Brits purchase more clothing than any other European country, spending £2.7 billion ($3.5 billion) on fashion that they only wear once.
The founder of a fashion technology company called By Rotation is hoping to change consumer habits, and help the planet to boot.
UK-based, India-born and Singapore-raised Eshita Kabra came up with the idea when she was planning her honeymoon.
“I turned to social media for ideas on what to wear, and always saw influencers on social media wearing beautiful clothing – often only once – in idyllic settings. I started to wonder if these items were gifted from the brands themselves or bought just for the photo, and what would happen to them after.”
Kabra didn’t want to follow the footsteps of Rent the Runway, or China’s YCloset, as she wanted to “build a sustainable community, rather than a cheaper alternative to dressing new”.
By Rotation launched via a beta platform in April 2019, while Kabra was still working full time at a hedge fund.
Kabra says her company differs from players like Rent the Runway, or UK companies such as Girl Meets Dress, Front Row, and Our Closet, as they are the “UK’s first and only fashion rental app”.
“We are a pure peer-to-peer fashion rental marketplace meaning we do not buy any inventory whatsoever unlike all the other businesses.
“Most of our peers focus on occasion wear and are for fashion-conscious females whereas we cater to a wide range of outfits and therefore prices.”
Rentals range from £15 for a Reformation dress to £75 for a Birkin bag and the app is open to all genders.
But shifting mindsets about renting has been a “big part” of the challenge.
“We liken ourselves and give the examples of AirBnB, Uber and Vestiaire Collective to warm up and remind people how common the sharing and circular economies have become.”
Kabra says her upbringing played a role in wanting to launch the brand.
“I was born in Rajasthan, a place known for its textile mills and craftsmanship; I grew up in Singapore, where our national hobby is shopping while repeatedly being taught the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) and made to feel guilty about wasting water, and I live in the United Kingdom, where people are fashion-conscious and increasingly turning up the volume on sustainable causes.
“The same people have also embraced sharing economies such as Airbnb, Uber and Fat Llama – so why not fashion?”
In order to stay as sustainable as possible, the company doesn’t buy in any inventory, which also poses another issue around sizing and style.
“We continue to invite and grow awareness within our community so we can have something on offer for everyone,” Kabra says. “As we educate and shift perceptions on the importance of sharing via renting and therefore decreasing consumption, we encourage our community of Rotators to strive towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
“We regularly host and connect our community at our events where we discuss and debate important topics affecting climate change and the fashion industry.”
Kabra plans to expand internationally, as well as launch partnerships with charities within the next two quarters. Since the beta launch, the app has already had more than 4,000 users sign up and completed 250-plus transactions.
“My ultimate ambition for By Rotation is to disrupt the fashion industry by bringing an end to low-quality fast fashion.”