Subscribe for 33¢ / day

Upshift, a Madison clothing store, is launching its online swap shop and styling service on Nov. 21. 


You can get anything from paper towels to diamonds delivered to your door — so why not secondhand clothes?

That’s the idea Lindsay Leno, owner of Upshift, a sustainable clothing exchange business that opened in 2013 at 836 E. Johnson St., is harnessing for the next iteration of her business.

On Saturday, Upshift will launch its new, web-based, straight-to-your-door service with a celebration at One Barrel Brewing Company, 2001 Atwood Ave.

The straight-to-your-door model is based on subscription service businesses like StitchFix and Le Tote, which deliver clothes chosen by professional stylists to customers on a fixed schedule.

“We researched other businesses that do a similar ‘clothes to a front door’ model — companies do that with stylist-picked items, but no company does it with secondhand clothes,” Leno said.

The Upshift model won’t be a subscription service. It’ll work just like the brick-and-mortar store: customers hand over their gently used clothing items, pay a “swap fee” and take home a bundle of new-to-them items.

For the brick-and-mortar store, customers pay a $20 swap fee. For the online version, customers will mail in their used clothing items, pay a $49.99 swap fee (which includes shipping) and receive their box of custom-picked secondhand items days later.

The higher fee will cover shipping, as well as the professional stylists Leno plans to employ to choose customers’ new items. The stylists will be aided by an online style survey, but Leno wants to make sure she hires the right team of professionals to make cutting edge style choices for Upshift customers.

“We need someone choosing those items that are really specialized,” Leno said. “It’s important we send items that are specially picked for that person.”

Leno isn’t worried about recruiting those stylists at all. She teaches part time in the fashion marketing program at Madison College and has connections in the UW-Madison School of Human Ecology, which houses fashion and design programs.

“We do have this awesome underground fashion presence in Madison,” she said.

Leno is only planning to employ one stylist for the Upshift web offshoot at first — but she expects that number may need to grow quickly.

“We’re going to do this whole social media roll out” to promote the new business model, she said. “Because we’re rolling this out to all 50 states, it could explode.”

She’s already secured additional storage space, in anticipation of the boxes of used clothing arriving from around the country.

The secondhand element is particularly important to Leno and her customers.

“Sustainability is one of those words that’s been thrown around a lot,” she said. “Where sustainability comes in for us, is that we’re the middle man: we reappropriate to the person it’s going to be meaningful to. We strongly believe in the secondhand store system — however, there are some secondhand stores that have grown so large that they don’t appropriate well. We keep it here, we keep it out of the landfill.”

Leno said customers shouldn’t worry about the brick-and-mortar Upshift becoming obsolete if the web business booms.

“We’ll always keep that open,” she said. “Our plan is to generate enough income from the online business to open a larger location.”

With that larger location — and subsequent locations, if things go well — Leno would like to reach more audiences for Upshift, including children’s clothing and menswear.

“After rolling this out online, I feel like we could cover it all,” she said.