Young Shoppers Could Create A Zero-Waste Future For Retail

Jun 28 2018

What does the future of commerce look like? For Days, a sustainable clothing membership that reimagines retail, thinks they have the answer…

Clothing subscriptions are nothing new anymore, but each company is putting its own twist on the trend to appeal to young consumers who continue to seek time-saving alternatives to traditional shopping. Rent the Runway added an unlimited subscription service to their already-innovative business, Ann Taylor launched their “Infinite Style” monthly service while Stitch Fix saw success with their customized model and digital consignment store ThredUp introduced a “Goody Box.” The children’s’ aisle wasn’t left out either, with Gap going niche and catering to kids’ sleepwear needs, BabyGap offering an “Outfit Box” for rapidly growing tots, and Old Navy dressing slightly older kids—making life a little easier for time-strapped Millennial parents.

While many brands have hopped on the trend, some are thinking outside the subscription box (sorry). For Days sets itself apart from the others by appealing to the 43% of 13-35-year-olds who tell Ypulse they’re more likely to buy a product described as “sustainable.” Members can sign up to receive three, six, or ten shirts each month and return them whenever they’re too stained, too torn, or otherwise used up—a departure from brands that charge for over-worn or late-returned items. So, why do they accept shirts that are too gone even for Goodwill? Because they recycle and reuse the materials for future shirts, which, by the way, are made with 100% organic cotton, keeping with their environment-first, all-natural vibe.

Not only does their sustainable message resonate with Millennials, so does their appeal to minimalism. The brand wants to lift the “burden of ownership” off their members, letting them keep their closets sparse with just the items that they need—perfect for a generation looking to channel Marie Kondo in their décor and lifestyles.

We talked to For Days’ Co-Founder Kristy Caylor—who took a traditional retail background and created something that is anything but—to learn more about the inspiration behind the brand, how retail is shifting away from ownership, and what’s next for For Days (like in-person pop-ups!):

Ypulse: Can you tell us how the idea for For Days came to be?

Kristy Caylor: I often question the future and believe that now is the time to rethink our relationship to commerce. Our current model of produce, purchase, pollute doesn’t make sense, and isn’t sustainable or efficient. I wanted to create a new model that would shift industry behavior and empower people to connect to product in a new way.

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I was also in the process of moving apartments and had that massive “purge” moment where I needed to de-clutter. I gave away clothes to friends and sold things to The Real Real and Buffalo Exchange. But I was still left with a pile of undignified donations—things like pit-stained tees, single socks, and stretched out pajamas. These items have no residual value, and certainly no sentimental value. I thought about how convenient it would be if basics like this could float in and out of our lives when we needed them, and they could be recycled and repurposed when we were finished. I could have what I needed, when I needed it, without the guilt when I was finished with it. So, I developed this concept, based on a closed loop system, that allows you to have everything you need without creating waste.

YP: What sets For Days apart from other clothing subscription services?

KC: For Days is not really a subscription model, as that tends to imply forced deliver. Rather, we’re a membership model that puts the consumer in the driver’s seat. Members choose when, and how often, they want their fresh tees shipped.

Our closed-loop system is also unique, in that we’re upcycling the material from returned tees to make new product. What’s more, it’s community driven—old becomes new and new becomes old when our members actively participate. Each person becomes a little center for circularity.

Millennial research, Millennial insight, Millennial marketing, Gen Z research, Gen Z marketing, Gen Z insight, youth research, youth marketingYP: Why do you think young consumers are interested in sustainable clothing options?

KC: Young consumers are becoming more and more aware of how their choices and consumer habits affect the planet. I think they’re starting to realize that if changes aren’t made, it’s their futures that are going to be the most impacted. It’s important for them to start making smarter living choices all around, and sustainable fashion is a great place to start.

YP: Do you think young consumers care that the companies they buy from share the same values they do?

KC: Yes, and increasingly so. People want to trust the brands they’re buying into, and I think that comes from an alignment of values, transparency, and innovation across products, pricing, and experience. Sustainability alone is not enough—it’s about the total package. Shifting the verbiage from consumer to user, from ownership to access, can change the way people view how and what they’re spending their money on.  There’s a pleasure in newness, and this system gives people access to newness whenever they’d like without spending extra money or accumulating excess.

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YP: For Days is described as freeing its members “from the burden of ownership.” Does this go hand-in-hand with the minimalist trend?

KC: Absolutely! As life gets increasingly complicated, we shouldn’t feel burdened by owning so much stuff. This is a new operating system for living, and we hope to challenge the status quo. If we engage and empower the user by giving them alternative choices, we can eventually shift our relationship to commerce and make a big change.

YP: Do you have any predictions about the future of retail?

KC: I do some work with the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Consumption and part of our mission is to look at consumption patterns 10-15 years out. Something we’re unanimously aligned on is this idea of the access economy being the future, and this movement away from ownership. It provides a huge opportunity for us to recapture value from what we discard. The rental market and second-hand markets are great, they make inventory more efficient, but they aren’t solving the manufacturing problem or the end of life problem. But a closed loop system allows us to repurpose materials in a meaningful way.

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YP: What’s next for the company?

KC: We have plans for pop-ups in New York and Los Angeles this summer that will let the consumer learn about more about our process and impact in person. I think it’s important we engage with consumers in this way and give them an experience that is both unique and educational.

We’ve just launched in the U.S. but would love to eventually expand to other countries and make this zero-waste system accessible to as many people as possible. In terms of product, we’re aiming to expand beyond tees into a broad range of basics. You can imagine your closet expanding and contracting exactly as needed, with things coming and going in perfect time.

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Kristy Caylor is an entrepreneur, fashion innovator, and sustainability visionary. Prior to launching For Days, Caylor co-founded Maiyet, a pioneering luxury brand. She spent her early career launching and growing businesses for Gap, Inc. including Banana Republic Petites and Banana Republic Japan, and was instrumental in leading Gap’s Product (RED) division.

Caylor has consulted for global brands including Stronghold Denim, All Saints, and Band of Outsiders, for which she also served as President. She continues to serve as an advisor for emerging sustainable companies including Tuulikki, Studio 189, Maison de Mode, and Tome.

As a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Caylor sits on the Lexus Fashion Initiative advisory board, and has previously served on leadership committees for Cradle to Cradle’s Fashion + and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Textile Initiative. In 2014, she was recognized by the Voss Foundation as the Woman Helping Women Honoree and regularly participates with the UN Foundation. In 2016, Caylor was appointed to the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Consumerism, and most recently was invited to speak on the SXSW 2018 panel “Sustainability of Bust: The Future of Brands.”

Caylor holds an MBA from the University of Southern California and a BS in Industrial Engineering with a minor in Fine Arts Painting from Northwestern University.

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

To download the PDF version of this insight article, click here.

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