Meet the entrepreneurs aiming to tackle the textile industry by giving clothes “a second life”
he passion for sustainability that brought these two entrepreneurs together became the crucial first step that both needed to start their first circular company focused on fashion.
Meet Thalita van Ogtrop and Lieke Pijpers, cofounders of Amsterdam-based clothing marketplace The Next Closet.
A platform to buy high quality used clothes and other fashionable items, The Next Closet has a mission to encourage investing in quality rather than quantity.
How are Thalita and Lieke making this happen? By inspiring people to reuse what they already own and give their good items a “second life,” in an effort to make impactful changes within the textile industry.
Two Different Worlds Become One
What started as a love for sustainability quickly bonded two women together. Thalita and Lieke met while the former was working in marketing and communications and the latter in industrial design, both in Amsterdam. Although they worked in different industries, both were interested in forming sustainable opportunities in the textile industry as a means to combat its role as the second largest culprit behind pollution.
In 2013, they founded their very own circular economic company, The Next Closet, with the hopes of becoming the largest online marketplace for designer labels. Today, that goal is within sight, as the two entrepreneurs have begun plans to scale up their sustainable fashion business model.
Tackling the Textile Industry
Research shows that reselling items instead of buying into fast fashion reduces 73% of a fashion item’s footprint (including the water, carbon dioxide and other chemicals needed to make the item in the first place). Even with increased awareness of fast fashion's environmental impact, Thalita and Lieke found that it was difficult to sell high-quality used clothing offline, because of the necessity of having to go to thrift stores and the uncertainty of whether or not the clothes would sell. “We thought we could make it easier by having this curated online marketplace that was scalable to connect all the wardrobes in the world,” says Thalita.
The company started off bootstrapped by family and friends. The two cofounders knew that budgeting well and focusing on how to improve their tech, while attracting a good team of people to support them was the ultimate test for their business.
“How you overcome struggles is to laugh and put them in perspective. It doesn’t have to be that big a deal. You have to breathe. I think it’s easier if you have a cofounder, so you can take on the load together,” says Thalita
I also believe in positive storytelling. Through positive examples and positive storytelling, we really showcase our mission to make secondhand the number one choice and have people invest in quality.
Early Struggles, Positive Outcomes
The early inevitable startup hurdles were soon surpassed, which allowed both women to sharpen their sustainable focus and close in on their identity as a fashion company.
“I’m really proud that we have a sustainable background,” says Lieke. “I also believe in positive storytelling. Through positive examples and positive storytelling, we really showcase our mission to make secondhand the number one choice and have people invest in quality.”
This focus on the mission has led to continued, positive growth for The Next Closet. Thalita reminds other entrepreneurs who work with close friends or family that it is important to share the load of responsibility. She encourages clarifying what is desired and expected from other parties and the company as a whole. “We see chances everywhere. My strengths are her weaknesses. Her strengths are my weaknesses, so together we’re whole.”
When working together, Thalita says that it’s important to have the same values and mission as your cofounder. “You should share what drives you. These are the skills entrepreneurs need.”
Measuring Impact For the Future
In creating and measuring impact for their company, Lieke gives credit to one thing: positivity. “I like to be positive and give positive examples. Then obviously match things with data. We realized that designer brands are not per se sustainable brands. We wanted to take it a step further and marked [those sustainable brands] with a green leaf, so people coming to our website could do double the good, knowing the background of the brands.”
If you stand for something, truly stand for it. You have to choose right and be a pioneer, even on things you cannot see.
From explaining how much water is used in the clothes’ production, to using packaging and products that are eco-friendly, Thalita and Lieke hope to highlight that everything they do goes back to upholding their sustainable values.
“If you stand for something, truly stand for it. You have to choose right and be a pioneer, even on things you cannot see.”
So, where does The Next Closet go from here? Thalita says that the cofounders are focused on scaling to become the biggest sustainable women’s fashion retailer in Holland and Belgium. The next step might be looking into broadening the market to children and men’s fashion, perhaps even expanding into new countries.
Even with big goals on the horizon, she makes it clear that it’s always one step at a time.
“We’re doing well here, but eventually we want to become the most sustainable marketplace with the highest impact in the world.”
This interview was originally published in Startup Guide Amsterdam in December 2020.
All photos: Cindy van Rees / Startup Guide