Sruti Ashok, a graphic designer by profession, set out to learn about the fast fashion industry, unethical manufacturing, and other topics, which prompted her to go further and modify her lifestyle and consumption patterns in order to understand more about sustainable fashion. Sruti’s love for sustainable fashion inspired her to create ‘INAI’, an upcycled leather accessories brand that produces bags and leather products from scraps, discarded, and deadstock leather. ‘The ReLove Closet’ is a passion project that started as a small Thrift pop-up in 2019 and has since evolved into a Chennai-based online thrift market where you can buy and sell pre-loved goods, making both your wardrobe and someone else’s wardrobe more stylish and sorted. Sruti Ashok, in a candid conversation with RITZ talks about sustainable fashion, thrift shopping, and more.
Text: ANCY DONAL MADONNA
Tell us about your venture? What inspired you to start your business?
The ReLove Closet is a platform for environmentally concerned and sustainable shoppers where you can buy, sell, and donate curated pre-loved items. The ReLove Closet began as a passion initiative in 2019 with a small Thrift pop-up to honour ‘Fashion Revolution Week.’ During the lockdown in 2020, I launched an Instagram profile to raise donations for COVID Relief by advertising a few pieces of pre-loved clothes sourced from friends and family, with all sales going to an NGO in Chennai called The Kindness Foundation.
How has your journey been so far?
The ReLove Closet began as a one-woman operation in my room overnight. This required juggling between photoshoots, item sourcing, quality checks, packing/ booking orders, and managing the Instagram page, which was difficult at first but came into place with time management and organising. I was eventually able to progress, and we’re now a strong four-woman team that’s continually expanding.
What has been your most memorable milestone?
When we launched in April 2020, I was able to raise `7 Lakhs for our COVID Relief Fundraiser in less than a month, all while being in lockdown due to the pandemic, which led to the rise of The ReLove Closet.
What prompted you to start a thrift store?
As someone who believes in being mindful of my consumption patterns, particularly about fashion, and as a conscious consumer myself, I’ve always believed in the concept of secondhand fashion, and as someone who thrifts on occasion, I’ve toyed with the idea of bringing thrifting to my city.
How well has the concept of thrift shopping been received?
Surprisingly, it’s been an absolute joy as people have been very accepting of thrift shopping. We’ve even had a few first-time thrifters shop with us, and they’ve become regular customers. Pre-loved and vintage clothing have gained a lot of momentum in the past year, but I’m hopeful it’s not just a fad and that it becomes an accessible alternative to buying new.
“Buy something that you absolutely adore and cherish for years to come!”
Why do you believe that people are becoming more accepting of recycled fashion?
People are going towards more ecofriendly sustainable solutions and attempting to be more mindful in their lifestyle, as they become more aware of fast fashion and environmental challenges. As a result, pre-loved fashion appears to be a highly practical alternative for consumers wishing to make a little adjustment, with the ability to score things at a discount also playing a significant part.
What are some of the brands that you carry at The Relove Closet?
Over the last year, we’ve listed many brands, including Chanel, Chloe, Bottega Veneta, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Christian Louboutin, Sabyasachi, Anamika Khanna and more.
What happens to items that aren’t fit to sell?
We provide our sellers with two options for things that do not meet our quality standards. They can either take the products back or we can donate or upcycle them ethically, ensuring that nothing goes to waste.
How has social media paved a new way to sell and buy pre-loved clothing?
Social media has been a complete game changer as it connects directly with your consumer and the ability to build and engage with your community is such a rarity and adds so much value to your business.
What is it about being a sustainable fashion entrepreneur that you enjoy?
I love being able to contribute to a more circular and mindful approach to fashion by preventing items from ending up in landfills while also giving back to the community.