There are, perhaps, few moments sadder in the life of a wardrobe than when a beloved t-shirt is laid to rest. Maybe the collar is a memory or it is more hole than t-shirt. Whatever the reason, saying goodbye to a t-shirt can be hard. In some rare cases, it can also be the triggering event to awaken entrepreneurial passion. Marine Layer is one such case in point. For Days is another.
In many ways, For Days seems — on the surface — like an awful lot of membership services out there. The users sign on, create a profile and choose a t-shirt package that suites their needs: three, six or 10 new t-shirts for $12, $24 or $36, respectively. For their funds, the user gets a packet of t-shirts made with environmentally responsible dyes and U.S. grown organic cotton.
However, what makes For Day different is that it doesn’t just send customers t-shirts — it asks for them back. When they’re old, beaten up, damaged, nearly destroyed, stained and have entered into their twilight use cases (gardening clothes on the way to being a dust rag), For Days has a simple request for its subscribers: Don’t toss that t-shirt into the trash, but send it home instead. Once returned to For Days HQ, the company will take what’s left of the t-shirt and upcycle it into something new.
And the consumer gets a fresh new t-shirt, for their trouble.
“I often question the future and believe the time is now to rethink our relationship to commerce, “For Days Founder Kristy Caylor told Teen Vogue. “Our current model of produce, purchase, pollute doesn’t make sense, and isn’t sustainable or efficient. I hope people feel empowered to participate, because our members are the most exciting piece of the puzzle — by joining, requesting, refreshing and returning, each member becomes a little center for circularity.”
Before taking t-shirts, Caylor co-founded the luxury brand Maiyet and launched businesses within Gap. In her experience, the lack of a plan in retail for the end of fabric life has fed a vicious cycle of purchase-and-pollute, which has the distinct disadvantages of being expensive and unattainable. And, according to the For Days philosophy, unnecessary. As Caylor noted, just because items of clothing become basically valueless for their owner, the trash just isn’t the right place for them.
“I had pit-stained t-shirts, stretched out pajamas and single socks — nobody wants to share that,” Caylor noted in an interview. “It has no residual value, but there are raw materials there that are interesting.”
To encourage consumers to return their less than usable textile products, they offer free shipping, unlimited returns and no real guiding rules when it comes to what type of t-shirt they will take back. There is, of course, a risk that consumers will try and abuse that system by wearing and returning every t-shirt they purchase after a single wearing.
However, For Days isn’t that concerned — noting that, though that off-consumer may exist, the company is far more likely to attract is the consumer engaged by a business model that gives them a means to usefully dispose of old clothing, as opposed to letting it accrete in drawers or in closets until an inevitable trip to the trash and landfill. It’s what the company has seen in the year it’s been operating in stealth and, according to Caylor, it aligns with something consumers are lacking in their retail experience today.
Going forward, For Day hopes to make that process more efficient with chemistry — as the process today involves using more virgin cotton than the firm would like. The goal, Caylor says, is to really give customers a closed-loop, waste-free option in some of their shopping life.
It also incidentally, gives For Days an interesting arrow in its quiver when it comes to battling the churn that is endemic in subscription commerce plays. The set-and-forget model works for subscription services — unless and until the customer remembers, re-evaluates and often hits the stop button on the service.
However, For Days doesn’t just send customers t-shirts: It also builds a continual interaction with its customers — one that is centered on the brand’s unique social mission to boot. That move keeps customers locked in and keeps them coming back because there is an incentive beyond the monthly t-shirt shipment. They always have the option of a new t-shirt if something happens to one they’ve purchased — and they get to feel like good ecological citizens while they’re getting it.
Doing good and getting a reward is a time-tested method of inspiring altruism after all.
For Days is new to the market — and it remains to be seen how far and wide the dedication to up cycling textiles is, and if it will engender the kind of loyalty its founders are hoping for. But, considering that some 85 percent of donated clothes end up in landfills, it seems at least a solid start in cleaning up textiles — and maybe building out in an entirely new way.