Interviews

Emily John, Co-Founder & Head of Marketing & Business Development, The Restory

In the midst of Christmas consumption chaos, luxury repair brand The Restory are encouraging people to rethink pre-loved wardrobe items and channel more sustainable shopping habits.

Izzy Ashton

Deputy Editor, BITE

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Black Friday, Christmas deals and New Year sales; this time of year is a heavy one for consumption, not much, if any of it, particularly conscious. It’s a time for giving, a time for gifting and yet all this buying and exchanging feels increasingly unsustainable as the realities of the climate emergency become impossible to ignore.

When it comes to polluting the environment and general impact on the world’s climate, the fashion world has a lot to answer for. It is one of the world’s most polluting industries, with a larger carbon footprint than international aviation and shipping combined. While the advent of ‘fast-fashion’ has brought with it a substantial ethical headache for the industry.

But, as Emily John, Co-Founder & Head of Marketing & Business Development at The Restory explains, “sustainability is a broad term and covers areas from social to economic and environment.” It’s much wider than simply buying less or buying better, although we should all be undertaking both of those actions.

The Restory is a luxury repairs service that is designed to be loved not just by your favourite pair of shoes, but the environment. A brand that is the antithesis of the fast fashion culture fuelled by a desire amongst millennials not to be pictured in the same outfit twice on social media.

In the UK we buy more clothes than any other country in Europe, piling up 27kg of clothing every year according to the European Clothing Action Plan. But, with the growth of the resale and restoration business, consumer attitude towards ‘fast fashion’, particularly amongst the younger generations, is slowly starting to shift.

Sustainability is a broad term and covers areas from social to economic and environment.

Emily John

The time is right

“I think the demand was always there for people to want a trusted aftercare provider; I started direct to customer to really prove it,” explains John as she discusses the changing landscape that has made it feel like the right time to grow a company such as theirs.

The Restory launched in 2017 and its repair and restore ethos encourages people to reassess the items they already own rather than immediately looking to buy something new. It’s an important mission statement as over $500 billion of value is lost every year due to clothing underutilisation and lack of recycling according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

John adds that, despite these statistics, “I am inspired to see that the increase in awareness about the negative impact humankind is having in all areas has meant a sustainability strategy is becoming vital for all companies.”

Collaborative learnings

With a growing number of companies recognising their individual role in addressing the climate crisis, businesses are coming together and sharing learnings and resources to collaboratively make more of an impact. This is something that John believes is vital to the growth of both the Restory as a brand, but also to the increase in awareness of restoration as an option.

Luxury fashion brand Mother of Pearl has been at the forefront of the luxury ‘green’ fashion movement, describing themselves as a “luxury sustainable womenswear brand.” They are a company that John looks up to when it comes to their attitude towards sustainability. She recently spoke on a panel with Amy Powney, Creative Director at the brand, who John says she “found incredibly inspiring with her knowledge around sustainability and a constant determination to improve the company’s impact.”

John also recognises the importance of listening to every member of the team and recognising the differing learnings they can bring. She highlights the beneficial detail that having three Co-Founders “with very different backgrounds and skill sets, means we are always sharing different viewpoints and ideas.” Difference breeds fresh perspective, ideas and creativity, something a young company like the Restory can only benefit from.

The increase in awareness about the negative impact humankind is having in all areas has meant a sustainability strategy is becoming vital for all companies.

Emily John

Validating sustainability

John believes that, while the fashion industry needs to accept a level of responsibility for the impact it has had on the environment, companies that are bringing about a change in consumer mindset and behaviour need to be acknowledged. She was disappointed that the recommendations by the Environmental Audit Committee within the fashion industry were rejected by the government earlier this year.

The means to validate sustainability, believes John, will only be a good thing for companies because, as she explains, “one of the hardest things about sustainability is how companies can be fairly measured and recognised for what they are doing.” What is needed is an official process because, explains John, that will mean “consumers and citizens have access to make fair and informed decisions of who they are spending their money with.” Education and information are vital to bring about universal and long-lasting behavioural change.  

It’s a change that John feels excited about within the fashion industry as innovation and new business models pave the way for sustainable models to be just as successful, if not more so, than legacy behaviours. This means consumers can make more mindful choices, adds John, “whether that is looking for brands with more transparency within supply chains or investing in something to keep, or to rent it out or give it a second life with resell and many other avenues.”

Reaching your consumer

The Restory recently rolled out a partnership with Selfridge’s. This followed a similar partnership with Harvey Nichols last year, which created physical drop-off points where consumers can bring their much-loved bags, shoes and leather items to be repaired and restored. The brand is due to launch more partnerships with “retailers, renters and resellers” alike in the new year while their goal is to eventually “provide on-demand aftercare for the full wardrobe.”

As the brand has grown, the challenge has been says John, to maintain the level of customer service they started with while keeping up with the growing demand. From here, the brand’s intention is to scale, both at home and internationally and reach new clients, something John says is made easier through their use of Instagram and an online editorial of case studies.

John cites the “ecological sneaker” brand Veja as an example of the growing importance of sustainability to a broad range of consumers. She explains, “I think Veja as a brand have done an amazing job at being transparent with their supply chains and impact whilst being able to sell at a relatively accessible price point and yet managing to engage with luxury clients.”

One of the hardest things about sustainability is how companies can be fairly measured and recognised for what they are doing.

Emily John

The space to grow

Despite being just two years old, The Restory has launched at a time where consumers are receptive to revolutionising their approach to shopping and consumption. Use of resell sites and apps is only on the rise, although John is quick to point out that a business will always face challenges. What’s always been important for her, is “working as a team to tackle them.”

The Restory team were part of Farfetch’s accelerator programme ‘Dream Assembly’, working under the brand’s founder Jose Neves. John views her time with Farfetch as transformative, citing Neves’ willingness to give great advice and generosity with his time as key factors that John admires in a successful leader.

The brand’s ambition is “to be the leading innovators in luxury aftercare”. In order to achieve this, John believes it is “important to keep learning and growing from our mistakes”, citing the journalist Elizabeth Day’s podcast series How to Fail as a key point of inspiration. One failure John outlines is the assumption she made, when she was younger “that everyone around me knew everything.”

The reality, as she soon discovered was very different and she offers a piece of advice founders and consumers alike could benefit from: “Everyone is always learning on the job and within your career the more you can admit you don’t know, the more opportunity you have to learn and make more informed decisions.”