Skip to main content

Reinvigorating The Fashion Industry Through Alterations

Nancy Rhodes, the founder of Alternew, is a veteran in the fashion industry. Her years of adding to the wasteful overconsumption of goods led her to a Master’s degree in sustainability and eventually to founding Alternew, a brand that’s designed to be inherently sustainable by promoting a re-fashion economy. Alternew is an on-demand clothing alteration and repair service with a strong mission of sustainability, positive body image, and accessibility.

“It’s more about something that used to be an errand becoming so easy that it becomes fun to do.” - Nancy

Nancy RhodesFounder of Alternew


Welcome to Building While Flying, a Sasha Group podcast where we interview business leaders about how they tackle challenges, stay resilient, and navigate ever-changing skies. Welcome to Building While Flying. My guest today is Nancy Rhodes, founder of a new, Nancy is a veteran in the fashion industry.

Her years of adding to the wasteful over consumption of goods led her to a master’s degree in sustainability and eventually to founding. A brand that’s designed to be inherently sustainable by promoting a refashion economy. Alter new is an on-demand clothing alteration and repair service with a strong mission in sustainability, positive body image.

And accessibility. Nancy was also an attendee at our four Ds in New York, um, about a week ago, a week and a half ago. And so, uh, we have connections and we’ve navigated in the same spaces, but we finally got to meet in person. Um, so Nancy, welcome to the podcast. It’s amazing to be here. Really like you guys have such a great community at Vayner Media and the Sausage Group, and I could not be more honored.

Thank you. Um, so what a wonderful story you’ve got. So why don’t we start with your journey and what got you to alter new, and then we’ll talk about alter new, where the idea came from. Yeah, so I have wanted to be a designer my entire life. Um, like from the age of three. It was something I loved as a little kid and people were like, oh, that’s a cute thing.

And then I just did it. And, um, When I first started in the industry, I, I loved everything about it. Um, I was working for Beyonce’s Line and I worked for Kenneth Cole, and I started building more product, and I, I achieved really incredible things and I, as I moved further into my career, I started to feel a little.

Stuck, shall we say. Like I had, I was achieving all of this, you know, success and I didn’t know why that I was feeling this way. And so I ended up following the breadcrumbs, um, and ended up in a master’s program at GCNYC which is a school with the motto for the common good and the degree was sustainability.

And so, Through that time I found myself, um, looking at different ways that I could impact the industry. And I think it’s really interesting because we talk about how, um, our backgrounds kind of get us to where we’re supposed to be. Yeah. And I didn’t realize then that that stuckness I felt was really a lack of purpose and impact.

Hmm. And. As I started going to school and learning more about sustainable impact and really about this like effective use of sustainability, people kept saying, oh, you should like, this is so cool. You’re doing this. Like you should do a sustainable footwear company. And I was like, It’s an oxymoron to say sustainable fashion because if the whole goal is to sustain for our future, then the actual meaning of fashion is about newness and creating something fresh all the time doesn’t really speak to those sides, to those things.

And so, um, found myself. In a position chatting with a friend as I I do, we were like nerding out over sustainability and she’s like, yeah, when I was in college, I would do alterations as a way to make extra cash. And I was like, oh, is that. Huh? Is that like monetized? Is that something out there? And so the next day I literally became obsessed.

I did my whole thesis around the Democrat democratization of fashion, customization. Um, I learned about the industry and I really saw this gap in the market that was just ready to be. To be, you know, tapped into. Right. So tell our listeners, what is the business, right? Like, what, what does it look like? Who are your customers?

Yeah. What, what have you, what have you built? Yes. Um, so it’s, it’s an, again, you know, it’s that interesting story of ideation and learning. And so when When we first started, it was a mobile tailoring business. So our tailors come to you and. What had happened is through my thesis, that was the green light to start.

And what I thought was, all right, I’m just gonna go in and I’m gonna do this and I’m gonna see what happens. Like the worst case scenario is that we’ve been able to help people tailor some of their clothing and let’s see what happens. So we go into that, um, really start to understand our stakeholders and to us, that’s customers, small businesses.

Brands and the planet. And what we found is that we weren’t really tapping into the crux of the problem, which is reinvigorating the industry and by doing mobile tailoring. Yes, that was, that was taking a piece of it, but really, I. The problem for the consumer was accessibility. Like you’re going onto Google, you’re going onto Yelp, you’re finding a plumber, or you’re finding a tailor, like it’s, the hours are wrong.

So you go in and it’s closed. You call the phone number and it’s not right. You go to their website and it’s a 4 0 4 error code. So if we can just make that experience so easy. So the way we put it is we’re taking the guesswork out of your fashion care, connecting you with tailors, cobblers, watch care specialists.

