Rentals responsibility to sustainability and the full circle.
A Green Mood
My co-founder Natalie and I started Onloan because we want to tackle the biggest problem the fashion industry faces – that collectively we produce & throw away too much stuff. During the past 10 years, the number of items of clothing purchased per consumer has more than doubled* and yet, it is estimated that more than half of the fast fashion produced is disposed of in under a year.* Our mission is to enable the exploration of personal style without treating clothes as disposable.
Put another way, we want to help hundreds of thousands of women to give up fast fashion.
But the truth is, the more we’ve learnt about ‘sustainable fashion’, the less we’ve wanted to talk about it. Why? There’s just so much greenwashing out there. Companies make unfounded claims about sustainability all the time (sometimes knowingly, sometimes not) – and we didn’t want to add to the noise.
However, since March Onloan has been growing rapidly (hallelujah) and that growth has brought up big questions that dive right to the heart of why Nat & I are building this business.
So my plan, to keep me learning and on track, is to educate myself properly about sustainable fashion and document my journey, and Onloan’s, publically via our blog, Moodzine.
Fashion rental will be important for a more sustainable fashion industry (if you read a recent headline that it’s worse than throwing clothes away, you can read why I dispute that here). Just last week the British Fashion Council released a report creating targets for a circular fashion economy and implored the industry to produce 50% fewer clothes (!) . Enabling people to satisfy a desire for newness via renting instead of buying will help this.
But as a rental company we also have a responsibility to support the full circle, the whole ecosystem. Upstream, we have unique insight into how garments depreciate over time, that can help designers make longer-lasting items. Downstream, we’re the only business that has the clothes back with us for the ‘end of life’ and can recycle/reuse/regenerate as makes most sense.
I’m aiming to be open about our sustainability successes and failures as we grow. Our plan is to invite questions, share resources, and contribute to the wider conversation around the future of fashion. I actually think it’s pretty important to bring the voice of an entrepreneur, who is deep in the weeds of building a new system, alongside all the academics, policymakers, scientists, and other experts doing great work.
My sustainability journey might be a little slower than I’d like. Onloan is still just a baby – a fledgling that needs constant attention. I also have 3 kids under 5 at home (a whole sustainability question in itself, I know). So I’m asking for your help to keep my word.
In my mid-20s after a year working at a cotton factory in Uganda and just after the Rana Plaza disaster happened, I decided to quit fast fashion. I told all my friends, which meant they would always ask ‘where did you get that top from then?’ The potential for losing face if I said ‘Topshop’ kept me on track. Peer pressure works! So if you don’t hear from me again on sustainability for a while – message me, and ask what I’m playing at.
I believe that every startup needs a nemesis, a big beneficiary of the status quo that they are in conflict against. If there’s no conflict, then where is the revolution? At Onloan our nemeses are those high street and online behemoths that churn out low-quality clothes, knowing full well each item’s shelf life in customer’s wardrobes is measured in days not even weeks. The average number of times a customer wears a garment before disposal is just 10 times.*** It’s why our wardrobes are bulging but we only wear 44% of the clothing we own and around 30% of the clothing in our wardrobe has not been worn for at least a year.****
If you’d like to follow along, I’ll be posting here on the world’s best new fashion journal, Moodzine. And while I’m at it, here’s a plug to join our email list too.
Thanks in advance for keeping us on track.
Tamsin Chislett – CEO & Co-Founder, Onloan
*Global Fashion Agenda and Boston Consulting Group, Pulse of the fashion industry (2017), p.57 **Ellen MacArthur Foundation, A new textiles economy: Redesigning fashion’s future, (2017) ***Global Fashion Agenda and Boston Consulting Group, Pulse of the fashion industry (2018), p.59 **** WRAP, ‘Valuing our clothes: the evidence base’ (2012),