Fashion

“I set out to create a self-sustaining community of fashion lovers who can rotate what they own with each other”

Welcome to The Sustainable Shopper. Each week, Stylist will talk to the people focused on creating a more conscious shopping space for all. This week, Eshita Kabra Davies – founder of fashion rental platform By Rotation explains to fashion editor Harriet Davey why it’s important to be inclusive in the industry, how Stacey Dooley created a ‘pinch me’ moment for the platform and tips on renting out your wardrobe to be more sustainable.

The Sustainable Shopper series is here to spotlight people in the fashion industry who are determined to make a change. So far, we’ve had podcasters, broadcasters, sustainable fashion and jewellery brand owners and now it’s time to delve into rental with By Rotation. Eshita Kabra Davies is the founder of the free app that allows users to rent out their wardrobes peer-to-peer. Since launching in October 2019, the platform now boosts over 32,000 users and allows the people renting to set the price of each item per day, along with the rental period. Aiming to be an inclusive community, the idea is to be able to wear designer clothes – from the likes of Hermès and Christian Dior to Rixo and The Vampire’s Wife – for a fraction of the price, aiming for everyone to consume less and share more. 

As a relatively new way to wear clothes, rental sites are a key part of changing people’s mindsets when it comes to being more sustainable. Continue for Eshita’s tips on starting to rent your clothes, why it’s more environmentally friendly and how slow living is the way forward. 

Eshita Kabra Davies
Eshita Kabra Davies founder of By Rotation

Eshita: My first memory of sustainability is being given my sister’s hand-me-downs as a child. I was always taught about the importance of using whatever clothing we had as long as we could still fit into it. Sustainable fashion to me now is about a more considered approach to what I’m consuming – so really abiding by the principles of buying less, buying better and sharing more.

So what made me come up with the idea for By Rotation? It came with an all too common first-world problem when planning my honeymoon to my motherland Rajasthan, India. I was planing what to wear. After researching the global fashion rental landscape and discovering the impacts of textile waste in my own hometown, I set out to create a self-sustaining community of fashion lovers who could rotate what they owned with each other. It was important for me from day one to create an inclusive community and to make it all about the regular consumers as opposed to fashion insiders. Given my own experiences as a “third culture kid” (India, Singapore, US and UK) and having a career in a completely unrelated profession with investment management. Today, we’re the world’s first social fashion rental app and we believe our strength lies in the power of our inclusive community and our tech.

The fashion industry is notorious for being traditional and elitist and unfortunately it’s something I experienced even in the sustainable fashion space. Being non-British and an outsider to the fashion industry, I had virtually no contacts or network to get By Rotation’s name out there organically. Given our completely peer-to-peer nature of business, it was more vital than ever to raise awareness for our concept. I’m lucky I finally met my tribe.

For me, By Rotation has already been an amazing journey. Building a team of people from completely different backgrounds and experiences whom I didn’t know before By Rotation has been one of my favourite moments of being a founder, especially when I see how committed they are to our mission of transforming fashion consumption.

A major pinch me moment for By Rotation was when documentary filmmaker, Stacey Dooley, approached us to lend out her wardrobe to raise funds for Refuge charity. It felt unreal to be recognised by someone like Stacey who has been an wonderful advocate for sustainability and documented fashion’s impact on the planet to such huge audiences, so to get her approval was a vote of confidence that our message is being heard. Other users on the app also include Saoirse Monica Jackson, Camille Charriere and so many more wonderful women whose support we could not be more grateful for.  

With the growth of awareness around conscious consumption, sustainability and a sharing economy, it is clear that people are now looking for more environmentally friendly ways to interact with and manage their clothes. Fashion rental as a concept is just one solution out of many tackling some of the core issues of the fashion industry. What all these sustainable solutions have in common is that they want to prolong the life cycle of clothing and that to me is very exciting. We are all learning to value what we have more and respect the craft in each of our belongings, to appreciate the journey that they have been on to end up in our possession. 

Sustainability isn’t this scary technical or “treehugger” idea that might require you to change your entire lifestyle. As an average consumer, the least you can do is refuse more product and reuse what you have – that’s how it starts. It’s all about simple clear steps, and if there’s a yearning to learn more – there’s a plethora of information out there for you to evolve your entire lifestyle. 

One way to start to live more sustainably when it comes to fashion is to refuse product, reuse what you have, buy less, buy better and share what you own with others on the By Rotation app, of course. Slow living is a multidisciplinary art that will naturally take a lifetime to master. In the meantime, there are so many small adjustments we can all make to our daily lives that together will be catalysts for a larger chain reaction of positive change. 

From being influenced by the right people on social media that can teach and challenge you, to thinking circularly, every aspect of our life has a ripple effect on other parts of the planet and life as a whole. For example, the fashion industry consumes an exorbitant amount of water just to manufacture one T-shirt but so does factory farming animals to produce meat and dairy products. This is not to say you shouldn’t buy T-shirts or eat meat, it is more that we should be scrutinising and studying the way we treat our planet and all who dwell upon it. 

Each time we spend money, it is a vote towards either a more or a less sustainable planet. Where we spend our money on fashion, food and everything in between, contributes to our consumption footprint on earth. Buying less, and buying better encompasses everything, not just fashion. It’s about taking responsibility and being a more mindful and conscious human being – we’re all in this together, so it only makes sense that we approach sustainability in a holistic way too. 

Birkin bag for rent
Birkin bag for rent

If you want to start renting your clothes, it takes just 2 minutes to list your items. My advice would be just go for it. I think the hardest part about renting is getting started, once you list your first item and see how easy it is, you’ll be listing everything in your wardrobe. I think the common misconception is that as soon as you list them they will disappear from your wardrobe – on By Rotation everything is on your terms. You choose the pricing, the dates the item can be rented and ultimately decide whether you want to go ahead with the rental once communicating with the renter. 

You also don’t need to list picture perfect items, these are pieces that are in your wardrobe, so naturally they will have some wear and tear. In terms of cleaning, we could recommend using eco-friendly solutions such as clothes-doctor.com, don’t dry clean everything as it’s bad for the planet and bad for your wallet.

The Sustainable Shopper edit: By Rotation rentals

All images: By Rotation 

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