Gucci for All: The Bulgarian Platform Changing Shopping Habits

Bulgaria might not be known for its fashion brands, and yet one local company is keeping Europeans fashionable.

Young woman customer is satisfied with her online order. She is checking if t shirt she ordered fits her.
Photo: iStock.com / Milko

It was 1 am on a Monday morning, and Dimitar Viktorov, manager of an ad agency in Sofia, was hard at work. But it wasn’t an impending deadline that had him staring at his phone. Viktorov was shopping on Remix, a Bulgarian app labeling itself as “Europe’s favorite second hand and outlet,” taking advantage of the new sales for the day, usually appearing past midnight.

Remix: from single purchase to mission

What started as one purchase has now turned into a mission for Viktorov. A mission to find unique pieces unavailable in regular stores, at the lowest price possible, without compromising on quality. That night, he became the new owner of a pair of luxury leather dress shoes. His total came to 42 EUR, including delivery. At 91 pct off, this was by far one of his best finds.

What started in 2009 with two secondhand stores in Sofia is now an online retailer with some one million products available at any time, selling some 5,000 brands, “from H&M to Gucci.” Today, Remix serves eight countries, from Greece to Poland and Germany. Some 600 people work in Remix’s HQ in Sofia, managing all aspects of the business, including, most importantly, adding around 20,000 items, both new and second-hand (sellers can use the app as a marketplace), to the platform daily. In 2020, Remix’s total revenue was $33.9 million. Last year, the company was acquired by the resale platform ThredUp, thus starting the American company’s expansion in Europe.

Changing online shopping

“It changed the way I shop,” says Viktorov. “I’m a latecomer to online shopping because I enjoy hunting for treasures in brick-and-mortar stores. But it’s hard to go back to that after being introduced to premium and luxury brands that were way out of my price range, even on sale.” Remix promises discounts of up to 90% off the retail price, something shoppers we spoke to can confirm from their experience.

Availability of products and competitive pricing help growth. But in the words of Remix’s founders Lyubomir Klenov and Nadezhda Gancheva, reuse is the most effective way to combat overproduction. This is also one of their platform’s engines: if you really need to buy something, buy something well-preserved or something that will last you longer.

Buying a piece of clothing on the cheap and quickly forgetting about it is hardly the beginning of the issues the fashion industry needs to reckon with. The production of one new piece of clothing comes at the cost of 300 liters of water and more than 7 kilos of harmful carbon emissions. The rise of fast fashion retailers, from Shein to Zara, hardly contributes to getting these numbers under control.

Remix: fighting unsustainable fashion

It is estimated that over 100 billion garments are made every year, a two-fold increase over the past 15 years, according to data from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. With so much cheap clothing available for purchase, well-preserved garments offer to end up in landfills or being burned (73%), while as much as 95% of these pieces are suitable for reuse or recycling, according to the same source. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the fashion industry is the second biggest polluter after the oil industry.

Platforms like Remix are looking to send millions of pieces of clothing and accessories, second-hand or from older collections, straight to your closet rather than a landfill. When Viktorov received his package, the shoes he purchased were in their original box. This is how he found that the brand-new pair of shoes left the factory back in 2016. “It didn’t bother me the slightest. That’s the benefit of buying classic pieces – they’re always in fashion,” he says.

Another one of his trophies – a trench coat – came with an almost invisible scratch on the lining. Possibly deemed not perfect enough to be sold by the French luxury brand that made it, the trench coat came with a 95% discount. And then, there are unwanted pieces that require an intervention from a trusted tailor due to sizing issues. “That’s my version of tailor-made,” Viktorov jokes, adding that he is glad he can keep seamstresses in his neighborhood busy.

Tiny landfills everywhere

But wouldn’t the constant offering of pieces waiting to be rescued from landfills eventually create a micro landfill in one’s closet? Anna, an education management specialist from Budapest and a Remix user, is not letting the rich offer distract her. “I shop less and less in general, so I usually look for something very specific,” Anna tells 3Seas Europe. “When I’m on the hunt, I normally look at Remix and another online source first because they’re reliable and have a wide arrange of brands that are not available in Hungary. I also like the fact that the goods are shipped from Europe.”

Like Viktorov in Sofia, Anna is also focused on combing through the available high-end brand offers. On top of high quality, these garments very often offer something fast retailers don’t: all-natural fabrics, which make them much easier to recycle. Despite desirable objects being one click away, shoppers like Anna are not overlooking traditional shopping. “Travelling is a great way of inspiration for me, and that’s when I go into shops. When it comes to spending, at the end of the day, I still prefer small shops of local designers and niche brands,” Anna says.

Back in Sofia, Marina Ivanova, a high-ranked manager with a big company, would occasionally use Remix mostly for its second-hand offers. Despite being able to afford high-end items at a regular price, Ivanova likes the possibility of giving pieces a second life in her colorful closet. The data suggests that shoppers like Ivanova are already in the future. By 2030, the second-hand market share is expected to double, to 18%, when it is a $59 billion market. A small market like Bulgaria will hardly have a major influence, but shoppers there seem prepared for the change.

Galina Ganeva

a journalist with experience working for some of the most influential Bulgarian publications. She mostly writes about the intersection of society and culture

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