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This startup will buy back the ratty old T-shirts in your closet

For Days wants consumers to think about how they’ll dispose of their garments from the moment they buy them.

This startup will buy back the ratty old T-shirts in your closet
[Photo: For Days]
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Secondhand websites like ThredUp and Depop make it easy to sell the lightly worn clothes in your closet. But what about the well-loved ones? The ratty old T-shirt or dress splashed with red wine? Typically, those would have been destined for the trash, but a startup will now pay you for them.

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For Days, a zero-waste fashion brand, wants to incentivize consumers to part with clothes responsibly. This week, the brand unveiled a new system called “Closet and Credit” that gives you store credit for getting rid of clothes you no longer wear, which will either be resold or recycled. You get $10 for filling up a “clean out crap” bag with clothes from other brands; you earn more for sending back For Days garments. It’s all part of founder Kristy Caylor’s vision of creating a “closed-loop” system in the fashion industry.

Caylor founded For Days three years ago as a kind of experiment in rethinking how consumers shop for clothes. In the current system, most of us buy garments without thinking about what happens to them at the end of their life cycle. As a result, millions of tonnes of clothes end up in landfills every year. For Days started with a very different model. Its subscription program sent customers a set of T-shirts that they could wear as long as they wanted, then swap them for new ones, knowing that the old ones would be recycled.

[Photo: For Days]
As For Days has grown, it made sense to evolve beyond this approach. Its products now include sweaters and loungewear, which have been popular during the pandemic, but customers don’t necessarily want to limit themselves to subscribing to particular products. Enter the newly launched credit system, in which every item you buy has a fixed buyback cost. A graphic T-shirt costs $28 and gets you $7 in credit when you send it back; a $54 crop hoodie gets you $14 in credit. These credits can go toward anything on the site. “We wanted to give our customers more flexibility while continuing to incentivize them to send items back,” Caylor says.

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But to make a dent in the fashion industry’s enormous environmental impact, Caylor realized it was important to think beyond just her company’s clothes. For Days makes clothes from organic cotton and uses technology to recycle its garments into new ones. Since clothes from other brands tend to use mixed fibers, they can’t go through For Days’s system, so the company partners with industrial recyclers that chop up these items and use them for things like insulation or furniture stuffing. (For now, the brand isn’t accepting intimates or accessories, as they are harder to recycle.)

For Days pays for the shipping on the recycled garments, but it’s a good way for the brand to attract new customers who are more inclined to browse the site to shop for new products with their $10 credit. “The gold standard is fiber-to-fiber recycling, but downcycling these garments still ensures they stay out of landfills,” Caylor says.

As I’ve reported before, many companies are now working on recycling technologies that should be widely available in the next few years. Caylor is closely monitoring all of this, but she points out that it’s not enough for the technologies to exist; the industry needs to incentivize consumers to send clothes in. “We’ve spent the past three years proving that this model works,” she says. “Now we want to increase our impact by having other brands come on board.”

About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a senior staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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