VinoKilo: vintage clothes, modern thinking

This is VinoKilo. A vintage clothes pop up that encourages people to see clothes as timeless pieces of art at various events around Europe. In 2.5 years VinoKilo has given 81,000 kg of clothing a new life. That’s over 200,000 pieces of fine quality clothing that have been saved from waste or landfill.

Founder Robin Balser proclaims, “We don’t say sell, we say give a new life”.

VinoKilo was founded to give people an opportunity to buy second-hand clothes as first-hand fashion, at scale. They wanted to give everyone, yes everyone, meaning from all income levels and all different parts of society, the chance to choose second-hand clothes over first-hand fashion, because of its many advantages.

One of them is sustainability, which is at the heart of VinoKilo. When we talk about pollution, most people imagine big oil companies as the main culprit, but actually the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries there is, with all the different processes from collecting raw materials, to cleaning, transport and eventually disposing (or not disposing) of them.

VinoKilo aims to make it even easier to be sustainable, for even more people. This year they held 71 events, and next year they want to grow to 138. They will revisit some of their current cities more often, as well as adding new ones to the list, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Austria, Luxembourg, Germany and Netherlands to name a few. Find all their events and news here.

Numerous other fashion brands are talking about sustainability and launching their own sustainable line, but when it’s got a luxury price tag that the majority of people can’t afford, it's basically “just another marketing idea”. VinoKilo has the aim to make sustainable clothing a reality, without saying “stop shopping!” or pointing a finger at anyone.

The clothes come from all over the world, and VinoKilo intercepts them before they are sent on to less developed places, or before they get thrown out to landfill. Now you might think that intercepting clothes being sent to those who need them is a bad thing, but it’s actually a very conscious choice made by the team.

Often the western world pile up their old clothes into sacks and send them off to ‘those in need’, and then feel pretty good about themselves. VinoKilo sees it differently. They have seen first hand that giving free clothes is more disadvantageous to the locals than beneficial.

In Rwanda, Ghana and Kenya, the local garment industry has disappeared as they can’t compete with the low cost of imported clothes. They are not just talking about being sustainable like other fashion brands, they are really thinking about sustainability in every aspect of their business.

The rest of the clothes are often saved from going to landfill to waste, but they are definitely not the ‘rubbish’ that people often associate with second hand. A lot of people are pleasantly surprised by the quality of clothes that they find at an event, the kind of quality that is definitely not ready to be thrown out.

A tremendous amount of work goes into finding, sorting and preparing the clothes before they are ready to be on display at one of the many pop up events. They follow the credo ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ and, using their acquired knowledge and experience and Facebook polls asking potential attendees what they want to see, they select the clothes that they believe their visitors are going to love the most.

The clothes are then washed, repaired and folded by hand, ready to be transported to the location or put on display. Checking every item by hand is a lot of work, but 100% worth it as they want to position themselves as far away from the second hand, mouldy vintage store image as possible, “we can’t look like a vintage store, we can’t smell like a vintage store, we have to look like all the fast fashion brands so people understand that second hand is no different from the first hand fashion”.

And at a time when clothing waste is at an all-time high, we are happy to partner with a company who is trying to reduce the waste, not add to it. In America, the average person throws away 30 kg of clothing every single year. ‘Greener’ Europeans are still throwing away half of that on average.

We need to be better to the environment in all areas of life, fashion is just one of them. One way to do this is by offering alternatives, making it as easy as possible for people to be sustainable. This is their aim with the pop up events. And this is our aim with going paperless / cashless. It’s a small step, but it's in the right direction.

At an average event they expect to see around 2000 people. This means that their processes need to be well organised and structured, otherwise it would be chaos. Every event is set up with a flow in mind, from the entrance, to the clothing racks, to the weighing and paying. So their SumUp Air Reader helps a lot with speed, keeping people moving at a good pace and not having to spend a lot of time at the checkout.

They've already had a lot of success using our payment system, not only in terms of speed, but also because you never know what you’re going to find at an event, so having the option to pay by card means that people don’t need to worry about having the right amount of cash, or having to choose between two or three items, “that’s the beauty of vintage clothes shopping!”

VinoKilo are at the beginning of their journey, but there is already a lot we can learn from Robin and his team. They are do-ers, not talkers, they believe in action. Robin’s advice to anyone who is waiting or wanting to start their own thing is simple: “if you have the drive to do and execute, you’re good”. VinoKilo is sending a big message to the fashion industry, but their statement lies in their action, not just in their words.

VinoKilo are happy that they found SumUp, and we are happy that they found us! We’re always excited and motivated to help the everyday hero chase their dreams, and get closer to achieving the mission they set out on. They are working towards a great cause, and we hope that together, the success will continue to grow.

Find out more about our card readers for small businesses.

You can watch the full interview on YouTube here.

Alex Thumwood