fans to upcycle what they already own rather than buying new?
We’re all about slowing down the speed of fashion and the constant chasing of the new in the “old” sense of the word. You’ll get something entirely new when using Reture, but without necessarily buying a freshly manufactured piece. Customers often hand in one garment, walking away with a couple of pieces and perhaps even an accessory. For £100-150, you wouldn’t get that at Zara. I also feel it’s important to stress that we’re not offering repairs but a creative solution – having something upcycled with Reture is very much a fashion affair. If you come to one of our designers with a maxi dress, this might transform into a top and a pair of trousers – something you might not have expected. To spread the word, we’re holding events and panel talks, also collaborating with some larger organisations and personalities – such as model and activist Arizona Muse. In the future we are looking to engage with pop-up shops. I do believe in combining the offline and online, particularly when it comes to conveying what we’re about. We don’t want Reture to be the reserve of fashion circles – it’s for everyone.
Two Reture offerings – an upcycled dress by Joshua James Small and an ensemble by Trashion Factory
And what about the recently launched Reture Boutique – how does it complement your bespoke service?
With the boutique, we’re aiming to make high-quality sustainable fashion more accessible and to shine a light on more purpose-led designers. Liam Hodges, Timna Weber, Olivia Rubens and Freya Simonne are only a handful of the many names we’ve teamed up with. We encourage consumers to explore these incredible talents, choose well and make purchases last – and upcycling them again if they’re no longer being used. Buying upcycled pieces makes it easier for everyone to grasp the practice, looking at garments and reading the description – ‘ah, this cool jumper is actually made from a blazer and a cardigan’. That in itself might inspire consumers to realise how much can be achieved with neglected pieces in their own wardrobes. So essentially, the boutique makes the concept of upcycling more relevant, helping to direct consumers to our bespoke service, which will hopefully make them appreciate the art of repurposing even more.