I remember when literally everyone was talking about Airbnb. I sit at the more conservative end of the ‘millennial’ behavioural spectrum, so the idea of sharing listing your home for complete strangers really freaked me out. But how times have changed and notably, how quickly. Wardrobe rentals have risen alongside the sharing economy but in the last four years has seen a surge, driven by consciousness around consumption and changing perceptions of ownership. By Rotation is a peer to peer clothing rental app, which almost takes out the middle man (the company’s role is to make sure everything runs smoothly) and provides some of the coolest, cult designers around for high street prices. And yes, I’m on it. If you could get around brushing your teeth in someone’s bathroom in Amsterdam, you won’t blink twice at zipping up a Rotate Birger Christensen dress from Alice in East London. Or throwing your keys into a Dior saddle bag, thanks to Laura from Battersea. Especially when it only costs you £30 and £70, respectively. The Haute Heel met up with the woman behind all of this, Eshita Kabra-Davies the owner of By Rotation.
What’s your professional background and how did you end up with a sustainable fashion business?
I’ve had a career in investment management for the past six years, with a focus on investing in corporate bonds. By Rotation is a product of my passions and interests in fashion and graphic design (and potentially my guilt as a Singaporean ex-shopaholic), so I would say there’s a low correlation between my professional experience and the company I’ve founded.
What makes By Rotation different to the other clothing rentals out there?
By Rotation is the only mobile app in this space (other peers are either web-based platforms or are physical stores) and we have a big focus on community and inclusivity. We’ve always been open to all and our price points are the most attractive, which I find a big differentiator. We’re also the only pure peer-to-peer platform, which means we do not buy any inventory whatsoever. Lastly, I would argue we have the most solid platform – we are 100% digital (along with our frequent community events) – our technology team has experiences in AI, machine learning, blockchain, development and strategic consulting for some of the world’s largest public and private firms.
As an entrepreneur with a young business, whats been the biggest challenge when making this a reality?
I never intended to create a fashion-focused business. It’s a very different world from finance! The way things are done [in this industry] is different and very much about who you know. I’ve also found it less diverse than finance, believe it or not! I have however, been very lucky to attract and surround myself and our company with an incredibly diverse group of people and Rotators (clothing renters), which I’m very pleased about.
Do you do this alone or have a team? At what point do you need to delegate?
I’m currently the only full-time employee and this is also recent (six weeks ago), given that I was running By Rotation as a side hustle during its first six months. I have however engaged an excellent team of freelancers who complement my skillset – I’m surprised by how willing I have been to acknowledge the things I don’t quite understand.
What’s your take on sustainability, is it a dirty word and should we be rethinking how we use it?
Sustainability as a word evokes a sense of purpose in me, for our planet. I don’t think it’s a dirty word and I think it’s important we discuss it more often, so people take time to brood over it and connect with their feelings about our planet. I’ve always been very passionate about the environment and I feel like I lost it for a while being too busy with “life” and “career”. I feel that it’ll come to everyone, we just need to talk about it more so it gets to people quicker.
So many people enjoy the thrill of impulse buys. Can By Rotation’s concept cater to everyone?
If people were aware that they could dress in high quality items for the price of “cheap thrill” retailers (as they can on By Rotation!), they would seriously consider renting over buying new. By Rotation has been especially good in that we’ve always identified ourselves as an inclusive community that wants to celebrate all our Rotators. Besides the branding bit of the equation, we’ve taken practical steps to ensure the service is accessible to all – a mobile app available on both iPhones and Android phones, no subscription fees, no waiting lists, price points that make people seriously consider buying new/shopping on the high street and allowing vintage pieces. We also are open to all genders – I do need more men’s listings – so if you’re reading, please sign up!
If you could borrow from anyone’s closet, who would it be?
Bettina Looney – she has incredible taste and such a lovely person. Second is Charlize Theron, I have a massive crush on her.
You’re in a unique position to collaborate with brands, who would you most like to work with?
Brand-wise, I’d love to collaborate with Mother of Pearl – they have beautiful pieces which you would just recognise right away.
Company-wise, I’d love to collaborate with Vestiare, Depop or Glossier. I’m a huge fan.
During Cyber weekend, from the 29th November to the 2nd of December 2019, By Rotation will be donating 100% of profits to charity Smart Works. Click here to shop luxury items for the holiday season and benefit a great cause.