Lauryn Vaughn was born in small town British Columbia and eventually moved to Calgary with her mom, who was a single at the time and also pursuing her Master’s Degree in Education. After high school, Lauryn enrolled in a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Calgary and interned for Canadian fashion designer, Paul Hardy. While working for Paul, she had the opportunity to attend various fashion weeks – this is when she travelled to Paris for the first time and officially fell in love with the city! After she graduated University, she purchased a one-way ticket and moved to the very city she fell in love with. One year living in Paris really taught her how to look fabulous on a budget.
TFR: What is The Upside?
Lauryn Vaughn (LV): The Upside is a technology enabled luxury resale retailer that allows women to seamlessly buy and sell designer items online. 77% of a woman’s closet went relatively unworn in the last year and The Upside helps to digitize the buying and selling of those latent assets.
TFR: What is the entrepreneur story that inspired the launch of the company?
LV: While living in Paris, I had to get creative on how to look stylish while living on a budget. I discovered various second-hand thrift stores that carried unique luxury pieces for a fraction of the cost. The consignment model itself was not new, but I saw an opportunity to bring this model online, specifically in Canada because there was nobody in the Canadian market offering luxury online resale. I eventually moved back to Canada and started working on The Upside!
TFR: Resale Market is growing as new generations endorse sustainability and circular economy while prefer experience over ownership. Online marketplaces specializing in resale like The RealReal, ThredUp, Poshmark, amongst other are leading the reuse market. But also “regular” marketplaces like Farfetch or apparel retailers like Patagonia with Worn Wear are including second hand products into their portfolio or distribution channels.
What is The Upside value proposition and competitive advantage over your competition? (e.g. curated assortment, customer service, quality control, technology platform)
LV: Our competitive advantage is twofold. Not only do we empower women to understand the value of what is in their closet (educating them on how to invest better AND feel better), we invested early on in a technology that closes the buyer-seller loop. Because of our technology, we have the ability to also keep track of “consigner” dollars. And we are continuing to grow, as in the next few years resale and retail will be further integrated and consumers will take part in both as part of their standard shopping habits.
TFR: In your opinion, what are the challenges of resale? (e.g. reverse logistics, quality control)
LV: Quality control is a challenge for sure. When working in a consumer-to-consumer marketplace, some companies have taken this out of the equation which can lead to a whole other set of issues such as authenticity. At The Upside we have chosen to warehouse our items and have a managed marketplace where our team is undergoing quality control at the time of intake to make sure every item is curated and in “new” to “very gently loved” condition. We want to make sure our brand standards remain high and users know the level of quality when they buy from us.
TFR: The RealReal is opening brick-and-mortar stores and Vestiaire Collective opened a corner in Selfridge. More and more digital players are testing the “offline” side of the business.
What is your strategy in this regard?
LV: During COVID we were under construction in our new space where we have a retail concept, logistics, warehousing as well as our offices. It is based in Calgary in a historical building, which gives a great representation of what our brand is – empowered, educated and a touch of feminine! From here our strategy is pop-ups and logistics and warehousing in various other markets across Canada.
TFR: What is your vision of the future of fashion retail (physical stores)?
LV: This will be interesting to watch play out. I see e-commerce becoming increasingly more essential and retail becoming even more experiential – the retail experience will become comparable to a social outing or get together such as grabbing a coffee with a friend. Brands will have to continue to find a way to offer that value beyond just purchasing.
“I see e-commerce becoming increasingly more essential and retail becoming even more experiential – the retail experience will become comparable to a social outing or get together such as grabbing a coffee with a friend”.
TFR: Resale market assortment is mostly represented by luxury or high-end fashion brands, which are covering intangible needs like belonging, appreciation or self-fulfillment. Do you feel the economic crisis, due to covid-19, could lead to a redefinition of the assortment in the platforms mentioned above or create an opportunity in the mass-market segment? (in fact, GAP partnered with ThredUp – feb2020).
LV: I think we are going to see a rise in appreciation of the value of cost savings of resale designer items and the continued fall of fast fashion. ThredUp has always been the world’s biggest consignment store, “from Gap to Gucci” being their mantra, so that partnership makes sense. Consumers are going to be looking to what these companies are doing to provide a secondary life for their garments, the landfill should not be an option and so these partnerships will continue to happen.
TFR: Last March, some reports mentioned that Second-hand clothing businesses could face issues due to customer fearing used clothing. Fear is evolving from a health to an economic threat, and now we see reports saying that resale market is booming (Robb Report).
What is your opinion or prediction in this regard?
LV: In March we did see some uncertainty as there was a ton of mixed messages regarding safety of garments and different surfaces. As companies took precautions, this was fairly swiftly disregarded as a threat, sales still continued to boom. And we ended up having higher sales in April and May this year compared to the same months last year.
TFR: How important is technology on The Upside operations? What are your priorities in that sense? (Supply chain traceability, Customer Relationship Management, User / buyer / supplier experience in regard UX / UI)
LV: Our priority is in the consignor flow – we want to use our technology to make it as easy as possible for people to sell items, while providing information along the way (investment and environmental impact), and then purchasing other items. We also love the community of women that The Upside has anonymously brought together and I believe there is something there we can dig into further.
TFR: In regards of talent, what skills are you demanding in your company? Big data analyst, developers, stylists… More scientific than artistic profiles?
LV: We are lucky to already have so many diverse skillsets on our team, but we are always on the hunt for data analysts and developers. These are key skills needed as we continue to grow our technology, and ensure it works seamlessly for our growing number of users. If you know of any, please send them my way 😉
One thought on “A few words with The Upside Founder and CEO”
I found it very interesting that Lauryn alluded to investing in technology early on as her company’s competitive advantage. And because of this foresight, scaling her business will come much more naturally. As someone who has spent my summer researching buying and planning tools for fashion retailers, I think that like-minded readers could unlock value with technology consultants daVinci Retail. daVinci specializes in addressing the core problems of retail buyers by helping them plan their purchases more efficiently. I’ve included a link here: https://www.davinciretail.com/