Jack Ostrowski has been working with post-consumer textiles for over a decade and speaks to David Styles about his latest venture, reGAIN, an apparel recycling app with which he is hoping to build a circular fashion legacy.
Business-to-business magazine interviews can, however wrongly, often be perceived as less vibrant and altogether more serious than those written for a solely consumer readership. This is something which, however hard a journalist tries to conform to, is categorically disproven when speaking to the founder of reGAIN. Jack Ostrowski's enthusiasm for his business and sense of humour about some of the most serious issues facing the textile sector is enough to raise a smile on the face of even the most dismayed and depressed environmentalist.
Like many of the innovations which come to revolutionise the way we as a society operate, reGAIN was born from its founder's personal experience. "I know the online shopping habits of my daughter and how it all works for that generation." Ostrowski, courtesy of his daughter's insight into the newest generation of fashion consumers, understands that ease-of-use is key to engaging with young audiences. As such, after downloading the app, customers can box up unwanted clothing and ship them to reGAIN free of charge from over 20,000 drop-off points, earning discount coupons as they go. Through his work with Yellow Octopus (his previous post-consumer textile venture), Ostrowski has also built up an understanding of how, why and where consumers recycle and has chosen to channel this into creating a platform with the potential to slow down the disposal of garments. "There's a big challenge in front of everyone. First of all, people don't realise how big the problem is. The second is that so far there is nothing really in place to make a change." While take-back initiatives are not something earth-shudderingly new, a variation on a theme is probably the best way to describe the reGAIN approach to repurposing disused garments.
"People who are green become greener but the general public don't really care."
Ostrowski explained: "I knew H&M launched its take-back programme and rolled it out globally which for them was quite successful. This made me think about all my customers who work online only - they cannot take bags and boxes of clothes in the bricks and mortar store. I realised that there had to be another way. "I wanted to improve the H&M initiative because, despite it working well, it's mono-brand. If you drop the clothes there you will get a £5 voucher but that is limited to that retailer. "Also it gives you a coupon to buy more clothes and what we wanted to do was to offer consumers the choice of shopping at many retailers but also give them the chance to buy a new mattress for student accommodation or a holiday package. Instead of only being able to buy clothes they can buy an experience which I think is a more sustainable way."