Clean Clothes is a series examining the fashion industry’s impact on our planet, and the brands, technologies, and people helping us toward a cleaner, more environmentally conscious future.
Think you wore out your Arc’teryx gear? Good news: the company wants to buy it. Better news: they also want to fix it, then sell it for cheap.
This morning, Vancouver-based Arc’teryx announced the launch of Rock Solid, a “recommerce program” designed to unlock the potential of unused gear. Through the program, the brand behind grails like the Alpha SV will play the role of Grailed, facilitating the buying and reselling of its hardcore apparel, with the added step of making any necessary repairs pre-sale.
The goal: keep gear designed to do anything safe from doing nothing.
“The longevity and multi-use stand we take for hardshells is an engrained philosophy that reaches into all aspects of our business,” explains Dan Green, Arc’teryx’s VP of Design. “It’s really exciting for us to play a part in extending the value of worn gear by getting pieces back out there.”
Case in point, the name of the platform is a reference to the company’s original name when it was founded 30 years ago. Re-use? Longevity? On a windswept peak somewhere, Arc’teryx marketing is having fun.
While Rock Solid was built with endurance in mind, there’s a powerful flip side to making gear live ‘til it dies. Longer product lifecycles means less product thrown out. Less product thrown out means less product bought, then less made, and so on. In its own adrenaline-first way, Arc’teryx, it would appear, is nodding to sustainability.
“The way we try to solve problems here is through design process,” says Drummond Lawson, the brand’s Sustainability Director. “In this case, it was a sustainability problem. It takes a lot of resources to build these products.”
A 2013 lifecycle assessment of a GORE-TEX jacket found that it consumed 992 MJ of primary energy over its lifetime – equivalent to a quarter of the average American home’s monthly electric bill. That same assessment found that the “jacket’s life time was the single most influential parameter for improving several environmental impacts.”
Hence, a “recommerce” platform. One jacket is made. Multiple owners enjoy it. Everyone wins. That said, Arc’teryx is not the first big brand to solve problems this way.
Patagonia is famous for its gear-extending efforts, immortalized in 2011 with the plea “Don’t Buy This Jacket.” In 2017, the brand launched Worn Wear, described as an “online store” for used gear. The North Face introduced its own used gear store, Renewed, last July.
However, it’s not just the logo that makes Rock Solid different. The cornerstone of the Arc’teryx platform is buy-backs.
Instead of collecting donations, Arc’teryx will buy back used gear directly from customers, then repair it on a special “reassembly” line in its Vancouver factory. Items that qualify will net customers 20% of their original retail value in the form of a gift card. For some of the brand’s pricier jackets (the aforementioned Alpha SV goes for $749), this can add up.
According to the brand, these buy-back efforts are being prioritized over the resale side of Rock Solid. Enthusiasts should expect discounts on gear priced to move.
“It’s entirely possible that most users we service will be more interested in finding something that’s just less than retail,” Lawson continues. “It may not have anything to do with the fact that they effectively have a zero resource footprint jacket. But that’s great. It means we’re speaking to a wide audience. “
Another thing to expect: throwback finds, including some real odd Dead Birds.
“All of our vintage pieces went out into the world at a time when we could have never imagined any of them returning, so there is some unexpected nostalgia seeing them,” says Green. “Each piece is a snapshot in time of where we’ve been and the things we tried.”
What does “things we tried” mean from a brand known for exacting performance and a design-solution mentality?
“We made a GORE-TEX onesie in the early 2000’s,” adds Lawson. “I’m just excited to see what comes out of the woodwork.”
Rock Solid: Used Gear now is accessible online at https://rocksolid.arcteryx.com. Products from the brand’s Veilance and Arc’teryx LEAF lines will not be part of the initial launch.