Each week at the Sustainable Shopper, Stylist talks to the people focused on creating a more conscious shopping space for all. This time, Georgie Hyatt – co-founder of fashion rental platform Rotaro – talks to fashion editor Harriet Davey about the joys of borrowing outfits to head back out and about, and why it’s the most sustainable way to embrace new trends.
Forgotten how to get dressed? Found yourself with ‘nothing’ to wear for post-lockdown plans? Fear not, as our Sustainable Shopper this week has the answer. Georgie Hyatt – co-founder of rental platform Rotaro – wanted to create a way for everyone to borrow outfits, instead of buying new. Aiming to reduce waste and stand by a ‘rent, resuse, repeat’ mantra, Rotaro is part of an ever-growing space for rentals to help fix the problematic fashion industry.
Hosting a plethora of designer brands including Rixo, Jacquemus, Stine Goya and most recently Rotate by Birger Christensen (to name a few), Rotaro is the go-to for cult labels. The site also has a new resale section, closing the loop even further by selling rented items as pre-loved for a cut of the retail price once they’ve finished their rental life cycle.
With amazing personal style and home interiors to match, entrepreneur Georgie tells Stylist how you should unfollow fashion accounts that no longer align with your values, why you should check clothing labels like you would ingredients and how rental is the way forward.
What is your earliest memory of sustainability?
Georgie: Six years ago I moved from South Africa to London to eagerly immerse myself in the UK fashion industry. When I first moved, I was enthralled and over-gorged on fashion and trends, and quite frankly overjoyed to finally have access to latest in-season trends, rather than trawling through 6-month-old trends in Southern hemisphere.
I found my then-dream job at WGSN, a trend and consumer forecasting company where I worked closely with fashion brands helping them implement both trends and sustainable practices. It was at WGSN where we were predicting the future of fashion, and this is where I learned of the detriment the fashion industry has on the planet, and also where I learned of the exciting potential of the circular fashion economy.
Fashion always has and always will be such a source of joy, pleasure and self-expression for me, however I quickly developed eco-anxiety working closely with fashion brands. I realised I wanted to create a fashion solution rather than be part of a fashion problem; and I went on to co-found Rotaro, the fashion rental platform to help people experiment with fashion more mindfully.
Is there such a thing as truly sustainable fashion?
Truly sustainable fashion brands are hard to come by because creating a garment requires the use of the earth’s resources, which is in itself unsustainable. However, what can be more sustainable is how we consume fashion.
The most sustainable fashion is the fashion that already exists, so what is in your wardrobe, vintage fashion, or to rent, which extends a garments’ lifespan to its full potential.
Investment pieces vs fast fashion: how do you get customers to care?
We offer customers a way to access beautiful, well-made fashion, for the price of a fast-fashion piece. So renting with Rotaro means you don’t need to compromise – it’s a no-brainer!
However, we can’t ignore that aside from rental, well-made clothing is expensive and that new sustainable fashion is a privilege. We don’t preach “never buy fast fashion” but rather, if you’re going to buy something new from a high street retailer, pause to consider whether you’ll wear it at least 20 times. If not, rent or look for something pre-loved, or a small independent brand. Make sure the purchase is going to be worth the earth’s resources.
Who is your favourite sustainability influencer? And why?
Venetia La Manna: she is champion of calling out brands that are greenwashing and sharing helpful information. She also created #oootd which is ‘Old Outfit If The Day’, encouraging us to re-wear and outfit repeat, essentially encouraging us to love our clothes to death.
What changes would you like to see happen in the fashion industry?
I would love to see top-down change from the government where they implement stringent regulations for fashion businesses in regards to product, planet and people. There are brilliant businesses and individuals driving for change themselves but until the government steps in, irresponsible fashion brands will continue to thrive.
The future of fashion also lies in collaboration and I would love to see multiple fashion stakeholders increasingly collaborating to redesign the fashion system in a way that prioritises the planet. At Rotaro, we’re working with brands to introduce a rental option to their customers and this relies on brands sharing our future vision of a more circular fashion system, which is so exciting and a great opportunity to change the industry together.
Three sustainable shopping hacks
1. Streamline your socials: unfollow any accounts that promote over-consumption or unsustainable practices and follow accounts that empower your shopping choices. There are a wealth of brilliant brands who focus on slow-production, sustainable materials and ethically made garments alongside accounts to inspire and inform your further learning around sustainable shopping.
Resources Georgie recommends: Fashion Revolution, Fashion Open Studio and Eco Age.
2. Know your labels: much like you would check out the ingredients of your food, clothing labels can give us an indication of a garment’s eco-credentials. Look out for recycled materials or better still, opt for materials like Tencel lyocell, BCI Cotton, Cupro and RWS certified wool. Brands like Pangaia pride themselves on transparency, branding their products with their ingredients, while AllBirds use their labels to reveal how much carbon emission went into producing each piece. Brand’s not giving much away? Cause a ruckus! Join Fashion Revolution’s #whomademyclothes movement to demand all the answers.
3. Rent, reuse, repeat! Okay, so I may be slightly bias but renting is one of the most sustainable ways to get your fashion fix without the footprint. At Rotaro, we’ve considered sustainability from a 360 angle – from the brands we work with, our packaging, carbon-neutral delivery all the way to our environmentally friendly cleaning process. Whatsmore, we’ve partnered with Ecologi to plant a tree for every purchase. So go ahead, treat yourself to a rental this Earth Month.
Sustainable Shopper edit by Georgie:
Bernadette dress at Rotaro
I’ll be renting this celebratory piece for a 21st June garden party.
Rotate Birger Christensen dress at Rotaro
The perfect occasion dress, I would rent this beauty out for a wedding in South Africa later on in the year.
Stine Goya dress at Rotaro
Picnics in the park have become an occasion, so why not dress up? I would rent this Stine Goya frock for a warm weather day and take it for a trip to the park with friends.
Rotate Birger Christensen dress at Rotaro
As soon as dinner parties are allowed, I’ll be renting this fantastic fringed Rotate dress to wear for an evening soirée.
These biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes are a great easy swap to be more sustainable. The colours on this set represent the charities that are supported with each sale.
Fiils shampoo and conditioner
My thick hair uses so much product I can now wash away guilt-free with this shampoo and conditioner set from new refillable beauty brand, Fiils.
Ren is my favourite skincare brand an this overnight recovery balm saves my dry skin. It’s completely cruelty-free and you can recycle both the pot and lid.
Images: courtesy of Georgie Hyatt/ Rotaro and brands featured