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Leon Kaye headshot

Madewell and ThredUP Spill the Jeans on New Partnership

By Leon Kaye

The popular denim jeans brand Madewell has long stood out for its recycling policy: Bring an unwanted pair of jeans into a store and score $20 off your new denim threads. Speaking of threads, the brand is now partnering with the online consignment and thrift shop ThredUP to sell more second-hand Madewell apparel online.

Such partnerships are important as the evidence suggests far too much clothing is still ending up in U.S. landfills. Back in 1960, Americans tossed about 1.7 million tons of apparel into landfills. By 2018, that amount had surged to 11.3 million tons, says data coming from the EPA. That same year, of the 17 million tons of clothes Americans no longer wanted, only 2.5 million tons of them were recycled in some form.

That last number sorely needs a boost. The most effective way, of course, is for people to buy less clothes, as many consumers interpret “walk-in closet” as “fill to capacity.” Failing that, there is evidence suggesting that younger generations, including Gen Z, are embracing secondhand clothing – partly out of environmental concerns, but there’s also money to be made.

According to Madewell and ThredUP, the companies’ goal is to collect one million pairs of jeans, which otherwise could end up at the local landfill or incinerator, by 2023. Madewell and its customers, of course, will supply the denim; ThredUP will provide the technology, i.e., the online sales platform. For consumers who want to clean out their closets, the process will work the same - bring in any brand of jeans for a $20 voucher, and any pair that are deemed prime for resale will be sold on Madewell’s resale site.

The alliance is similar to a partnership REI has had with Yerdle; the outdoors clothing and gear retailer can tap into a steady stream of customers who are eager to find a bargain and trade up from that pair of hiking pants or tent; Yerdle, which launched a decade ago as a share-and-trade platform, developed a robust technology platform that retailers and apparel brands like REI can harness for selling used or unwanted goods.

Back to Madewell and ThreadUP: The resale site kicked off this week with 3,000 pairs of women’s jeans appearing for sale on the platform. ThreadUP’s technology allows the virtual thrift shopping to continue, as Madewell can add new styles hourly.

Image credit: Waldemar Brandt/Unsplash

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye