written by Melody Flumendorf
photography Alina Betge
You’ve heard about Vinokilo events, you might have seen us on social media, but you still don’t know what we’re about? Is our kilo sale worth it? What are our values? And what does vino have to do with it? Here’s the lowdown.
Vinokilo exists to offer an alternative to fast fashion. Our goal is to make hunting for vintage treasures more enjoyable than buying something from the most prominent fast-fashion chains. That’s why we don’t just sell clothes; we want to create an experience. We have a dedicated planning team that find unique locations for our Vinokilo events.
Instead of pricing our items per unit, we list our stock in different categories, like dresses and sweaters. Then, we calculate costs for inventory, operations, the team, and marketing to develop a kilo price for each category.
We have a large selection of clothing to make sure there’s something for every taste and budget.
Our online store is available in 14 countries; 70-80% of consumers are from Germany. At present, we sell around 45,000 items online. All of them get measured and photographed by hand to give our customers the best shopping experience. We made the conscious decision not to outsource or processes to low-wage countries so we can keep control over the items we send to our customers.
As our company is growing, so is our warehouse. That’s why we decided to go digital and add a QR code to every piece of clothing. That way, every item is traceable to the millimetre.
Robin Balser says that isn’t easy: “there aren’t many companies out there that sell single items of clothing. We had little to go on and have to keep inventing our procedures and processes.”
Our founder, Robin Balser, has spent many years (and nights!) finding the right secondhand resellers. He wants to sell only the best quality clothes, and finding them is a team effort. You have to shift through hundreds of kilos of clothing to find the gems, the ones Vinokilo wants to offer.
Our supply chain starts with a recycling warehouse. We currently have 35 of these in our supply chain. Most of them are in Europe, but you’ll find them as far as Canada and Norway. Most of the clothes in these warehouses get shipped to African and Southeast Asia destinations. Annually, up to 4 million tonnes of used textiles are shipped across the planet, a trade worth around $4.6 billion. That’s a problem in itself.
30 years ago, Kenya had around 110 large scale textile manufacturers. That had dropped by 50% by 2006, mainly because of imported secondhand clothes. As a result, the local employment rate of the clothing industry went from 500,000 to 20,000 workers. And Kenya is not alone: In 2018, 80% of all clothing purchased in Uganda was second hand. It imported around 1,300 tonnes of used clothing from the U.S. Nigeria even banned imported secondary clothing to protect its own clothing industry. Keeping these clothes in Europe is better for the environment and the people.
Back to the warehouses. What ends up here is picked out from our main supplier in the Netherlands before the clothing gets shipped abroad. This supplier has trained people in selecting clothes according to our quality standards. That results in him picking only 1% of all the textiles offered. These gems then get washed and repaired before they start their journey from Amsterdam to our main warehouse in Mainz. On average, we received around 35 tons of clothes every month. 87% of our stock gets sold. Even the 3% of textiles that end up damaged get upcycled. That’s something we’re proud of.
On average, that can be a dress, a shirt and three t-shirts. The lighter the clothes, the more you can get for your kilo as a rule of thumb. So if, for example, dresses cost 30€ per kilo, a beautiful vintage summer dress that weighs 500 grams will cost you as little as 15€.
Due to operational e-commerce issues, we don’t sell per kilo online. There aren’t a lot of e-commerce shop systems and marketplaces that support such a pricing model. But don’t worry, we’re working on it.
We think they are, or we wouldn’t sell them for that price. All our items are picked, checked and prepared by hand. Compare that with rummaging through a pile of things somewhere at a market. Unlike other secondhand stores or flea markets, we also check the quality of the textiles we sell beforehand, so you’ll find materials like cotton and linen. You’ll also find that vintage clothes are of better quality.
We want to turn buying vintage clothes into an experience you can enjoy, an alternative to fast-fashion shopping. It’s even in our name: vino stands for the wine we offer whilst you shop for a kilo of new vintage clothes.
We want you to have a good time and enjoy your shopping trip. You’re doing something good when you purchase secondhand clothes; why not make you feel good about it? That’s why we add local musicians, great street food sellers and good wine to the mix.
And of course, we also want to you be happy with your treasures, so we’ll put a lot of effort into finding them as well as caring for them. We have teams that do nothing else but steam and prepare our items so you’ll get them in perfect vintage condition. And we pair fair wages. Our prices reflect that.
We want to turn one of the most polluting industries around. That’s why we sell high-quality vintage fashion. And we’re committed to a safe working environment that puts people first.
To move forward, we must look back. Vintage means embracing history and including all generations. It’s powerful and the reason we exist.
We believe that we’re stronger if we support each other. That means standing up for each other’s rights and safety and celebrating our wins together. We want you to be you and support individuality within our community. Here’s how we do that in our company:
So you see, when you buy Vinokilo clothes, you’re not only saving great clothes from the landfill; you’re supporting a change in values. Have a look at our Facebook group or Instagram page to see when there’s a Vinokilo event near you!
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