Founder Profile: Hannah Le W20

WAFFA
4 min readJun 4, 2023

--

“Just jump in and do it. There will be bugs and imperfections regardless, so the sooner you have something to show your waitlist of customers, the more engaged they’ll be with what you’re doing.”

Meet Hannah Le W20, Founder and CEO of RE.STATEMENT, an online shopping marketplace for upcycled clothing — essentially new clothes created from existing or used materials.

An estimated 17 million tons of clothing get discarded each year. Around 80% of items at resale stores don’t get sold — they’re out of style or in poor condition. Designers who upcycle take these used items and use them as blank canvases for wearable art.

Growing up, Hannah watched her mom do sewing alterations and they would thrift shop together. Fashion design was the first “real person job” she wanted as a kid –she upcycled her own clothes in college and had a niche brand that paid the bills. At Wharton, she discovered her love of applying behavioral economics to product development and found a career in social impact startups. But even while working for companies that were literally saving the world, she always wanted to start her own company.

RE.STATEMENT is the first platform for upcycled clothing — for designers and shoppers to find each other. Before RE.STATEMENT, designers were stuck using Etsy, which is focused on handmade items, or Poshmark and Depop, which are dedicated to thrift finds.

Tell us a bit about your company

RE.STATEMENT is the online marketplace where bold consumers purchase unique, upcycled fashion made by artists, designers, and small businesses who turn old clothes into bold clothes.

Whether you are buying their premade wearable art, requesting a custom order, or asking to upcycle your own clothes, these designers know how to put your voice in the room before you say a single word.

What inspired you to start your business — what opportunity in the market are you seeking to address?

Think about the 17 million tons of clothing discarded each year and how 80% of items at resale stores never get sold because they’re too boring, out of style, or in poor condition. RE.STATEMENT designers are taking these boring, outdated pieces and use them as blank canvases or parts of their wearable art.

Because upcycled clothes are so one-of-a-kind, RE.STATEMENT is the first website you want to check out each time you’re online shopping and the first website you get excited to get an email notification from.

What is it about your personal background, experience, or perspective that fuels your passion for this venture?

My mom has done sewing alterations all my life, and growing up, I watched her upcycle and we’d thrift shop together. Fashion design was the first job I remember wanting as a kid — until I went to Wharton.

I used to upcycle my own clothes in college and had a niche fashion brand that paid the bills, but then I found my career in social impact startups. Even while working for companies that are literally saving the world, I wanted to start my own company.

While taking a 10-minute break from work one day, I went online shopping and couldn’t find what I wanted. I thought about the favorite things I already had in my closet, how unique they were, and how very few people could have anything similar. That’s when I decided to build RE.STATEMENT

What are one or two of the biggest wins or most encouraging experiences you’ve had so far?

We launched in December 2022! Being able to build personal relationships with customers and designers has been my biggest motivator. Getting featured in over 20 major publications, TV shows, and podcasts as well as support from the mayor of Houston, TX is huge for RE.STATEMENT’s growth too.

What has been one or two of your biggest learnings so far?

Just jump in and do it. There will be bugs and imperfections regardless, so the sooner you have something to show your waitlist of customers, the more engaged they’ll be with what you’re doing.

What is an obstacle that you are grappling with as you continue to build this venture?

Delegating and asking for help. I’m learning to really clarify my needs with people I work with, and I’m realizing that I can work smarter if I let other people focus on what they’re really good at.

What surprises have you encountered as an entrepreneur? Something out of left field?

How therapeutic thinking long-term feels. Taking time to plan out goals and strategy once in a blue moon (instead of putting out fires and jumping through hoops daily) feels incredibly calming, motivating, and powerful.

Learn more about RE.STATEMENT here and connect with Hannah Le here.

--

--

WAFFA

Wharton Alumnae Founders & Funders Association (WAFFA) accelerates the success of women in the startup ecosystem. Join us: HelloWaffa.org