Tourism

Travel industry veterans pivot to reduce fast fashion waste

Two travel industry professionals have opened a new rent-a-rack concept store for pre-loved designer clothes, which they hope will transform the way Aussies think about their fashion choices and empower new micro-entrepreneurs.

The first Venla boutique opened in Sydney’s Mosman in mid-January as part of a growing Nordic movement that aims to reduce the waste caused by fast fashion.

The founders, Satu Raunola-Spencer and Minna Monaghan, see the shift in Northern Europe away from disposable fashion being a trend in the post-COVID world.

Both originally from Finland, Raunola-Spencer and Monaghan were forced to rethink their long careers in the travel industry due to the sector’s collapse. The two most recently represented global air passenger rights group AirHelp in the Australian market.

“While our business was doing well until mid-2020, with international flights grounded and travel agencies mothballed, we had to look elsewhere for business,” Raunola-Spencer explained.

“When we looked at the trends from Nordic countries that had yet to make their way to Australia, we noticed the lack of rent-a-rack second-hand stores that are a mainstay of Finnish fashion retail.”

Venla aims to help reduce the fashion waste crisis in Australia, with households across the country generating 247,000 tonnes of textile waste in 2019.

“This is a massive problem, with 85 per cent of the clothes we buy each year ending up in landfill,” Monaghan said.

Venla’s mission is to encourage consumers to recycle and resell the fashion items they have in their wardrobes. Customers can rent a rack that fits approximately 40 items and pricing is decided by the sellers themselves.

“The concept allows fashion lovers to make some return on their investment and additional income in these difficult times,” Monaghan said.

“But more importantly, the garment gets a second or third life, and it’s saved from landfill.”

Venla claims to be the first of this concept to open in Sydney.

“At the moment, charity shops are the only real option for people wanting to recycle their clothes,” Monaghan said.

“But as much as we love the work Vinnies, the Red Cross and Lifeline are doing, there might be items you don’t feel like donating to charity. Similarly, second-hand designer clothes shops are extremely picky on what they buy from people.

“We offer consumers the opportunity to sell good quality items and make some money themselves. We want our customers to feel good about reselling their preloved fashion.

However, Raunola-Spencer noted that the pair have not given up on the travel industry.

“We cannot wait until international flights to resume to pick up our lives,” she said.

“We wanted to start something totally new, focusing somehow on sustainability and making even a small but positive contribution to the global environment.”

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