We’ve spoken to My Wardrobe HQ co-founder, Sacha Newall, to get all the insider details
The rental industry is an amazing, sustainable sector of the fashion industry and My Wardrobe HQ is the UK’s leading fashion rental platform. Hosting a whole range of designer brands, from Louis Vuitton to Christopher Kane and Stella McCartney, Sacha Newall and Tina Lake’s forward-thinking, quality over quantity company means that luxury high-fashion items can be rented for affordable prices.
We’ve had a chat with Sacha to find out more about the rental industry and to see what it’s really like to build such a successful business from scratch.
What inspired you to start your business and when did you realise that it could be a big success?
I was working in car sharing and I knew Tina Lake, my co-founder, from when I used to work in a fashion business called MyWardrobe.com and she had founded a company called London Boutiques. She was very visionary in her approach to the fashion business so I called her and I told her about what I was doing in car sharing and the idea of working both with big car brands and working on a peer to peer basis and I was saying to her ‘do you think this could work in fashion’ and she just immediately loved it and that’s how we started.
“People are becoming very aware of the damage that fast fashion does and the fact that in reality no fast fashion is actually as well made as luxury designer pieces”
How do you think the trend for hiring clothes first started? Do you remember a specific point in time when it began to gain a lot of popularity?
Funnily enough, prior to fast fashion, there always used to be a hire shop pretty much on every high street in the UK. Then sadly, because everyone could buy fast fashion, all of the hire shops actually went out of business.
Then what’s happened recently, it’s more of a cultural change where people are becoming very aware of the damage that fast fashion does and the fact that in reality no fast fashion is actually as well made as luxury designer pieces. The internet is built to allow people to be able to share commodities so if you could rent the designer piece for the same price as the high street copy, why wouldn’t you? Fast fashion pieces don’t feel good when you put them on. Everything about premium fashion is premium for a reason and you just feel so much better when you wear it.
Starting your own business must’ve been daunting, what pushed you to go ahead with it? Were there any key role models or support systems in your life that gave you a boost of confidence?
Definitely having a co-founder really helped because we could give each other that energy that we needed all the time and positivity. Then we have investors in the business and a lot of them are friends and family and you feel a huge sense of responsibility towards your investors to make sure you work your hardest and deliver the best outcome you possibly can.
What are some of the biggest learning curves you’ve come across? And how did you tackle them in a positive way?
The challenge of this business is the logistics and organising that the right items are delivered to the right customers on time in a perfect condition and packaged properly and then making sure that everything is returned back as we need it. Making that as seamless as possible, that’s actually been the biggest challenge.
“We had two primary focuses for the business. One was the protection of the planet and the other was to protect the people in the fashion industry who are doing it properly”
Do you ever have problems with people returning items damaged?
Actually, no. Funnily enough we haven’t- that’s the first question most people ask with rental, but we’ve never had damage. I think people are very careful when they’re wearing rental pieces. Everyone treats things that belong to other people probably slightly better than they do their own stuff. If you think about Air BNB- you’re never tidier than when you’re staying in an Air BNB!
What do you envision for your brand in the next few years?
For us the really big one is the sustainability aspect and people choosing to rent because they know that it’s the most sustainable thing to do. It’s not about price, it’s not just about saving money, it will be because they actually want to be associated with a business that’s actively trying to act in a more sustainable way.
Then the other thing that we’re going to be doing imminently, is a subscription model where people pay a monthly amount of money and they can swap clothes out.
My Wardrobe HQ already carries big names like Givenchy and Christopher Kane. Are there any other brands you’d love to get on board?
We’d love to get all of the super brands- we’d love to be working with them all directly. Some of the brands that you see, we’re not necessarily working with directly because we work with individuals’ wardrobes as well.
“Having a co-founder really helped because we could give each other that energy that we needed all the time”
What does the process of obtaining the items from different brands look like? Are most brands more than happy to co-operate?
Yes, especially for smaller brands- a lot of them are genuinely concerned about sustainability and doing things in a slightly different way to previously. So for them, they’re very keen to work with us.
With an increase in interest in sustainable brands like MyWardrobeHQ, do you think the fashion industry is heading in the right direction in order to be more planet-friendly?
Yes, I think so and I do think COVID’s been partly responsible for that, for making both consumers and brands stop and really think about what they want the future to look like. People have been so trapped on a very fast moving hamster wheel and COVID just gave people the time to have a pause and I think we’ll see a lot less manufacture. I think that brands will be a lot more precise in the stock that they put out.
For you personally, how do you feel about sustainable living and people’s efforts to save the planet?
We sort of had two primary focuses for the business. One was the protection of the planet, to try and stop the volume of fast fashion that’s being produced, and the other was to protect the people in the fashion industry who are doing it properly. The problem with fast fashion is some of these big brands can copy a garment within two weeks, so a designer spends months planning a perfect collection and then the next thing within 2 weeks, practically the same item has been brought out by a fast fashion brand at a fraction of the price. Obviously it’s not as well made, but all of that intellectual property is basically being stolen. So what we were aiming to do was to generate more money per item for the designers through the rental model.
Do you have any tips for young graduates who are thinking of or trying to start a business? What is a key thing to keep in mind when it feels like things aren’t going right?
I would say probably work for other people first before trying to start a business yourself because there is just so much to learn, that you do need to know- you need to be an expert in something when you start, either it’s products or it’s pricing or it’s marketing but you really need to know how to do something very well because otherwise there’s too many balls in the air that you’ll be juggling.
“I would say work for other people first before trying to start a business yourself because there is just so much to learn, that you do need to know”
And finally, what has been the most rewarding moment in owning and building MyWardrobeHQ?
The ability to work directly with the brands- it was such an endorsement of all the work that we’d done that the brands wanted to start working with us.
Written by Sophie Corderoy, Photos from My Wardrobe HQ