High quality, whatever that is, so that it’s as fun and sexy for you to revive and refresh your wardrobe as it’s to buy something new. Well, it’s, it’s fascinating to me, right? I’m a, I’m a Gen Xer, so I’m gonna age myself here, but I am old enough. To remember growing up and my parents taking shoes to the cobbler, right?

Like, and my dad relying on a tailor, right? The idea that he would buy clothing and he would tailor it to fit him perfectly, right? My mom would do the same. My mom would buy fabric and go and have like a dress made. That is very distinct from what I would say younger generations experience with clothing is, um, clothing, footwear.

So I feel like you are. Almost helping us return to a previous time as well. Would you agree? Yes. And, and I say that the, you know, the best part about what we’re doing is really creating this opportunity for experience and storytelling. So I remember speaking with you and you talking about a green bag in the back of your closet that had this like frayed.

Um, strap that you’ve been dying to get done and you couldn’t find a place or, you know, it’s investigative journalism, trying to find somewhere to go. Um, and you know, that night I had spoken to several people, but the way I see it is every single person. If any person listening to this is thinking right now, that button in the back of my closet that fell off yesterday, literally as small as that, or as big as like, you know, I inherited my grandmother’s fur coat and I’m looking for a way to keep that in use, but it’s a bit dated.

How am I updating that? So it’s all of these ways in which we’re experiencing the fashion industry that we haven’t thought about in a while. So how does someone access alternate? Um, so we are currently, um, we evolved, so we were doing tailoring and now we’re moving into this platform connecting you we’re, you know, swipe right on your fashion.

We want you to have a long-term relationship with your wardrobe over the one night stands of fast fashion. Um, so we’re building out the platform now. Um, The way we’ve been evolving, I brought on a co-founder, um, really interesting because we met through a sustainability program, the Ella MacArthur Foundation, linear to circular program, Ella MacArthur Foundation.

They work with everyone from Unilever to Blackstone, helping to empower a circular economy, which is basically going from a linear economy. Take, make waste to circular, which is this idea of, you know, different frameworks from cradle to cradle, closing the loop in the way we’re, we’re, um, experiencing the economy.

So we had met then we both have very, um, complimentary skill sets. Hers being engineering got went into luxury fashion and data and analytics, also consulting. And so her background and then me having just been in the industry, gone to China several times, understood the supply chain we. We put our forces together, and so the best way for us to connect with our stakeholders right now is really about subscribing on our website, ultra

Um, Taking, you’ll get a welcome email, which has a stakeholder survey, um, which is how we’re learning about our stakeholders, but we’re doing it in a way where we’re not like forcing you to do it. Just subscribe if you’re interested in learning. But the best part about taking the stakeholder survey is there’s an opportunity to be part of our pilot program in New York and get some free alterations or, um, Fashion care specialist services.

So you are doing what I would consider as one of the most challenging things to do with the new business, which is really trying to change behavior. Mm-hmm. Right. Um, what percentage of your time, if we’re thinking about that way, uh, thinking about it that way, is spent on education? Uh, right. Like how, how much of your effort and what does that effort look like?

Yeah. So, you know, Building out our platform. One of the things that I like to think about, so we’re the open table of fashion care, right? Like it’s as simple as that. We’re connecting you with discovery of new tailor shops and, and new specialists and ways to repair and revive your wardrobe. And if you look at it as simple as that, it’s more just about something that used to be an errand becoming something that’s so easy that it’s.

Becomes fun to do instead of you talking about your fashion haul you’re talking about your fashion care. You know, the, the way we connect with our wardrobe has always been, has always been really, um, emotionally driven. And so it’s, it’s just about framing it in new ways that allow us to. Shift fashion haul to fashion care.

Love it. Um, I, by the way, need to make my appointment with you because I’ve got the bag that I talked about. I have my dad’s coat, which we talked about, so I’m super excited to learn about it. Um, and so I’ll be visiting you at our, at our Common Common Haunting Grounds Of Luminary. Yes. Which a lot of our listeners would know from hearing me interview other luminary members.

Um, We, we call the bo the podcast. Building, While. Flying. Right. So, so where would you say, like, what stage would you say you’re at in terms of the business? We’re, we’re still early stage. And what’s interesting is, you know, I have been, I. Building this on my own for the last couple years. And the way I see it is I’ve been doing all of this really intense research and understanding who our stakeholders are and finding the crux of that problem.

And now it’s kind of this experience of where you. See the team come together at the right time when it’s needed, having my co-founder be a cto, understanding data and analytics. Um, we’ve been, you know, pouring over, um, different two-sided marketplace podcasts and we actually, um, we were talking about a recent Building, While, Flying from January.

With the well traveled founder and talking about, um, personalized discovery platform, and it’s such an interesting thing of we’re all looking at how we can create differentiators and it’s really about taking these broader platforms and we consider ourselves like the second generation of the two-sided marketplace.

