Uptraded: A swapping approach for fashion sustainability in Austria

In Austria, 221,800 tons of textile end up as waste, according to the Environmental Agency. This staggering amount highlights a significant issue within the fast fashion industry, which contributes nearly 10% of global carbon emissions. To combat this, multiple solutions are necessary, including altering perceptions about second-hand clothing and promoting swapping. We spoke with Anna Greil, founder of uptraded, about their startup’s impact on this critical issue.

Where is the Thrown Away Clothing Going?

Of the 221,834 tons of textile waste produced in Austria, 77% is incinerated for energy creation. Merely 10% finds its way into the second-hand market, and only 7% is recycled. According to the Federal Environment Agency on behalf of the Ministry for Climate Protection. Uptraded aims to impact these percentages by facilitating clothes swapping among users. “We have over 20,000 users, predominantly from Austria and Germany,” shares Anna Greil.

Uptraded initially started with offline events to build a community. As an app, it was launched last year by Anna Greil and her team. “We aim to offer people fashionable variety and help them find their style without the negative impacts of fast fashion consumption,” Anna explains. Uptraded’s approach addresses the issue from one angle, as most textile waste is generated post-consumption. “On good weeks, we see 1,000 swaps on uptraded. The cycle of buying fast fashion is quite different from second-hand swapping. I think in society, gifting second-hand items isn’t yet common,” she adds.

Advantages of Swapping

Swapping clothes is an excellent way to refresh one’s wardrobe with unique items, without any monetary exchange. This approach circumvents fraud issues. “At uptraded, for now, you only exchange clothes, so there’s no need to add credit card details or anything similar,” says Anna. She also highlights the perception of value in swapping: “It’s fascinating that both parties perceive an increase in value through a swap. That’s why we’re called uptraded – because it’s about up-trading.” Currently, the app facilitates one-to-one exchanges, ideal for users with similar sizes and styles – what they refer to as ‘style twins’ or ‘buddies.’ For those who haven’t found their style buddy, Anna mentions, “We’re exploring different models that don’t rely only on one-on-one swaps”

The future for uptraded 

One significant challenge for uptraded is functioning as a non-monetary transaction marketplace within the circular economy, where best practices for monetization are scarce. “Ideas for monetization strategies, or examples from other industries that could apply to uptraded, would be immensely helpful,” Anna states. Such strategies could significantly increase the number of pieces reused and counted in the second-hand market.

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