Akanksha Kamath is a fashion editor based out of Mumbai. She started her career as a stylist at ELLE India then went on to complete a Masters in Fashion Communication at Central Saint Martins and a memorable stint at The Business of Fashion in London. You can now find her editing fashion copy at Vogue India and writing market reports for Vogue Business.
In this live, our 'A Glass of Wine With' series had a little twist - Akanksha interviewed our Founder, Eshita, to discuss all things By Rotation. They dove into Eshita's multi-cultural background, her motivation behind building the app and how the social element of By Rotation App is filling a gap in the industry.
What made you focus in on this emerging fashion rental market? What was your aha moment?
Eshita explained that it wasn't a commercial plan as such, but it started when she gradually became more aware of sustainability and the climate crisis. Then whilst planning her honeymoon and thinking about what she wanted to wear, she realised there weren't any fashion rental companies that she knew of in the UK. So her mission became to create a community in which you could borrow fashion from each other, make money off your wardrobe, make new friends, save the planet and save money at the same time. It has also always been important to her to stay relatable to the working professional and make circular fashion more accessible to the average person.
As a third culture kid, did any of these cultures have a say in how you feel about fashion and your business?
Definitely - we're a community based business and aim to be accessible to people from all walks of life. As a third culture kid it was important to Eshita to create a community that is transparent and inclusive, and keeps diversity imbedded in everything we do. "I like the fact that I don't belong in any particular world."
How does the app work as the 'Airbnb' of fashion?
We were recently also called the 'Instagram of fashion', which may be more accurate! It's very simple, you create an account and username, then you can lend out items in your wardrobe or rent items from people whose style you admire. You can follow and like each others listings, and can see how many views your items are getting. The future of a circular fashion community is the social aspect, so it was important to us to implement that.
How is your business influenced by Gen-Z's?
"Whilst they're interested in staying on trend and trying out reels etc., they are always conscious of the planet and our environment." It is inspiring and they are the generation of the future. Resale platforms are appealing to younger people and they are much more open to buying secondhand/renting designer pieces from older women - it's so nice to bring these different people together!
Some of the coolest ideas in fashion come from fashion outsiders. What was it that attracted you to fashion?
Eshita used to work as an investment analyst, working at a hedge fund and on the trading floor at different points in her life. "I obviously gained skills from being a part of the professional services but I'm also learning so much as this stage in life." Fashion for her is less about clothes and designers, and more about the culture - she's interested in it because of the way it allows her to express herself. As an outsider, she entered the industry with a different perspective and aims to approach the average consumer.
What do you think is next for fashion and sustainability?
Rental and resale are going to get bigger - we're expecting a big rebound in in-person social activity and rental will be a big part of that. Digital fashion is also un and coming, and more generally she is looking forward to seeing the industry becoming more diverse at every level, in race, ethnicity and socio-economic backgrounds. There is traditionally a divide between the people running the brand and the consumer but we try to make sure there isn't such a distinction between our team and our rotators.
Will there ever be a By Rotation store?
"In the near future, no." We have a studio, which is a great way to meet rotators and talk about rental fashion but we're a peer to peer platform so a store isn't really on the cards. We do however, love to put on events for our consumers and like to be close knit to our core rotators.
What does your growth look like and what does it mean to you?
It has been a difficult year as we launched around 5 and a half months before the pandemic hit. But we have over 40000 registered users on the app and over 6000 listings - all peer to peer. We really wanted to see people willing to be part of the community and engaging with the circular community by actively listing their own items. We now have close to a million listing views. Moving forward, we are placing emphasis on the importance of our community and the social networking side of things.
Whose wardrobe would you like to rent?
Priyanka Chopra's would be amazing, but also Charlize Theron, Amanda Gorman and Emma Watson.
What new features can we expect?
We are tweaking a few things to ensure our machine learning will help to match your style better, so our search and discover functions will continue to improve. We are also launching an ambassador programme to satisfy the need of our top rotators to be involved with, engaged and talking about the platform a lot more. And we also have a few cool collaborations coming your way..
Have you heard of friendships being formed over the app?
Yes! "My ex-colleague told me she was waiting for her Barre class and she heard a few women talk about By Rotation and look through app at the studio!" It is wonderful that people are excited to rent from those whose style they have admired for a long time. It's really just a pragmatic choice that is also doing something good (not buying new!).
Do you have to warm people up to the idea of sharing outfits?
Yes, there is probably some hesitation. Most millennial users don't buy a lot of clothes anyway, so the need may not have been there, but they have gained confidence from reading peer reviews and seeing the type of women on the app. It's not just influencers and celebs, but lawyers, students and artists too, as shown through our Friday Instagram takeovers. You can really see yourself in these women and showing these testimonials has made people see they can be a part of this.