Take-back: a logical next step in Asket’s  pursuit of less

To keep in line with their mission to slow down fashion, Asket will repair, renew and resell what they can and upcycle, downcycle or recycle what they can't within their new take-back model.

By Gwen Cunningham and Andreea Theodora Baniceru

the team

Asket are an independent menswear brand with the mission to ‘slow down the fashion industry through honest production, transparent pricing and revolutionary sizing’. 
Bard Bringéus
Nilsson Dworsky
Head of Operations

the urgency

From the moment they were founded, Asket took a clear stance against fast fashion and its exploitation of human and planetary resources.

Core to the brand is an intention to restore the value of garments by creating meaningful and durable essentials. Therefore, the development of a circular business model was a natural next step for the Asket team, which would allow them to truly maximise the use of their garments by taking responsibility beyond the point of sale.

The customer need

The Asket circular business model serves two distinct customer needs. Their take-back programme offers loyal Asket customers—who are already conscious of their clothing consumption—a convenient and responsible way to dispose of clothes that they no longer use. At the same time, through their resale model, Asket aims to offer high quality, timeless basics to those for whom high prices constituted a barrier to responsible consumption.

The business model

The resale model was launched with a geographical focus on Sweden and Germany. In both countries, Asket offers free returns for take-back. From a financial perspective, the brand’s objective is to make the circular business model at least self-sufficient. As with many circular business models, the business case is sensitive to key indicators like the collected items’ sellable rate, repair rate and resale value. The Asket team hopes to support the collection of reasonable volumes of quality products through a variable reward structure. 

The expected positive impact

For Asket, a clear goal is to maximise the use phase of their garments so that they can contribute to decreased levels of production and consumption within the industry. In order to realise this goal, it is crucial for the brand to safeguard the impact of its new business model as it rolls out. Key considerations in managing the impact of their resale model include
1) ensuring they do not heavily incentivise customers to dispose of their garments before they otherwise would have and 2) not to stimulate further consumption in any way. In addition, they are careful to minimise shipping and other operational impacts throughout the new supply chain.

The prototype

To test their business case Asket rolled out a prototype in the beginning of 2020 in Sweden and Germany. They emailed 1500 customers to offer them a limited trade-in opportunity. Customers who registered within seven days had the chance to trade-in their Asket garments via mail with a prepaid shipping label in exchange for a reward. Asket tested three different reward tiers: low and high rewards, which were dependent on the type of garment that was traded in, or a fixed reward, independent of what customers would send in. While the conversion rate was highest for the high reward group, the quality and quantity of clothing was best for the fixed reward group. Asket also learned that convenience is key after experiencing a drop in completion rate (sending the garment(s) in after receiving shipping label) due to shipping issues in Sweden. To increase engagement in the pilot launching 2021, Asket now wants to focus on their marketing strategy as well as ensuring the convenience of the trade-in process for their customers.

PILOT OUTCOMES and lessons learnt

Since its launch in May 2021, Asket’s take-back pilot has collected over 2000 pieces.The collection volumes are growing steadily, as is their customers' overall awareness of the Revival Programme. A 2021 survey showed that 42% of customers were aware of the programme, and the survey in 2022 showed that awareness of customers has increased to 58%. Today, the brand includes information about the programme in its newsletters, on social media, on its website, and has even started listing the 'Revival Reward' per garment, at the point of purchase on the webshop.

In the early days, Asket's internal team sorted the collected garments themselves - and even commandeered the help of the design team, so that they could learn about the quality and condition of Asket products post-use. However, sorting is labour intensive, and requires specialist knowledge. Therefore, Asket has now decided to partner with an external company, Fabrikörerna, who can manage the sorting, washing, revival, tagging and pricing. This has proven to be a symbiotic relationship, for the Asket team have essentially supported Fabrikörerna to diversify their business model (which is traditionally based on manufacturing of new products), and become a circular solution provider. Collected garments are first sorted according to quality ie. on whether or not they are rewearable. So far, Asket has been pleasantly surprised by the quality of what is collected - 81% of the total volume has been suitable for revival. This fraction is then sorted for washing, based on colourways and materials. After washing, all rewearable garments are sorted according to the specific type of repair they need; hole, pilling, stain etc. According to Estelle Nordin, Head of Operations, ‘one challenge is assessing the correct route for each individual item, since it varies from garment to garment and it is therefore difficult to fully standardise the procedure. It is always a ‘case by case’ with each garment’. For now, the non-rewearable fraction (19% of total collected) is being stored and stockpiled until they have a sufficient volume for upcycling or recycling. 

In addition to the product take-back and sortation, Asket has also started reselling revived items through a series of pop-up events, with the first in June '22 and the second in November '22.

What’s next?

Asket’s goal for 2023 is to double the number of collected garments to 4000 items. In May 2023, the brand is planning to open a long term pop-up physical Revival store, which will offer a mix of revived items, as well as an archive of sample items and defective returns. They hope to trial upcycling and recycling solutions for the non-rewearable garments, however this is currently in ideation phase. 

What advice does Asket have for other brands that are looking to build a circular business model?

Design a take-back programme that works for your business, and understand your needs in order to make that work. A take-back programme comes with additional processing and logistics such as sorting, repairing, shipping etc., and that can feel overwhelming in the beginning, but remember that there are many services with the expertise to partner up with that can simplify for you.” Estelle Nordin, Head of Operations at Asket. 

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