Nobody can fault Topper Luciani for the size of his dreams.
In a pair of warehouses on Houston’s northeast side, Luciani is building what he hopes will become the Amazon.com of thrift shopping. In one of the buildings, which are about a block apart, workers unpack massive bales of donated, used clothing, size and sort each piece, then move them to the other location, where online orders are fulfilled.
This is Goodfair, which Luciani started four years ago and has been tripling in revenues annually for past two years. Its mission is to give “pre-loved” shirts, pants, hoodies, jeans, jackets, hats and shoes new homes, and in the process reduce the natural resources required to make new threads.
“We are really targeting Gen Z, and they’re interested in sustainability,” Luciani said, adding that most of his customers are in their late teens and early-to-mid 20s.
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It requires a lot of water, energy, natural and synthetic materials to make clothing, which has exploded in recent years because of so-called “Fast Fashion,” which trendy clothes are rushed to market, only to end up on the remnant rack — and then at a thrift store – a few months later. When he came upon the idea to sell used clothing online, he moved to Houston in 2015 because, it turns out, Houston is the used clothing capital of the world. There are as many as 50 export operations that buy overstock donations and unsold clothes and then ship them around the world.
Luciani got interested in the clothing business after launching a men’s shirt line called Sir Drake while he was still in college. His first foray into used clothing was called TieLand, a venture that sold used ties on eBay.
Although he wouldn’t offer revenue numbers, Luciani told Silicon Valley investor Jason Calacanis during a public session at a Houston tech event in March – and before the pandemic lockdown – that Goodfair generated $1.6 million in revenue in 2019, and was on track at that time to bring in $5 million in 2020.
Investors are taking notice. Goodfair earlier this year raised $3.6 million in venture capital, which Luciani is using to scale the business with more employees and more efficient processes.
Goodfair works differently than most other online thrift stores.
Customers can’t simply buy individual items. Instead, they’re sold in bundles. For example, you can purchase two men’s denim jackets for $50; three women’s tank tops for $15 (on sale from $20); a set of three polo shirts ($9, on sale from $30), and so on. There are also themed bundles, such as the Treehugger, which comes with “2 tees, 2 flannels, 2 windbreakers, and 2 crewnecks or hoodies” for $65.
Depending on who’s talking, there are between 20 and 50 distributors of used clothing in the Houston area, and between 20 to 30 warehouses in operation. Luciani said there are six other warehouses on the same street as