Picture credit: By Rotation

Looking back at the tumultuous past year, I think we can agree that if lockdown proved to be good for one thing, it’s that everyone had the chance to sit back in their joggers on the sofa and – while binging Bridgerton and Line of Duty – really question their consumer habits.

As shops and pubs stood dormant in eerie shopping capitals, people were either having a fashion hiatus, or reminiscing the fashion of years gone by filtering through their own wardrobes and attics or shopping online for vintage styles.

Consumer awareness was really ‘kicked into overdrive’ by the overnight lockdown that lasted what seemed to be a lifetime. A 2020 global survey by management consultancy firm Accenture, brought to the fore by BBC, said that consumers have dramatically evolved during the pandemic, and 60% reported more sustainable or ethical purchases since the start of lockdown – a new habit that 9 out of 10 said they would continue following.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look our best as we ease ourselves, one cocktail at a time, back into what was once a subconscious way of life. But it’s becoming more obvious by the day that as shops restock (and quickly sell out) and pubs become the main weekend solace for many, our old shopping habits are beginning to creep back in.

Leaving us with one beaming question at the fore; should we really let a weekend of good food and alcohol wash away the euphoric realisation surrounding consumer habits we garnered and nurtured during lockdown?

As shops welcomed us back in with full racks of summer styles, UK retail surged by 10% compared to May 2020, following a high of 17.5% in March just two months prior. Whereas these figures aren’t quite as high as pre-pandemic shopping levels, it shows just how quickly people can snap back into the trap of fast fashion.

The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change has confirmed that the fast fashion industry creates 10% of carbon dioxide emissions every year, and with the rise of cheaply produced clothing like Missguided’s £1 bikini that costs the earth its health and garment workers their rights, this really is the time to continue investigating the value of clothing and examine our own consumer habits.

In the final months of lockdown, as my rugged joggers hung limply, heavily around my hips from days, months of wear, I came across a site that has allowed me to have a brand new outfit each time I head out on a Saturday night, without costing the earth and leaving a dent in my purse. This app? By Rotation.

Picture: By Rotation App

Founded by Eshita Kabra Davies, By Rotation is an online clothing rental platform that was set up to “create a sustaining community of fashion lovers who can rotate what they own with each other.” Founded in 2019, By Rotation is a pure peer-to-peer platform, evoking a sense of community and support each time you decide to rent.

Leading circular platforms have been hailed the ‘next big boom’ by Wired, and British rental site By Rotation’s sign-up and user figures – that grew by 425% in the year since March 2020 – is sure proof that it’s a thing of the now.

This obvious self-examination of our own consumer behaviour that has led us to use rental platforms more freely is a huge stride forward for Brits who, according to Forbes, purchase more clothing than any other European country and spend £2.7 billion on fashion that they only wear once in a blue moon.

Upon its launch, Eshita made the conscious decision that unlike other rental apps like Rent the Runway and Girl Meets Dress, By Rotation would not buy inventory to be kept at a warehouse and that would contribute to a purchasing mindset. Instead, fashion lovers can create profiles and urge a 3R policy – reduce, reuse and recycle – as they send their garments away for a weekend of who-knows-what, only to be returned worn and hungover a few days later.

Just one scroll down my By Rotation homepage, tailored to my own personal preferences, shows me garments in sizes 8-12 and shoes in size 4, as well as a wealth of garments rotated by influencers I follow on the app and categories including ‘wedding guest’ and ‘going out’.

Jacquemus bags at £70 for a weekly loan and Amina Muaddi silk heels at £20 per day, followed closely by garments from Ganni, Rat & Boa, Rixo, Daily Sleeper, Laura Ashley, Megan Crosby that flock to my homepage. I can even meet some of the platform’s best rotators thanks to brief interviews on the app itself.

The best thing about By Rotation is that, not only are you introduced to a myriad of beautiful, top-notch designer brands you may never have come across otherwise, but you can tailor the price to suit your budget. With many rental prices including a two day rental minimum fee, I have the freedom to order a dress for 2 days costing around £20, or clutch on to the item for a little longer and pay the extra daily charge.

It is this app that I have turned to twice since the lifting of lockdown for my one-night and one-night-only outfits. On my first night out in Cardiff since Spring 2020, I ordered myself a Virago Barcelona dress. The bustle of royal blue silk, carved into a one shouldered mini with golden brass buttons adorning the one arm and a cut out accent at the hips, would have originally cost me £234 to buy. By renting the dress I only paid £8 a day for four days, costing a grand rental total of £36.80 including delivery and dry-cleaning fees. Much less than I would have paid originally for a full outfit.

Picture: Georgina in London wearing the With Jean mini dress

Again, in June I travelled up to London to visit some friends. The outfit to be held accountable for that weekend was in fact a sheer, With Jean mini dress with a hazy tropical print and adjustable straps. The dress even came with a slip to avoid that horrible hunt for undergarments at M&S. The dress usually retails at $210 and for £7 a day for 3 days minimum (perfect amount of time to pack, travel and return to post!) I got it for £24.15.

One of the main qualms when it comes to rental fashion is firstly the idea of, ‘ew, this was worn by someone else two days ago’ and ‘oh no, what if I shrink or dye it in the wash?’. Well, By Rotation is not only known for its reliable sizing and fast delivery, but also the perfect appeal of not having to wash the garment. Your extra small fee popped on to your rental price covers postage AND dry cleaning once the item has been sent back. You can literally receive the dress, relish it for one night, and return it the next day without the stress of staining it in the wash.

If I had to write a sentence to sum up my thoughts on By Rotation, it would have to be ‘Who needs a wardrobe when you can rent your life away.’ Do I have one final complaint? Yes. I can’t financially fund my rental reminisces, and I have many more weekend wanders in the diary…

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