New Yorkshire retailer The Pod - it stands for pre owned designer - combines online shopping with special pop-up events, making fashion fun and sustainable. Stephanie Smith meets its founders. Pictures by James Hardisty.
Alex Payne and Cath Garnett make a fabulously formidable fashion team. As specialists in luxury designer wear, they have worked in some of the swankiest stores including Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and chic designer boutiques.
In February this year they launched The Pod, a shop that pops up across the county selling pre-owned designer fashion. They aim to make shopping the experience it should be – enjoyable and confidence-boosting so you leave knowing you have bought something that represents an investment in yourself.
As well as selling online, The Pod holds one-day events, typically two a week throughout Yorkshire, in particular in Harrogate, Leeds and Ilkley. Hotel du Vin in Harrogate is a regular venue.
“We were initially looking to open a shop premises but the feedback we had from our pop-up was so positive,” says Alex. “It’s all about making shopping fun and bit more informative.”
Alex is from Ripon, where she lives with her partner, Conrad, a firefighter, and their two small boys. She has a degree in fashion & media from the University of Huddersfield, after which she worked in the Selfridges press office in London. She moved back to Yorkshire aged 23 to be personal shopping manager at Harvey Nichols Leeds. Next stop was launching a clothing line for Ginetta and then she managed Rocca in Harrogate for 10 years. It was there that she met Cath, who also lives in Ripon (she has two grown-up sons and a grandson). Cath started in the designer fashion business 28 years ago when her sister Deborah launched The Clothes Room on Wetherby Road in Harrogate. She had her own personal shopping business before joining Rocca.
Earlier this year, the pair decided the time was right to combine their expertise and launch The Pod (which stands for pre owned designer), creating a movable feast of luxury clothing and accessories.
“There’s a real movement for it at the moment with sustainability and ethical shopping,” says Alex. “Cath having done it already, we knew there was a real market for it.”
Many of the finds come from the wardrobes of former clients they have kept in touch with. Cath says: “Through customers and friends that we know and trust, we’ve got a constant supply.”
They work on a 60/40 basis, with the client keeping 60 per cent of the sale price, while Cath and Alex take 40 per cent, less for some items of high value. At the moment there are handbags from Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, Fendi and more. “The age varies. We tend to look more at condition and making sure that they are authentic,” Alex says. “We often take items from customers with the original receipts – they tend to sell a lot more quickly and easily.”
Some clients are both sellers and buyers. Alex says: “Many women are professionals who go to lots of events. They don’t want to wear it again so they pass it on to us and we sell it on for them. There’s a lot of pressure on women to constantly be in something different.”
Cath says: “There are also women who cannot afford to buy a Stella McCartney coat new for £1,000.” The Pod’s prices typically are a third of the original retail price. Some pieces might never have been worn. “Gone are the days when people just had designer clothes, and that’s it. It’s mixing, mixing,” she says.
Denim is popular, especially brands such as Rag & Bone, J Brand, Citizens of Humanity and Victoria Beckham. Originally, the jeans might have cost between £150 and £350, but sell for £70 via The Pod.
From ballgowns to leisurewear and everything in-between, all is stored at The Pod office and warehouse in Roecliffe. “We don’t sell things unless they are in very good condition,” Alex says, adding that The Pod is expanding geographically, with pop-ups booked in Cheshire and Newcastle.
Circular fashion is the future, say Alex and Cath, and this is fun, flexible shopping that helps make fashion sustainable, reducing its impact on the planet. It’s redistributing the luxury.
THE POD’S FESTIVE STYLE TIPS
Invest – Winter clothing is always worn more than summer clothing in the UK, so make investments where you know you will get your money’s worth. Wool coats, leather jackets and good quality footwear will see you through multiple seasons and stand the test of time.
Buy Cashmere – The higher the grade of cashmere, the longer the fibre, so the less it will pill. Brands such as Queene & Belle and Lamberto Losani are great examples of quality cashmere meeting high end design.
Colour – Build a wardrobe based on a simple colour palette and don’t be afraid to wear the same shade in different tones from head to foot. Inject pops of brighter colours through clever layering and with your favourite accessories.
The Pod is at thepodonline.com