Since the invention of Uber and Airbnb, the concept of sharing economy has been firmly installed in consumers’ minds and is more and more widely accepted as a way of life. With the increasing popularity of fast fashion and corresponding concern over its impact on sustainability, it’s only a matter of time businesses in fashion look into a way of becoming more waste and planet conscious. As a result, it would seem that fashion resale and rental companies have sprouted from nowhere overnight, and many have failed and vanished as fast as they emerge. However Rotaro, a UK-based luxury fashion rental platform, despite the challenges put forward by a new and competitive market, has quickly made a name for itself and gained momentum with the support from a loyal customer base. I speak with Georgie Hyatt, CEO & cofounder of Rotaro, to find out more about the platform, her view on sustainability, and most importantly, renting a Prada bag for less than £40!
Angela Lei: What made you start Rotaro?
Georgie Hyatt: Rotaro was born out of the urgent need for a solution to once-off, throwaway fashion. We seek to introduce circularity to the fashion industry by extending the lifespan of each garment and consistently hear demand from both the brands and consumers to solve the issue of over production and over consumption.
I founded Rotaro in 2019 with my cofounders, Charlie Knowles and Brooke Andrews. In 2019 alone, Britons spent £2.7 billion on single-use summer fashion, and with the urgency of the climate crisis, we needed to offer an alternate way to consume with a lighter carbon-footprint. One garment can be rented on Rotaro for up to 50 times or more, meaning 49 garments are saved from being produced and subsequently wasted.
AL: What was your background prior to Rotaro?
GH: Before Rotaro, I worked at WGSN, the global authority on trend forecasting and consumer insight. We were tracking the rise of the rental and resale economy and I immediately knew this is what I wanted to put my energy and life into! My cofounders Charlie and Brooke both had great entrepreneurial experience in property and tech development.
AL: How do you think the role of sustainability in the fashion industry has changed over the years?
GH: Initially, I think the fashion industry thought of sustainability as another trend or marketing campaign, but as consumers have become more educated on the urgency of the climate crisis it is evident that they are voting with their wallets by spending on brands that align with their values. And with access to so much knowledge and information, customers can easily identify a brand green-washing or feigning genuine environmentally positive initiatives. The shift has come from the ground up, as the power is in the customers hand and the fashion industry is having to thankfully adapt.
There is no such thing as 100% sustainable fashion, as the nature of producing something, is to use up the earth’s resources, and so the future of fashion must be to change how we consume fashion, to share garments and extend their lives through rental and resale platforms, to re-use and upcycle materials that already exist, to buy second-hand and when buying new, ensuring it is from a responsible brand. Sustainable fashion also has the issue of being a privilege issue, with people only with spare money or time able to buy expensive “sustainable” fashion brands or spend time combing through vintage sites. It is our job as a fashion industry to democratise more sustainable fashion solutions.
AL: There are other platforms in the market that also offer similar services as you, what is different about Rotaro and how do you stay ahead of others?
GH: A key difference is that we work directly with brands and retailers to support them along their rental and resale journey. By empowering brands to produce less, we extend the lifespan of each item, reduce waste and can increase profit by 5 times.
Our curation of garments is a careful selection of luxury, cult favourites and emerging designers. As a team we are constantly consuming information and data at the cross-section of fashion and sustainability. Led by my cofounder, Brooke Andrews, we are working on developing unique and defensible technology in this space that can extend into all areas of the fashion supply chain.
We are proud to be a Carbon Positive Workforce through our partnership with Ecologi whereby we plant 1 tree for every order and 500 trees for each brand that we onboard. Logistically, our orders travel via a carbon-neutral delivery service, our packaging is recycled and biodegradable and we use an eco-friendly cleaning process. Our competition tends to focus towards a peer to peer model which has shown great growth in leveraging customer’s existing wardrobes. However here at Rotaro, we focus on breaking down the barrier between brand and consumer.
AL: Did the pandemic affect Rotaro and if so, in what way? What have you learned from this experience?
GH: We used this period to rethink and reengineer a fashion system that is more beneficial to the planet, rather than playing by traditional fashion rules. For example, the move away from traditional brick and mortar towards digital e-commerce proved to be a necessary focal point for us. More than ever, we need to listen to our consumer and connect to our community. While consumers engaged with rental, we introduced our Resale site, rotaroresale.com, to bring the lifecycle of a garment full circle. As a brand that relies on elevated curation and unique storytelling, it was imperative that we produced relevant and engaging content to capture the attention of our ever growing audience while sharing our brand’s mission and vision.
AL: What is your outlook for Rotaro and also for the sustainability aspect of the industry?
GH: The future of fashion is rental, resale and responsible brands. For the longevity of the planet, this is the only way it can be. We are proud that our business is playing a pivotal role in reshaping the fashion industry and offering a solution to both brands and consumers to close the fashion loop.
In response to wearing loungewear for a year, we are all headed for a surge of celebration and self-expression through fashion and we’re excited to continue to grow our community as life returns to a new normal.
AL: What is your current role in the company and what would your advice be for others who want to follow your entrepreneurial footsteps?
GH: I am the CEO & Co-founder, but I wear many hats including creative direction, marketing, partnerships, business development and wherever else the business needs me!
My advice for others would be to find great people that share your vision to build your brand with and reach out to as many people for advice or collaboration as possible. The future of business is rethinking systems that no longer serve us or the planet and collaboration.
AL: I hear there are some exciting collaborations to be announced in the coming months, could you please tell us a bit about that?
GH: We are really excited to see our partnerships come alive this year. I can’t say too much, however, we are going to have a physical space to create memorable experiences for our community, some exciting collaborations with major fashion players and the launch of our new tech platform for global scalability. Think FarFetch of Rental.
Some of the amazing rental options on Rotaro platform include: Prada Nylon Mini Bag (£39), Cult Gaia Wood Tote Bag (£19), Jacquemus Pampelonne Off-the-Shoulder Cotton-Blend Dress (£45), Stine Goya Arlinda Dance Print Midi Dress (£29), and Stand Studio Electric Blue Faux Shearling Coat (£45).