No one knows it better than our youth: there is no Planet B. That’s why concepts like Mini-Cycle—a female-led, Montreal-based startup that specialises in circular economy for kids’ fashion—are so crucial. We chatted with Mini-Cycle’s founder, Jad Robitaille, about her aim to curb the lure of fast fashion and offer financial benefit and ease of participation for families with kids to clothes. —Vita Daily
Hi Jad! When and why did you launch Mini-Cycle? What niche were you looking to fill with the brand?
My career journey combined with a growing passion for the environment sparked the creation of Mini-Cycle. After completing my bachelor of commerce at McGill University and working abroad for Bombardier Transportation in Bangkok, Thailand, I decided to focus my career on the welfare of society and the environment. Returning to Canada, I jumped into a master’s degree in Environmental Studies from Queen’s University (while having my first daughter). From there, I taught strategies in sustainability at McGill right after having my second daughter. While teaching, I got interested in the concept of the circular economy. I honed in on the impact fast fashion was having on the planet, and quickly realized kids fashion is particularly detrimental given the lifespan that garments have on our fast growing children—this is when the idea of the Mini-Cycle was born. In 2018, I launched our online circular marketplace. My hope is to be part of a “solve” that slows the prominence of fast fashion while offering easy opt in and financial benefits for families to do so.
That said, could you explain a little more about what it means to specialize in circular economy for kids’ fashion? It’s such an innovative concept!
Our online boutique offers both new and preloved clothes (zero to 12 years old) and guarantees to buy back everything once kids outgrow them. All new clothes sold on the platform are chosen for their durability so that they can come back to Mini-Cycle as many times as possible. The goal is for each piece to come back at least four to five times in order to cancel out their ecological footprint (according to a study, every time a piece of clothing is used for nine months, it decreases its environmental footprint by 25 per cent). Our mission at Mini-Cycle is to make high-quality, sustainable clothes more accessible to all by giving a pay back to the families who return their clothes and by offering durable pieces at a fraction of the price in the preloved (Re-Cycle) section.
So, exactly how does the process at Mini-Cycle work?
We believed there was a value in providing options for quality new items in addition to building up our secondhand market. Many of our customers mix their purchases with both new and secondhand, and know that all the items they buy can then be sent back and resold. Mini-Cycle works by practicing sustainability in three different ways:
- Pre-Cycle: We only sell new apparel that is made with quality & longevity in mind.
- Mid-Cycle: We buy back ALL apparel purchased from Mini-Cycle within the last two years at a fair and transparent market price (and for a limited time, items bought elsewhere so long as from non-fast fashion brands).
- Re-Cycle: We sell or repurpose preloved Mini-Cycle items until they are completely worn out and then those garments are recycled in a meaningful way.
One big point of differentiation for us is when buying back items, we value everything. We repair and clean all items to give them another life. If cleaning and repair don’t work to get pieces into resell condition, we make sure to find a home for them through up-cycling or meaningful donation. Through these processes, we are hoping to create a closed loop cycle (a mini-cycle) where eventually only high quality/durable kids clothes are purchased and reused. The goal is to put an end to fast fashion and all the negative impact it has on society and the environment.
Beyond environmental, what are some of the other benefits offered by Mini-Cycle’s unique process of “recycling”?
I used to buy children’s clothes at big brands and noticed that the fabric was already deteriorating after four washes or “buttons and bows” started falling off after the first wear. I always found this really frustrating because I always wanted to keep these pieces as “hand-me-downs” for another child. Obviously, it is always tempting to buy from fast fashion brands because their prices are lower and, whether we like it or not, our little ones grow up so quickly that sometimes it feels frivolous to spend a lot of money on higher quality and durable apparel. What I wanted to offer with Mini-Cycle were solutions to this problem. Through our website, people can access new (Pre-Cycle) and preloved (Re-Cycle)—both high-quality apparel specifically selected for their durability, longevity and sustainability. The clothes offered at Mini-Cycle can be more expensive than what people normally would pay at a big brand name store because they are durable and well made using higher quality fabrics. However, the added benefit is our guarantee to buy back any item purchased on our website, meaning that in the end, the apparel that people purchase with us costs less and is hassle free.
How do people participate/get started?
For those interested in either purchasing or Re-Cycling with us, you can do so either by visiting our website or coming to see us in-person at our Montreal store location. Our “Re-Cycle” program was designed to be as easy as possible (shipping on us!) for those wishing to sell with us and all of the steps are clearly outlined on our website on the “Sell Mid-Cycle”.
What are two or three pieces that have come through in the buy-back program that have been really special/exciting for you? And tell us … were there any that you’ve snagged (or wanted to snag) for your own daughters?!
There are always so many pieces that I love seeing come back into the cycle. The ones that have a deep meaning to me are those that I have put in the cycle myself (and I know it’s the same for many of my customers that see their pieces get a second/third life). It always makes me smile when I see a piece that my daughters used to wear or see their little names on the care tag. The more kids’ names belong to a piece, the more value it has in my eyes as the pieces tell a story on their own and it’s one that is more responsible. I am also very proud when new pieces purchased at Mini-Cycle come back into our cycle. We are thrilled to see brands come back that we love such as Oeuf, Tinycottons, Bobo Choses, Patagonia, etc. Recently we received an Oeuf deer onesie that was made of baby alpaca wool. We loved that what would normally sell for $250 would go to a lucky parent for less than half the price. The idea is to democratise durable clothes for kids, and with high quality pieces it helps us achieve this. One of our challenges at the moment is getting more pieces in larger sizes. Now that my daughters are four and six, it is rare that I succeed in “snagging” anything—I rarely take preloved pieces out of the cycle before they have gone online to maximize what my customer has access to. Pieces sell out so fast from pre-loved!
Win! A $150 Mini-Cycle Gift Card!
Congrats Kiersten K. of Waterloo, Ontario, who will receive a $150 Mini-Cycle Gift Card!