Little kids seem to outgrow their clothes in the blink of an eye. One minute a pair of pants is too big, and the next thing you know they look more like capris. Like many parents, Jad Robitaille tries to keep the family clothing budget under control by seeking out secondhand clothes and hand-me-downs. But she noticed that not all clothing can stand up to the amount of washing required to last through several active children. While many mass-market brands looked faded and worn after being passed on, higher-end brands made with better-quality materials still looked almost new.
As a lecturer on strategies for sustainability in the faculty of management at McGill University, Robitaille saw an opportunity to create a business rooted in the idea of a circular economy. She has launched a new online clothing boutique, Boutique Mini-Cycle, with an aim to make high-quality clothing more budget-friendly.
“I sell gently used and new items and I guarantee to buy back everything,” Robitaille said. “I ensure everything I sell is durable and very well made. My goal is to reuse the clothes for at least six kids.”
She offers a rebate between five and 50 per cent of the value of each piece of clothing returned, depending on the item’s condition. Robitaille said she will even repurchase items in unwearable condition and repair or repurpose them.
Robitaille’s gambit is to lower the cost of good quality clothing while reducing waste. The fashion industry is one of the most-polluting industries in the world, in part because cheaply made clothing wears out so quickly. One study in 2017, for example, found that more than half of all clothing produced is thrown away within a year.
Unlike a consignment store, the buy-back system will allow Robitaille to offer a predictable selection of clothing in a variety of sizes. By offering the same items in new and gently used condition, and offering the buy-back credit, it brings the cost of high quality clothing down to a more affordable level.
“I want anyone from any budget and any background to be able to buy the clothes,” Robitaille said. “I have pieces that are $5 and pieces that are $200, there’s really something for everyone.”
For more information, visit mini-cycle.com.