In this new brave world of ours, you can rent anything and the company you are renting from doesn’t have to own the product you’re renting. Think Uber that doesn’t own a fleet and Airbnb that doesn’t own property, to mention just two examples. UK-based By Rotation does the same for fashion. The company doesn’t own a stitch of fashion, but you can rent a Saloni Tilly dress or a Chanel bag and anything in between from them.
By Rotation is part of the sharing economy that is connecting businesses and customers through apps and digital platforms. Sharing platforms have already caused major disruptions in industries like transport, hospitality, staffing, and payments. And the same is happening in fashion.
The company is also one of many tech startups that are stepping in to make a difference during the COVID-19 crisis. The startup has done its bid to support those working at the NHS by offering a free rental to the staff there. A staff member can sign up on the free By Rotation app and receive a rental worth £50 towards an outfit to a special occasion.
Eshita Kabra-Davies, founder of By Rotation, is a so-called third culture kid who was born in India, grew up in Singapore and lives in the UK. Trained as an investment professional, she came up with the fashion rental concept as a sustainable approach to fashion when contemplating the dilemma of how to own a wardrobe filled with beautiful luxury brands without having to spend a fortune. In answer to her dilemma, she founded By Rotation a year ago as a peer-to-peer rental app for mid-to-high-end fashion.
Her decision to set up the fashion rental platform was also informed by a visit to Rajasthan, an agriculture and textile-based state in northern India, and the monumental textile waste she encountered there.
At this point in time, the textile industry is not sustainable. We use about 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year. And that’s not all. We get rid of our clothes at an alarming rate. In America alone, 82 pounds of textile waste is created by each person every year. That comes to more than 11 million tons of textile waste in the U.S. alone.
And all those clothes that are so carelessly discarded come at a high cost to the environment. It takes more than 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture just a T-shirt and a pair of jeans. Raw materials like cotton are also very heavy on chemicals. Cotton production is responsible for 18% of worldwide pesticide use and 25% of total insecticide use.
Kabra-Davies hopes to discourage the rampant disregard for clothes that are worn only once or twice at great cost to the environment.
“We believe in sharing and rotating our wardrobe of quality fashion with others. Sustainability and diversity are at the core of By Rotation: because quality fashion should not cost the planet, nor should it be exclusive,” said the company.
By Rotation’s peer-to-peer fashion rental app lets its community rent what they need and also lend what’s in their wardrobe.
Users set up a profile on the app that includes a photo of themselves. When they upload images of their clothes for rent, someone must model the piece, you can’t use a photo of the item spread out on a surface or hanging from a hanger. This is so a potential customer can judge how the clothes look on an actual person. The photo must illustrate the fit of the garment.
It’s free to list clothes on the app and it’s up to the lender to decide the price of the rental. The lender is also responsible for cleaning the item and By Rotation charges the lender a 15% service fee.
Platforms like By Rotation are disrupting the fashion industry and changing attitudes towards fashion garments.
Suddenly, beautiful items in a woman’s wardrobe can be worn and enjoyed by others. When you buy a fashion item, you have the choice to first enjoy wearing it and then letting the garment work for you afterward. Renting clothes stops people from buying, and that means the demand for new fashion items might drop which will hopefully contribute to a more sustainable industry in the long run.
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