The direct-to-consumer innerwear and loungewear brand is launching a program today called Second Life by Parade that allows consumers to mail back their used underwear in an effort to prevent them from ending up in landfills.
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“When we’ve talked to our community members, we’ve heard again and again that they’ve had underwear that they’ve been keeping for years, underwear that they’ve had since college that they just don’t know how to get rid of,” Parade founder and chief executive officer Cami Téllez told WWD, regarding the inspiration for the program. “Underwear isn’t something you’re supposed to keep for many years; it’s not something you can resell or thrift. So where does your underwear go after you’re done with it? That’s the question we’ve been trying to answer at Parade from the very beginning.
“Ultimately, for us, this [recycling program] is a challenge to the rest of the underwear category to see how they’re going to uplevel their sustainability efforts and for them to think about the whole life cycles of their products,” Téllez continued.
Shoppers anywhere in the U.S. can go to yourparade.com/recycle to receive a free biodegradable mailer and prepaid shipping label, fill the bag with as much underwear as can fit and then send it back to Parade. The brand is working with recycling firm TerraCycle, which will recycle the underwear and turn it into things like housing installation, furniture upholstery or bedding.
Any brand of undies will do — not just Parade — including men’s, women’s and children’s underwear, and can be pre-worn, said Kerry Steib, Parade’s vice president of Brand and Impact, as well as lead on the Second Life by Parade project. She just said the garments should be washed before mailed out.
“One of the reasons we built this program is because we know there are so many people out there who have had the same underwear for a really long time,” Steib said. “And it’s really hard, because there’s not a lot of sustainable alternatives to be able to get rid of it. So most of it ends up in landfills. We want to make sure we’re doing whatever we can to keep our products out of landfills.”
The new recycling program goes hand-in-hand with Parade’s other sustainability targets, such as being carbon neutral and making all packaging recyclable or biodegradable this year, and then sourcing from only certified recycled or bio-based sources and achieving carbon positive status by 2025.
Lofty goals for the New York-based innerwear brand that Téllez founded online in 2019. But Téllez, a Gen Z-er, said she “set out to build a brand that is writing a new underwear story. And doing so by being a value brand that stands for deep values like sustainability and inclusivity and celebrating who you are today.
“When I started this business, to me, there was no other way to build a company that was going to be enduring, other than to think about our impact on the planet,” she continued. “The world of fashion is the most wasteful industry. But also the world of underwear. I hadn’t seen a brand come to the mass market that had a sustainable option and was really considering — not just the materials that go into the underwear, which has [also] been a big part of our focus, so far. Ninety-five percent of our underwear is made from recycled or possibly sourced materials — but also thinking about the full picture. Consumers are starting to understand more and more that there needs to be real consideration to what they do with their products and with their products after they’re done.”
In its roughly three-year life span, Parade has raised more than $50 million in outside investments, most recently securing a $20 million series B round led by growth-equity firm Stripes. The innerwear brand has also increased revenues 200 percent, year-over-year, grown to a team of about 70 people and opened its first brick-and-mortar store in New York SoHo neighborhood during the recent holiday shopping season.
Téllez said there are plans to expand the retail fleet (the current location at 577 Broadway will remain open for the rest of the year), possibly move into wholesale with “like-minded partners” in the future and add new categories to the mix.
“We’re going to be opportunistic about future expansion,” she said. “Our plan is to meet the customer in person. And we’re continuing to understand which are the right partners for us that are going to help us change the category for the better. And thinking more and more about that skin-contact layer. We’re going to continue to go into the adjacent drawers that are underneath underwear. We’re really focused on what we call creative basics and on revolutionizing those skin-contact layers that are so emotional, because that’s really the spark and fire of the mission.”