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Is Patience the Key to Keeping Fashion Out of Landfill?

Two weeks ago we launched our collaboration with Cungelella Art. The collab had been in the works for about a year, after the collective’s founder, Glenda McCulloch, reached out to TWOOBS just casually via an Instagram DM. We instantly swooned over her paintings, and loved the synergy between art that honours the country we’re lucky to call home, and the environmental focus of our brand.

It was obvious right from the start that this was going to be a match made in shoe-lover’s heaven, and we knew it was going to sell well.... But we could’ve never known just how well.

There’s a saying in the fashion industry that the buyer is always wrong. Which basically means that no matter how much you ask your customers what they like or try to get all fancy with equations on Excel, you’re always going to end the season with half your stock still sitting in your warehouse, or you’ll make it to 2 months before Christmas and your stock levels will be as low as a pair of Paris Hilton’s jeans.

The latter can be disastrous for a brand because it means losing customers to competitors, and the former even worse because you’ve spent all this money on stock that you haven’t made back... and of course, the environmental impact of over-buying is the most disastrous of all. Brands from Chanel to H&M are known to burn and destroy stock at the end of the season, with an estimated 30% of clothes produced never actually being sold according to the Australian Circular Textile Organisation.

With our new eco ethos, we’ve made the decision to always buy on the conservative side, because we’d rather disappoint and potentially lose customers, than ever end up with too much stock. So when it came to our buy for the Cungelella collab, we had decided on 300 units; limited edition, but given that plain black is always a best seller for us and this was a whole lot of print, we were pretty sure we’d gotten it about right (silly, silly us).

In the days and weeks leading up to the launch, as we started to see the response roll in (or perhaps more appropriately flood in), we began to realise that we may have undershot the order... just a little. Come launch day, we sold 90% of the order in a matter of minutes, and within just a few hours the entire collection was gone. Like we said: the buyer is always wrong.

We went it to damage control, trying to comfort loyal customers who were totally in love with the collab and completely devastated they’d missed out. And we also realised that we had a lot more potential to make money for the artists and our donation partner, Injilinji Preschool & Kindergarten, than we had first thought.

After an emergency call to our factory we found out that they could turn around a re-order in about 45 days, which when we factored in shipping times and potential Covid delays could pretty safely bring us to a customer shipping date around June. We placed an order for another 1000 pairs of shoes, which we based off the amount of people submitting requests for a re-stock, but were customers really willing to wait that long for a pair of shoes? We were about to find out.

Cut to round two of the release of our collab, and within 20 minutes we’d had another 200 pairs ordered. One week later, and we’re down to our last few pairs of our pre-order allocation (we’ve saved some to make available when the shoes actually land). 

And while this has been a wild ride of a week for TWOOBS, and of course the incredible talents over at Cungelella, it has also provided a wonderfully insightful learning for us, and hopefully one that you can learn from too.

That if as customers we’re willing to be patient for the things we love, and put money down on pre-order for the things we want to buy, then brands could actually be ordering just the right amount of stock, and we could avoid that 30% of stock being unnecessarily produced, which would be upwards of 20 billion pieces of clothing we would be saving from landfill!

Of course, we have had customers write to us after pre-ordering stock saying it’s taking too long and they no longer want it. And while another brand might be annoyed at this happening, for us, it’s a double win: if you don’t want something 4 months after you bought it, then we will happily cancel your order with a giant smile on our faces. The most sustainable purchase is one that you’re going to love and wear for years to come, so if you have to wait a little longer... won’t it be well worth the wait?

Jess & Stef, TWOOBS Founders