‘If you give clothes for free, people won’t appreciate them’

Curious about other people’s wardrobes, Melda Mittkotte founded Vinted fourteen years ago. What started as a wild idea has now grown into a second-hand fashion revolution. Time to take a look at Mitkute, who has since left the company.

“Proving that a second hand can be the first choice.” This is the mission of Vinted, the app founded in Lithuania in 2008 by Milda Mitkute ​​and Justas Janauskas. The 50 million members prove every day that the company has succeeded in achieving this goal. The app has since been launched in 15 markets across Europe and North America. The startup is headquartered in Vilnius, but it also employs people in Amsterdam, Berlin, Utrecht and Prague. In total, the company has more than 1,000 employees.

In 2021, the most popular clothing brands were Nike, JBC, Levi’s and Petit Bateau, as well as the more general ‘vintage’ label. In the meantime, the catalog was also supplemented with interior items. Think Riviéra Maison, Casa, Villeroy & Boch… With two million Belgian members, the platform hopes to empower and inspire shoppers by helping them understand how easy it is to choose more responsible and circular fashion.

Today, Milda Mittkotte herself is no longer involved in the day-to-day management of the company, but focuses on motherhood. However, I did find time to make a video call reviewing the eventful years with the app.

How did you come up with the idea to start Vinted?

Milda Mittkotte: Pure selfishness. I wanted to expand my wardrobe and at the same time be able to look inside other women’s wardrobes. In real life which is very labor intensive, it is possible online. So this idea was in the back of my mind and when I ran into Gustas—Vinted’s co-founder, editor—at a party, I told him about it. Justas is an app developer and was immediately interested. At the same party, at 2 am, we decided to kick Vintide off the floor.

When did you realize that Vinted wasn’t just a small project, it was an idea with potential?

“The first couple of years it was more of a hobby project, something we did alongside our full-time job. Even when Vinted slowly started growing, we didn’t start to think of it as a business right away. I was 21 at the time, and I didn’t care We got regular offers to sell our concept, but we didn’t accept them. It was our hobby project, and we wanted to try for ourselves what worked and what didn’t. It wouldn’t be possible if we sold the app too quickly. Two or three years after our founding, we got On our first true business partner. He made us realize that we were underestimating Vinted’s potential and that the concept could really explode. At that time, Vinted was already active in Lithuania, Germany and the Czech Republic, where the app was growing well and fast. When our partner suggested expanding further With a European network, the puzzle came together for us. Suddenly we realized Vinted could really change the flea market.”

In Germany, there has been a major shift in the concept of second-hand goods in recent years. In the past, this was bought primarily because it was cheaper, not necessarily because it was sustainable. With Vinted, we wanted to change that, by emphasizing all of our values ​​very clearly. In almost all European countries, there is an excessive consumption of clothing. Our grandmothers only had one pair of shoes for all seasons. We already have at least two, just for the winter. And then I won’t say anything about the dresses we never wear.

But why sell clothes instead of giving them away?

“I’ve noticed that when you donate something for free, people only want it because it’s free. So you have to set the price at least 2 or 3 euros so that the buyer appreciates the item of clothing.

Aren’t you afraid that Vinted will encourage compulsive buying? After all, clothes are very easy to resell.

“It’s more complicated than that. It’s not just about buying and selling cheap. It’s also about being aware of what you have in your closet and what you’re getting from. It takes time to take pictures of clothes and upload them! So when I buy something new now, I think twice because I know I can’t Getting rid of it anymore. And finding a new owner takes a long time. So I ask myself, “Do I really need this?” This is the opposite of compulsive buying. I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks this way. My buying profile has changed since trying Vinted.”

Meanwhile, she left the company. Do you sometimes think of going back?

“I left five years ago, and I’m now on maternity leave, so I don’t intend to go back. I’m kind of on a family business. I already have four kids, and a fifth is on the way.”

What do you think will be Vinted’s biggest challenge in the coming years?

I think it’s quite a challenge to make second-hand things the first choice. When a person wants to buy an item, he should consider buying it immediately. We see a certain change, people are starting to get that reflex. Concretely, this means that purchases on Vinted are on the rise.

and for you?

My personal challenge is to make an impact on climate change. I want to find a concept that changes. Something not like the usual gloom, but includes lectures and events. I want to do something that people will listen to. This is my future project.

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