SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) – It was a real homecoming for a San Francisco-based brand that started nine years ago as an idea in CEO and Founder Julie Wainwright’s kitchen in Marin.
“Everything you see here is previously owned,” Wainwright told the crowd at the store’s ribbon-cutting.
The RealReal is an online second-hand luxury retailer. It just opened its first flagship store in San Francisco’s Union Square, within blocks of the same high-end design labels it consigns and re-sells.
Its mission is to promote sustainable shopping and the circular economy.
“We’ve worked with environmental scientists to understand the positive impact of recirculating goods that are made well, versus buying new,” said Wainwright. “When I talk to our customers they moved away mostly from fast fashion, because it does end up in landfills. We really can’t afford to be a disposable nation.”
The 8,000 square foot, 2-level store looks more like a boutique than a used clothing store. Customers can bring in luxury goods to be inspected for consignment, and browse for handbags, fine jewelry and men and women’s clothing.
It’s also LEED Gold certified, meaning it is an environmentally-friendly space.
The opening comes at a time when big retailers are struggling to attract shoppers, with more people going online, the high cost of rent, and concerns about homelessness in the area.
“The fact that instead of seeing closed storefronts, we have one that’s open now and also we have one that’s open with clothing that’s basically being recycled,” said Mayor London Breed at the ribbon cutting. “Great designer brands that may not be affordable at their regular retail price, that’s more affordable now.”
Mayor Breed believes the store will help revitalize Union Square.
“When you sign a lease, and you put money into a store you’re committed, it’s not like we’re just going to pull out,” said Wainwright. “But we are confident that customers’ reaction to The RealReal will be the same we’ve seen in other cities.”
Wainwright says its SoHo store in New York brings 2,000 shoppers to the block every day.
The RealReal has also taken shopping high-tech. Customers can place items on a tray and immediately learn from information about the item on a screen to make quick comparisons while browsing.
Carolyn Estebez works nearby.
“The model, and being like consignment and kind of like reuse, renew, all of that is definitely of the moment,” said Estebez. “So I think it’s actually cool to be here amongst all these other brands.”
The RealReal is also partnering with Breed’s office to give San Francisco youth a chance at paid internships, and it established a foundation to fund and support education initiatives.
In addition to brick-and-mortar stores in New York and Angeles, The RealReal plans to unveil another store in Chicago this summer.