Next in our Founder Wednesdays Series, we had an opportunity to chat with Robin Balser, CEO, and Founder at Vinokilo, a brand from Germany that provides the highest quality second-hand clothes as an alternative to first-hand fashion. Vinokilo uses fashion as a medium to make a change in the world. At the core of it, the company's purpose is to exist for the people — the team and their families, the community, and future generations who will benefit from the positive environmental impact they are making. Vinokilo wants everyone to be 'Stylishly Sustainable'.
Vintage carries history. Each unique item tells a story. It’s an endless, timeless story waiting for you to be part of it. By owning them, people are encouraged to be creative about themselves.
"Second hand is our answer to being unique, stylish, and a caretaker of our world. Like you, we know fashion doesn’t have to be destructive or boring!"
It all started when Robin Balser built a company about sharing and swapping of clothes, his vision was to make an app where you can connect with people and build your wardrobe. When it did not take off, and his landlord kicked them out, he organized a kilo sale for all items collected. 'Vinokilo' comes from 'vintage' and 'kilo'. Fast forward to today, they hold many such events of vintage pop-up kilo sales around 8 countries in Europe, where they sell clothes in a feel-good atmosphere, with live music, wine, and up-and-coming artists. Not just that, Vinokilo is also available through e-commerce channels in over 17 countries now.
"We go slow, to go long. We believe clothes should be worn, worn, and worn again."
During the chat, Robin discussed the concept of secondhand and vintage clothing, and the opportunities that come with it.
"The amount of times I have been asked about the state of the second-hand industry in the present day scenario only goes to show how much it is coming to the forefront."
When Vinokilo first started, it was only 1 in 10 people were willing to buy vintage. At the moment, there are about 6 in 10 people who prefer second-hand fashion. Especially after the pandemic hit, when there are warehouses full of clothes waiting to be disintegrated. People have started realizing the impact. They are buying less, more consciously. It is still not enough. We have a long way to go.
"Every Vinokilo event is different but still the same. It takes the magic brought by the event manager combined with our vision and values."
Vinokilo believes in diversity and inclusion, hiring the right people, and that has also been one of the main reasons they have expanded in so many different countries. They work with people who believe in the company, love vintage, and aspire to create an experience for other people. The founder says, "We then give them the responsibility to take the concept of our event and make it a little bit their own, and that makes it so special."
The Vinokilo events are so important and relevant because of the amazing inclusive experience they deliver. They are remarkable, in the sense that at any event, you can just go to socialize, meet with your friends, enjoy the 'vibe', without necessarily buying anything. It builds on the company's idea of love for the community. The founder truly believes that if you do something so well offline, people will remember you. It is also about finding the right balance between staying true to yourself and building a successful business.
Check out the entire conversation to know more about second-hand fashion, internationalization, community building and more.