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Platforms like Depop may be synonymous with virtual thrifting and sustainability today, but Nasty Gal, the online fashion retailer under the Boohoo group, is trying to tap back into its early associations with sustainability.
“Sustainable products have been what the business is built on” since it launched 15 years ago, said Kelly Byrne, Nasty Gal’s commercial director, on the latest episode of the Glossy Podcast. “Our vintage collections are still some of our fastest selling collections.”
Byrne, whose main task is to “ensure the business reaches its commercial goals,” has been at the forefront of Nasty Gal’s responses to changing trends over the past year. That’s included adapting to the pushes for comfort and eco-consciousness within the fashion industry.
“We can react [to trends] in around 3-4 weeks,” said Byrne. For example, Nasty Gal quickly added casual items like sweatsuits to its online store in 2020. However, consumer preferences have begun to get “back to normal” since March 2021. “We’ve started to see a real uptick in those traditional summer categories,” like swimwear, footwear and dresses,” she said. That brings “a lot of positivity” to the festival- and vacation-centric brand, she added.
Still, the brand plans to remain focused on circularity. “By the end of this financial year, 20% of our product offering will be more sustainably produced,” said Byrne. She hopes to increase that to 40% by the following year.
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Educating without lecturing
“Education [is] about tapping into different social networks that all have their own part to play. Our Instagram audience wants content in a different way than our Pinterest audience and our LinkedIn audience. It’s about understanding the customer’s needs on each channel, and pivoting and altering the content to make it connect with them. What we’re finding with our customers is they’re happy to know that they’ve got a pair of organic denim jeans, but they want to know how many liters of water were used to produce this and what the dyes are made of. So that’s where it’s our opportunity to work with influencers and people to tell that story on our behalf, because they have their own loyal followings, as well.”
Transparency from the get
“Nasty Gal is not going out there saying, ‘We’re a fully sustainable brand, and we know everything about sustainability.’ This [topic] is changing all the time. What we need to do is just be open and honest with our customers and say, ‘We’re not going to get it right every time, but please, join us on this journey. Understand what we’re trying to do. Talk to us, and tell us what you like and what you don’t like. What do you want to see more of? What do you not want to see more of?’ We’ve got nearly 5 million followers on Instagram and about 40 million followers across [social], and those guys will tell you if they don’t like something. We listen, learn and take those comments on board. We’re a customer-led business, and we’re about trying to react to what our customers want, and that’s what keeps us ahead. If we all work together, we can produce more sustainable products, which ultimately will be much better for the planet.”
A digital-first proposition
“We love doing pop-ups. We’ve done quite a few globally — not so much in the last 18 months, but it’s definitely on the agenda for this year. We love getting out and meeting people in different markets and taking the product to them and showing them what we’re all about. But the true essence of the business and the group is to operate as an online-only business. That’s where it allows us to be so much more agile and reactive. We’re not tied into six months with a product that’s ordered [way] ahead. If we think it’s going to be a heatwave and all of a sudden it gets really cold, we can ‘remerch’ our site to react to that. Whereas if we had a brick-and-mortar store, we couldn’t. We’re very much aligned with the group as an online platform, but we do take our brand offline at times in a pop-up environment.”