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Founder of kidswear resale platform, Dotte: ‘The idea came from genuine parental frustration’

By Rachel Douglass

22 Apr 2022

Business |Interview

Image: Marks & Spencer x Dotte

Launched during the height of the pandemic, Dotte’s debut fell in line with the swift emergence of resale as an alternative form of shopping. However, unlike other platforms, co-founders and mothers Samantha Valentine and Louise Weiss, decided to opt entirely for the resale of kidswear, a largely untouched market in the secondhand sector.

“The idea came from genuine parental frustration,” Weiss, mum of two, said in a conversation with FashionUnited. The duo noted it was the shock that came from the alarming rate their children grew out of their clothing that led them to launch the platform.

Most recently, Dotte established a partnership with Marks & Spencer, which joined the platform’s Resale Collective, a group of sustainable brand partners, allowing consumers to resell branded kidswear in exchange for store discounts.

As Dotte sets its sights on an upcoming crowdfunding, Weiss spoke with FashionUnited about the importance of accessible circular solutions, the opportunities in resale for kidswear and the platform’s future in this booming market.

Where did the idea for Dotte come from? Why did you specifically land on kidswear?

In the first two years of life, children grow over seven sizes and the rate of getting through clothing is alarming. When parents have children for the first time, they become so much more worried about sustainability because their consumption gets extended into a whole other generation.

Image: Marks & Spencer x Dotte

That was what happened to us. When we had kids, we were really alarmed by all these growth spurts and frustrated because we didn’t have a way to clear our all these clothes. You can send them to some charity shops, but some don’t accept them and you don’t know where they actually end up. So we decided to build a platform where we could sell them.

Who is the typical Dotte customer?

Our customers tend to be fashion-forward, savvy and largely mums. We have set out to be very gender neutral, but it just happens to be that most women do the shopping for their kids. In fact, 96 percent of our users are female and the number one reason they sell clothes is that they are genuinely concerned about the planet. They want to make changes so that they can live a more sustainable family life - they are very passionate about that. We are here to help them take the small steps. Especially around their wardrobes and fashion.

How would you define Dotte’s most central values?

Really, it is about putting our community first. Everything we do is shaped around our community. We have a lot of content on our social media that has been created by this community – parents who know more than us about sustainable hacks for their wardrobe. We share a lot of content and part of the reason we are growing so well is because our community talks about us, they love what we are doing. So we really try to shape Dotte around what they want and need.

Image: Marks & Spencer x Dotte

You also operate through a Resale Collective. Why did you decide to go for this kind of business model?

We try to be realistic about the fact that parents are not always going to buy second hand – they are going to want to buy new at some point. We try to encourage people to be more sustainable and that doesn’t have to be black and white. What we wanted to do was work with brands that we know are committed to producing clothing in a more sustainable way, with a lower impact, and really hold them up and say to our community that if they are going to buy new, invest in these sorts of brands. They are created with a lower impact and they are more suitable for resale.

There is a range of criteria we use to look at brands before we choose to work with them. We will become the official place to resell that brand and they will promote us to their community, encouraging their customers to extend the lifespan of products. The brand will award those customers by giving them discounts for new clothes. For brands, it is a way of reducing their footprint even further.

Image: Little Loves Cornwall

Are there other ways that Dotte stands out in comparison to other resellers?

We are pretty much the only resale site dedicated to children’s fashion. There are a few marketplace where you can buy a dress and a second hand breast pump or pram – there is so much baby gear that needs to be shared and reused, there is a huge opportunity there.

We are very passionate about Dotte being a fashion destination. Parents are very style-conscious nowadays. They want to curate wardrobes. They want to use fashion as a way for children to discover their personality and play with who they are as their identity emerges throughout childhood. We want to be there for them during this time.

That is why we have things like our personal shopper option, where you can put in details about your child and what they like and find things that suit their personality and preferences. Because believe me, they can have a strong taste, as young as two.

We always feature sellers that have cool, interesting kidswear. It is really a place for parents to break out beyond the high street and explore new, independent sustainable brands. I think that really sets us apart. As well as the fact that we are peer-to-peer, which means you are buying from other people – there is so much joy to be had in a more social form of shopping.

Has the resale model come with any challenges since your launch?

No, reselling is just becoming more and more relevant to our lifestyle. The pandemic actually made people focus on the impact we are having on the planet and there was a huge boom in resale as people were really spurred on to take action. There has also been a bit of a narrative about sustainable fashion often being a bit exclusive or not accessible because of the use of smaller suppliers. What resale does is open up sustainable fashion to everybody, which means we can have a bigger impact.

Where would you like Dotte to be in resale’s booming future?

We are hoping to be the number one place to buy and sell second-hand kidswear in the UK by the end of the year, and we are fast on track to do that. We have the largest social following of any kidswear resale platform in the UK already and we have more brand partners than anyone else too.

We want to also turn our sights to the US and Europe. Eventually, our aim is to be the number one second hand fashion destination for kidswear in the world.

Image: Cub Pudding

Do you think resale is the solution to fast fashion?

I don't think there is one solution. I think there are going to be layers of different options. Our wardrobes will be made up of things that are rented, borrowed, resold, second-hand, repaired or customised. I also think we will no longer be going to the high street empty handed and coming back with bags of clothes. I think you will take your clothes and swap them – more of an exchange rather than extracting new things all the time. I think it is going to completely change the way we shop.

Do you have any exciting plans for the coming year for Dotte?

One is that we are launching a crowd raiser, which takes place April 25. It means anybody can invest in Dotte and get involved in investing in the circular economy and the booming resale space. We have been actively inviting our community to invest – we already have 300 people pledging.

This was a very natural decision. The fact that we have got a community at our heart and they helped us build this company, it only felt right to give them the opportunity to hold shares in Dotte. We have had a massively positive response since. I think it is only fair to give them some ownership of the company.

The reason we are raising is because we are going to be launching an app this year, which is a huge step for us and the number one thing our community wants. It is going to make it even easier and quicker to resell outgrown kidswear.

The final piece of news is, we recently launched a partnership with Marks & Spencer, and, off that back of that, we have another major kidswear heritage brand we will be launching with this year.

Image: Claude
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