Rethinking business models for a thriving fashion industry
Circular business models for fashion, which are designed to make revenue without making new...
“A lot of customers would get something repaired but then didn’t have much understanding of how to look after it, or of good products to look after it with. Our ethos is to help people love their clothes for longer and help them find solutions.”
Lulu O’Connor, Founder and CEO
Clothes Doctor provides easy and accessible repair options for clothing and educates its customers around how to look after clothes and why it is important to do so. Clothes Doctor offers a range of products and services to help its customers to clean, store and repair their own clothes at home, as well as offering professional alteration and repair services. Clothes Doctor was founded in response to what it saw as unappealing and disempowering traditional clothing repair services. Clothes Doctor customers typically fit into two categories: clothes lovers who want to repair and maintain cherished items and eco-conscious customers who want to extend the life of their clothes. Typically, customers place orders for services three-four times per year, averaging £80 per order. For products, many customers purchase on subscription, receiving top ups of eco-friendly detergents every month or every other month.
Clothes Doctor increases the amount of use per user by making it easy and convenient for customers to extend the life of their clothes. A large proportion of people get rid of their clothing because it is damaged or faded, a number which can be significantly reduced with increased access to clothing care products, repair services and knowledge.
Customers are empowered with knowledge about clothing care, maintenance and repair options. This builds the emotional durability of their products and helps to shift the mindset towards recognising the intrinsic value of clothing. Users also benefit from an easy and convenient user experience which fits with busy modern lifestyles as they can access all products and services for clothing care from one online platform.
Clothes Doctor has created a network of skilled individuals, ensuring that staff skills are valued and building knowledge development to allow continued upskilling. Their decentralised approach increases local employment opportunities and supports workers by allowing flexibility (e.g. they are better able to meet family and personal needs, boosting morale and improving employee retention).
Businesses partnering with Clothes Doctor provide additional value to their customers with aftercare services and care information which builds customer stickiness and brand loyalty without investment in additional infrastructure. This helps customers to maximise the quality of their garments, keeping them at their highest value, and improving brand image.
Services include small repairs, alterations, restoration and cleaning.
Customers browse service options on the Clothes Doctor website and request quotes via an online form where they submit descriptions and photographs of the issues with their items.
The requests are sent to seamstresses via a dashboard. Here staff process quotes, approve requests or redirect jobs to the most appropriately skilled team member.
Once a quote is processed and approved the customer sends their item to a member of the team, the items are repaired and sent back to the customer, typically within 7-10 days.
Users can choose a drop off location or can post the item themselves.
Clothes Doctor offer a range of partnership agreements with brands, including:
Referrals – Brands use Clothes Doctor information on their website with a referral link. When customers pay for Clothes Doctor services they receive the cost of the repair back in brand vouchers.
Referrals – Brands encourage customers to repair their damaged items through Clothes Doctor. Items will then be repaired and returned to the customer. In some cases the brand will reimburse the customer with brand vouchers.
Direct Sales – Brands use the Clothes Doctor service to offer repairs on damaged brand garments, either due to a guarantee or simply to provide great customer service. Brands cover the cost of repairs directly with Clothes Doctor via a credit account.
In 2019 Clothes Doctor launched a range of environmentally friendly cleaning products, maintenance and repair kits available through their own website and via selected partners.
These products offer a secondary revenue stream and help to build long term customer relationships. The products, such as leather balms, encourage customers to regularly maintain their clothes, preventing the need for repairs and ultimately increasing their longevity.
Clothes Doctor have already noticed a shift in their customer motivation and their continued focus on widening the dialogue around clothing reuse is helping to support a wider mindset shift. In fact, customer education has become an increasingly important part of Clothes Doctor’s offering. In 2020 they launched a range of free content to educate people on caring for their clothes and doing DIY repairs. This drives website traffic and demand whilst helping customers appreciate what kind of repairs are possible and the quality difference between at home and professional repairs.
As a response to the pandemic, Clothes Doctor shifted to a decentralised model where orders are sent directly to staff. Staff have a small inventory of materials and equipment at home and can order additional materials or collect them from the Clothes Doctor warehouse. This has streamlined the order allocation process, addressed challenges around scaling and reduced the capital required, allowing Clothes Dr to focus on customer acquisition.
There is also an increasing focus on the positive environmental impacts which can be achieved by extending the life of garments and reducing the impact from clothing use and washing.
“Our mission is to help you love your clothes for longer and reduce waste, to protect our planet.”
– Clothes Doctor
Clothes Doctor will build on the strength and flexibility of their decentralised model as they continue to scale. They have expanded their footprint to new regions and platforms over the past 12 months, as well as launching a number of new care and repair products. Their positioning as the destination for everything customers need to take care of their clothes creates a smooth user experience and promotes brand loyalty.
Published 23 November 2021
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation works to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. We develop and promote the idea of a circular economy, and work with business, academia, policymakers, and institutions to mobilise systems solutions at scale, globally.
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