Why I started the business
By Sian Rowlands, CEO and Chief Storyteller
Hi, I'm Sian and I'm a recovered shopaholic.
My story actually started with a bad habit….I used to be a bit of a shopaholic! Just over 8 years ago, I realised I was broke so decided to rent out my spare room to a friend, but before doing so I needed to clear out the wardrobes and as such ended up with 4 packing boxes full of great condition clothes – a lot of them still with their original tags on them. When I calculated how much lost money was folded away in those boxes having never been worn I suddenly understood why I was broke. In fact, I was quite shocked and a little ashamed of myself and of how much money I had wasted. So I looked to the local market for somewhere I could sell all these pieces, but couldn’t find anything that properly fit the bill. I knew I wasn’t the only woman in Dubai who was in this situation, so after a bit of research, I wrote a business plan and the company was born! Straight away I knew I was onto a good idea because there was so much demand for the service and the events, and within the first 6 months I won two business awards and a small grant.
Originally, my sisters and I had called the business My Ex Wardrobe, which had caught on really well, and for the first few years we organised and hosted regular pop-up-shop parties at bars and restaurants around Dubai, where money-savvy women came to shop pre-loved fashion from their favourite high-street brands, designers and luxury labels.
After a several years of the side hustle, I realised that the business needed more input than just my spare time. I wanted to deliver a bigger, better version of the concept. So I decided to make a change, and began looking for an investor. As chance would have it, whilst I was on holiday trekking in the Himalayas (as one does to take a much needed ‘relaxing’ break!), I met Adam, a corporate lawyer from New Zealand who loved the sound of the business and my vision for the future. Adam wanted to get involved and help grow the business, so that trip ended up being life-changing in more ways than one. After many hours brainstorming, much research, deliberation and testing, the new brand, RETOLD was brought to life.
Part of my mission with Retold is to make the world a better place, starting with the UAE. We need to change the collective mindset of our society. We all seem addicted to ‘consuming’ and ‘buying’ and we have become dependent on items that are ‘throw away’ – like single-use plastics, fast fashion, electronics that become obsolete as soon as the next model is released. So many of the products we spend our money on are no longer made to last so that we might simply buy new ones over and over again. It is this mindset, we at Retold are trying to help change. By giving ‘consumers’ an option to shop pre-owned, quality goods in a city obsessed with the ‘new’ and the ‘shiny’, we are empowering our customers to embrace a new and fabulous way to consume. By buying pre-owned, our fashion consumers are diverting textile waste from landfills, but more importantly they are reducing their demand on fast fashion and newly created, ‘throw away’ fashion. Even better - they are making their hard earned money go further which helps promote a healthy economy.
One of the things we’ve had to do over the last several years is educate the market about what we offer, and find our community that supports the initiative. We’ve done a lot of hard work to ensure that pre-owned fashion is no longer seen as something belonging in musty thrifts shops rammed full of grotty and out-of-date granny blouses. Globally, we’re seeing a noticeable shift in the fashion industry with the rise in popularity of ‘resale’ instead of ‘retail’. Locally, there’s decreasing desire to trawl the mall, limited to the same selection as everyone else; style seekers want to find unique options to put together one-of-a-kind looks. And if they can make their money go further… it’s an all-round win!
So to summarise my ‘why’ for the business, I have to admit, it has changed over the years. It started as a ‘bright idea to fill a gap in the market’ because I noticed a pain-point for many ladies around me. Over the years as I discovered the multitude of benefits of buying and selling pre-owned fashion. I started to grow more and more passionate about living a more minimal, sustainable, low impact life, and so my ‘why’ has changed, as my own story unfolded. Today, my ‘why’ is you; giving YOU the option to shop smarter, to make YOUR money go further, and to help YOU make the world a better place.
Past tense: RETOLD; past participle: RETOLD
Definition: “tell (a story) again and again” or “tell (a story) differently”