Tech entrepreneur Lauryn Vaughn is changing the fashion game

my whole career involved using technology to sell high-end clothing on consignment. But my starting point was in traditional fashion: when I was a business student at the University of Calgary, I landed an internship with designer Paul Hardy. It was my introduction to behind the scenes retail like sourcing materials and marketing products.

While traveling abroad with Paul to show his collections, I fell in love with Paris. I moved there in 2009 when I graduated from university. I lived on savings because my French was never good enough for me to find a job. I didn’t want to compromise on style, so I went into buying vintage clothes. I still have a pair of ivory Chie Mihara pumps from my time there.

Vaughn in his Calgary showroom

After two years in Paris, I ran out of money and returned to Canada. My aunt worked at a consignment store in Calgary, which sparked an idea: I could expand consignment shopping to a larger market by bringing it online. I started building my first business, an online luxury retailer, from my basement while working full-time at an insurance company.

I needed products, so I asked some friends if I could resell their stuff. It took me six months to gather enough designer clothes and accessories to put it online. The Upside was launched in 2015 with my aunt running the retail business. We offer resellers up to 80% off the sale price of an item. I kept my full-time job for the first year and a half, after which I was able to pay for myself. I worked all day, cared for my daughter until she went to bed, then focused on The Upside.

In 2020, we took over a 427 square meter space in one of Calgary’s historic buildings. Last year we changed our name to The Resale. We are now the largest online retailer of designer authenticated products in Canada.

When I started, “sending” was a dirty word. You did it because you couldn’t afford new ones. But consumer perception has changed, and the North American apparel resale market is expected to grow eight times faster than the overall apparel market by 2026. People understand that it’s better for their wallets and for the ‘environment. That said, consignment selling is still an afterthought: consumers think about it long after they’ve stopped using something.

When I started, “sending” was a dirty word

I realized that if we could let customers know in advance what they could get in exchange for something, before they even bought it, we could entice more people to possibly sell their products and also engage brands in resale. That’s what my new company, ReUpp Technology, is all about. We launched software last fall that lets customers know how much they can resell an item for directly on a retailer’s website. If they choose to ‘lock in’ the guaranteed buyback price, which is displayed next to the retail price at the point of sale, we remind them of their buyback offer within a year. They receive money from ReUpp or site credit from the brand they originally purchased from. Then we sell the item on behalf of the brands on sites like The Resale and eBay and pay them a portion of the proceeds. We make money in two ways: through the platform fees we receive from brands and the revenue we get from reselling.

We have set up Canadian labels like Smythe and have investors from Saks Fifth Avenue and Gap. We won the Audience Choice Startup Award at Shoptalk 2022, which will help us build momentum after raising $750,000 in pre-seed funding last year. We started in fashion, but I’m excited to see how we can help other businesses resell products as well. I keep joking, “Someone from Peloton, call me!”