Ever been to a sale and wondered where all that excess stock goes? Rack upon rack of unloved, lonely pieces that never find a home, and seemingly never will.
Excess inventory is a huge global problem. Business management consultant McKinsey values the excess inventory from spring/summer 2020 collections worldwide at an estimated at $225 to $257 billion – more than double the standard level for the sector. Former fashion buyer Candice Tang saw this firsthand.
“I worked as a buyer for several international brands and really saw how big the inventory problems are in our industry,” she says. “I first worked for Giorgio Armani, where we could send all the excess stock to the outlets at the end of each season. Later I moved to [French fashion house] Sandro, where we didn’t have an outlet in Australia at the time. The only options we had were either keep discounting through our own channel – running the risks of competing with the full-price offering – or pack [the excess stock] up and store [it] away. That was the light bulb moment for me; if Sandro had this problem, many other smaller, independent designers would also have the same challenge.”
Enter The Archive Place, a new online outlet selling designer goods on a refined online platform. It includes brands such as Hansen and Gretel, Mara and Mine, Bassike, Matteau, Sir the Label and more, with discounts of up to 50 per cent off.
“The Archive Place was born to offer a better solution for the brands to continue to sell through their past season stock without damaging their brand value.”
But The Archive Place was never designed to be just another outlet store. Tang’s plan was to rethink the outlet shopping experience and present it with a luxury aesthetic via a website that is beautiful and gives customers tips on what to wear for certain occasions, and tells the stories behind the designers. She has also repositioned excess stock as “archival” instead of “old”, using the site to advocate for considered design and buying pieces you plan to wear long into the future. In a space where gaudy promotion and lack of aesthetic prevails, Tang’s vision is somewhat revolutionary.
“Most of the outlets that exist today are purely price-driven and it’s generally a very overwhelming customer experience, with no visual merchandising or context around the products,” she says. “We truly felt that even when you are shopping off-price you are still buying fashion and there is something magical about how fashion makes us feel. We wanted to create a luxury, full-price customer experience and a strong aesthetic-led platform where customers can feel inspired and fall in love with each piece.”
Walking the line between refined and affordable, The Archive Place acts as an intermediary, so brands can avoid cannibalising and competing with their own full-price offering.
It also gives pieces a new life, proudly promoting circularity in fashion. “We are empowering brands to extend the life cycle of fashion by providing a stylish home for their past-season stock that otherwise would have gone unsold and eventually would have been incinerated,” Tang says. “We also want to make sure the clothing does not end up in the landfill after it leaves the brand’s door.”
To take it one step further, The Archive Place launched Archive Recycling, a take-back initiative where customers can send their ready-to-retire clothes from any brand, which then goes through a strict sorting process to make sure the textiles end up in the most suitable place. It also offers free returns.
“We really want to encourage our customers to purchase with intentions and only keep what they truly love,” says Tang. “We also plant additional trees to offset the carbon emissions associated with these returns.
“I truly hope that no clothing ever ends up in landfill,” says Tang. “When fashion operates in a model that you forecast and produce months in advance, inevitably you will always have unsold inventory. On the other hand, it is also unrealistic for every brand to adopt a “pre-order” model. So we must innovate and look for creative solutions.”
Realising a lot of excess inventory is in less-popular sizes or seasonal colours, The Archive Place is exploring how to tailor that stock into more sought-after sizes, and how to sustainably dye the seasonal hues into timeless colours. “We are at the very early stage of our journey and will continuously find solutions to abet this vision.”