Get To Know: Karin Dillie, VP of Partnerships
In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re taking a moment to highlight some of the incredible female leaders on our team through our Get To Know series. At Recurate, female leadership is and always will be a priority, as maintaining a balanced and diverse team is core to who we are.
If you haven’t met our VP of Partnerships, Karin Dillie, just yet, consider this your introduction. You’ll surely see her on industry panels and in fashion media — she’s an absolute powerhouse in the resale space. Throughout her career, with stops at Sotheby’s, Yale for business school, and The RealReal, she’s fueled by her lifelong passion for resale and motivated by women around her as she builds her vision for the future of retail.
What does the future of retail look like? How will we be shopping?
I truly think that in the next five years, resale will be as omnichannel as retail is right now. In the same way that you can go to the store, buy online, buy from brands, buy from multi-brand retailers — all these different ways you can buy new — the same will be true for resale as well. It’ll be just as ubiquitous as retail is right now. And easy.
Are consumers leading the resale revolution?
Some brands in the EU are already preparing for legislation mandating circular economy practices such as resale. But what’s interesting is when we talk to brands in the US, Canada, or Australia, they’re like, what’s actually happening is that our customers want resale.
People are already shopping resale, and they want to do it more. A McKinsey study mentioned 42% of people surveyed said they would buy more new luxury if they had the opportunity to buy secondhand from brands directly. I think brands are finally catching up with the true magnitude of what’s going on.
There’s also been a big change in consumerism in the past few years, especially with Gen Z. They want sustainable, high-quality products, but they also acknowledge they don’t have the money to spend $300 on a blouse. They’re smart and savvy enough to know that there’s a cost to do things sustainably, and there’s a cost to pay workers a living wage. So, they’re looking at a lot of sustainable brands, saying, I would love to buy this, but I cannot afford this level.
How do you see digitization playing into the future of resale?
That’s the big question right now: How do you bridge the gap of a branded experience online and in-person? How do you feel the same way as you would walking into a store? How do you get that same community digitally?
One really interesting thing that we’re working with leaders in the Digital ID space is how to enhance resale with connected products. I think that’s the future: digital NFTs that match physical products. As part of a blockchain, NFTs can track items as they change hands in the supply chain, when they are sold, and when they are resold.
Can you tell us a bit about your career path and journey in resale?
I grew up thrifting. My whole family did. Honestly, more out of necessity than anything else. I’ve thrifted my whole life and didn’t think a ton about it until I started working at Sotheby’s. In retrospect, people have been buying secondhand, trading, and bartering for a very long time. Sotheby’s was just doing it at the upper echelon of value.
When I left Sotheby’s and went to business school, I really wanted to learn about innovation. I thought there was a lot that technology could bring to the resale space. I soon found out about The RealReal, and thought it was really cool that there was luxury consignment store to buy secondhand clothes, shoes, purses, and jewelry — all online.
I spent several years at The RealReal after grad school, and I loved being at a woman-founded, woman-IPO’d company. That was fantastic and very different from my previous experience. It was really motivating to see women at the forefront of making resale cool.
In 2020, I heard about Recurate and the idea of combining resale with a brand-owned experience, I thought, This is it. This is what brands need.
What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
I’m very fortunate to have been raised and surrounded by strong, smart, thoughtful women. I had great female mentors, and I always thought I could do anything men could do. There is no question in my mind, which my mother says has been the case since I was a toddler.
But when I now sit in some rooms or talk in some circles, it’s literally a group of men, and me. When The RealReal IPO’d, we went to NASDAQ, and we were walking up the stairs, and it was all men, and then there was Katrina Lake from Stitch Fix and The RealReal’s CEO. To me, it was clear the system was broken.
Women’s History Month is less about celebrating the individual or the individual’s accomplishments and more about how we rethink the structures in our society and how they need to be intersectional. It’s not just one kind of feminism or one kind of woman who needs to be elevated. We really need to think about how these structures have oppressed and continue to oppress women of all races, backgrounds, and socio-economic statuses.
Why is having a diverse and balanced team essential to you?
I think balanced representation is super important because you get to pool people with all these interesting backgrounds and experiences. I truly believe that when you bring in people who have different work experiences, education experiences, life experiences, and networks, you become more than the sum of your parts. That is where you start leveling up as a company, especially as a startup, where everyone involved in these conversations is moving the needle forward.
In resale, in particular, women seem to be leading it. If you look at the brands we work with, about half are female-founded, where overall mostly men lead retail brands.
Any particular women who’ve inspired you in your career?
The first person who hired me at Sotheby’s, Tracy Mekler. I had no family connections, I was not a client, I had no connectivity to that world, but she liked that I was a business student and that I gave tours on campus. She went outside the norm and hired me, which changed the whole trajectory of my life.
Another woman I worked with at Sotheby’s, Heather, took me under her wing. She challenged me with work that I thought was above my capabilities, and because she believed in me, I was able to discover that I could do it. Both women decided that they were going to take a chance on me. That pushed my career forward in huge ways.
What are some leadership qualities you try to put into action?
I hire people who I think are really capable, and then I try to let them go do a really good job. I don’t mean really capable like they have an Ivy League degree or anything like that, just that they want to hustle and figure things out. I think that at the end of the day, that’s what makes someone capable. A lot of managers either are totally absent, or they’re totally in someone’s business, which is tough too. I try to let people be their whole best selves.
What is one thing you’re most proud of at Recurate?
I would say building out the team. Our team at Recurate is a very kind, very thoughtful, very smart team, and that takes a lot of intentional effort in hiring and cultivating a culture. It’s a really lovely group of people who are all mission-driven and talented. That’s hard to find, especially at early-stage startups. On average, startups have a very high turnover before series B, but so far we’ve had no one leave.
As an avid secondhand shopper, what’s your favorite find?
I am very proud of the fact that I buy secondhand. If you ask me where any of my things are from, and they’re secondhand, I will tell you they’re secondhand. I will probably tell you how much I paid for it. I think part of it is that I love a good deal, and part of it is that I believe high-quality products should have more than one life.
That’s the interesting part of buying secondhand: sometimes, you don’t truly understand how high-quality something is until you have it for years. For example, I never got the hype over the CHANEL ballet flat — I thought they were cute, but I would never have paid $700 for them. I found a pair that was a little scuffed up on The RealReal and bought them for $250. They’re phenomenal. I have worn them around Manhattan day and night, on the streets and sidewalks, which beat-up shoes. I can go to a tailor, and they rebuff them, and they are as gorgeous as the day before I got them. That inspired a big mind shift for me: you truly are investing in your closet by buying quality pieces. But it also goes back to my point about accessibility. I didn’t have that kind of money to spend on shoes, so it wasn’t going to happen had I not found them secondhand.
Some advice you’d give someone at the start of their career?
I give this advice a lot. I tell people: Do some deep digging. What do you like to do? Why do you like to do it? What is interesting to you? Do some digging and also be okay with getting it wrong. When I did an internship through my business school program, I didn’t like the industry or the job. You could look at it as a waste of a summer, but I look at it like I got to cross two things off the list that I don’t want to do. That’s just as valuable as finding something you do like.
Best piece of advice you’ve received?
The best advice I ever got was: What would a man do? If they have the audacity, why can’t I?
To learn more about Recurate, our team, and the brands embracing resale, visit recurate.com.