Eshita Kabra of By Rotation about the social fashion rental app.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Eshita Kabra: All fine here, and feeling very grateful. It’s been a stressful period, but I have really been able to put those feelings into perspective when thinking about the sacrifices, so many of our people have made for us.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded By Rotation.
Eshita Kabra: The idea for By Rotation came with an all-too-common first-world problem when planning my honeymoon to my motherland Rajasthan, India: what to wear. At the time, I was working full-time in investment management at a distressed debt hedge fund. 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 the UK) and not coming from the fashion community. Eventually, I left my 6.5-year-long career in investment management when our app launched in October 2019, and today, we’re the world’s first social fashion rental app, putting community first.
How does By Rotation innovate?
Eshita Kabra: By Rotation provides a solution to the overconsumption of clothes, a phenomenon that has contributed to the fashion industry becoming the second largest polluting industry in the world. On average, in the UK, each person has at least £750 of unworn clothing in their wardrobes, many of these items being eventwear, statement trend pieces, and items that no longer fit. By Rotation allows you to lend and rent fashion from your peers, providing access to an extensive wardrobe of the trendiest fashion without having to pay full retail price for an item that would only be worn a few times. The solution ensures a more sustainable and conscious approach to consumption and incentivizes the consumer by highlighting a route for passive income and creating a community of fashion lovers looking to make a difference.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Eshita Kabra: We truly believe that our strength lies in the power of community and our tech. Regardless of the pandemic, we always work hard to be the most inclusive peer-to-peer fashion rental platform and attract a more diverse range of consumers, so we have continued to do so during this pandemic. Whilst people haven’t been renting as much at the moment, we’ve increased our community by 160% and listings by 140% – making us the largest fashion rental platform in the UK. We also spent this time story-telling, conveying our mission, and building our community while also constantly improving our tech. We recently gave our app a major update to improve all functionalities and streamline the social aspect to By Rotation.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Eshita Kabra: We took the very careful decision to create a completely digital and community-centric business that is unheard of in the fashion rental landscape. We also did not push our community of Rotators to rent items during the lockdowns as these seemed against our principles of steering away from overconsumption. The biggest lesson I’ve learned from the lockdowns is that community is the most important asset a young brand can create and build value from. And we did exactly that!
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Eshita Kabra: Fast fashion companies that have been creating a tremendous amount of waste and feeding into the “wear once” mindset. By Rotation is steadily creeping into their market share by ensuring quality fashion can be rented and borrowed from each other at prices that compete with their products.
Your final thoughts?
Eshita Kabra: As an average consumer who was often ignored by the traditional fashion industry, I created By Rotation to empower the mainstream end customer.
I am incredibly passionate about changing this traditional and elitist industry through the technology we have created and the community we continue to grow. My vision for By Rotation is to completely transform and disrupt the linear fashion consumption model, which has resulted in extreme waste and a carbon footprint that even beats the maritime and aviation industries combined.
I resonate with the philosophy “no one can do everything, but everyone can do something” and this is why I have been very deliberate about ensuring that By Rotation is accessible and inclusive to people from all walks of life, so that we can all play a part in making fashion circular.
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