Right now, it’s not a Yelp, but it’s, it’s an. Airbnb helping you find a place to stay. You’re maybe looking at a tree house in Dubai, but you end up in an apartment in Poughkeepsie because that’s where your parents are, and it’s about content driving engagement that drives execution. And so for us, that’s fashion.

And so, People are like, well, you know, it’s fashion. And I’m like, well, fashion is a 3 trillion industry and unless you’re an indigenous, you know, group that is living in a place where you’re not wearing clothing, you are impacted by the fashion industry. If you are sleeping, you’re sleeping in sheets. If you’re showering, you’re using a towel.

Like there is no person on this planet that you know in the same way, like you look in your closet. Yeah. Something needs to be repaired, so it’s rather than, You know, educating and training, it’s, it’s more about framing and creating the opportunities for these stories to be represented. And, you know, again, like each time, you know, this weekend we had an event and every single person came over, someone came over and was like, oh, this is so cool.

You know why she had a toddler with her? And she’s like, I. Took the sleeves off my daughter’s dress so that it’s ready for summer. And then another woman came on and she’s like, oh wait, I put patches and embroidery on my jeans. And so it’s, it’s this interesting thing and if we can just, you know, create momentum around that storytelling, I, we can absolutely succeed.

I love it. So, last question. What keeps you going? What keeps you motivated? Um, it’s, I’ve talked about the whole time. It’s the stories. It’s, it’s the connections, it’s the team, you know, we’re building this tapestry of connections and, you know, after so long being in the industry, my, my puns in fashion are very seamless, as you can tell.

Um, so yeah, it’s, it’s really about, um, having that aha moment of people. And the best is when people are like, Oh, reviving my wardrobe is sustainable. And it’s, it’s this idea of like, we don’t even have to tell people it’s sustainable. It’s something that, you know, people do. And now it’s about capturing that audience and giving them that content to allow them to see their wardrobe in a new way.

And so, right. You know, you could call it micro wins, but for us, like. You know, both my co-founder, Rachel and I, like our, our mission is so clear and being able to be part of this experience. Whatever we’re able to do for consumers being able to find fashion care for those fashion care specialists, being able to be empowered.

They’re like our Peloton instructors, right? We wanna make sure that we are promoting the next generation of tailors and cobblers and not letting that industry die. And if we have even a small part of doing that, Like, we’ll, we’ll both be thrilled. I love that it could so easily be about trying to guilt people into doing something, but your focus is clearly on why this is important, what it does, right?

Like what it means to someone when they can take a cherished item and give it a longer life and continue to reuse it. Uh, the focus on the artisans who are doing the work, um, is really such a, a collective of positivity. And so I’m, I’m really excited to see where things go for you. Oh, thank you so much.

This is a, it’s, it’s exciting. We’re, we’re excited to see, you know, the impact that we can make and the positive change and, you know, help so many people be part of, you know, the future of of refashion. All right. Well, we will check in on you as the journey continues. Thank you so much for being on today.

Thank you.

Thanks for joining us for Building, While Flying today. I hope you learned as much as we did. We’ll meet you right back here next time for another flight.

Welcome to Building While Flying!

This weekly podcast is brought to you by Sasha Group. We’re the consultancy meets agency arm of the VaynerX family of companies. We help ambitious companies build strong brands that flex with the times through strategy, branding media and marketing.

In ever-changing times, businesses and brands have to shift and adapt. And across all sectors, there is an air of experimentation. Business owners are trying new things out in the wild;  building the plane while flying.

Our pilots, Katie Hankinson, Mickey Cloud, Maribel Lara, and Joe Quattrone will be talking to a diverse range of business leaders and founders. They’ll explore how these guests tackle various challenges while staying resilient and committed to growth. Through these real-life examples of strategies put into practice, we hope to inspire you to experiment and develop your own strategies as we all navigate these uncertain times together.

Reinvigorating The Fashion Industry Through Alterations

Nancy Rhodes, the founder of Alternew, is a veteran in the fashion industry. Her years of adding to the wasteful overconsumption of goods led her to a Master’s degree in sustainability and eventually to founding Alternew, a brand that’s designed to be inherently sustainable by promoting a re-fashion economy. Alternew is an on-demand clothing alteration and repair service with a strong mission of sustainability, positive body image, and accessibility.

In this episode of the Building While Flying podcast, Nancy joins Maribel Lara to explain her vision to make the fashion industry more sustainable. She gives insight into her journey, shifting the mindset of fashion haul to fashion care, and why this creates an opportunity for experience and storytelling.

In-flight topics:

  • Nancy’s fashion journey and where the idea came from
  • What her business is and who her customers are
  • Returning to a former time of tailoring
  • Reframing fashion hauls into fashion care
  • What keeps her going
  • …and more!
Connect with Nancy:

Nancy’s LinkedIn:

Nancy’s Instagram:

Alternew Website:

Alternew Instagram:

New York, NY
Chattanooga, TN
Los Angeles, CA