As you all know, I'm a big advocate for all things Sustainable Fashion, and more recently that has also included fashion rental. Up until this year, I always viewed this type of service as something I would recommend for clients wanting to dress up for a special occasion. Or a way for me to rent out my more special pieces, which I don't wear as often, and earn some extra income. Then in came OnLoan and completely changed that up for me. OnLoan works as a Subscription service, where you pay £69 a month for 2 items or £99 a month for 4 items. I signed up in January with a special offer for £25 for 3 months. I am now totally hooked! And have had some incredible items on loan, including a Shrimps cardigan, which I seem unable to part company with, and have extended my loan for an extra 2 months. (This is not an AD I just think it’s a really great concept).
So I wanted to get to know the founders behind the brand and find out a little bit more about how they came to form OnLoan and their backgrounds.
1. Tell us a bit more about your background and how you came to launch ONLOAN?
Tamsin: There’s two of us! I (Tamsin) have always worked in businesses either in strategy roles, or operations. In my mid-20s I took a pretty left-field turn and spent a year working at a cotton ginnery in Northern Uganda. We were organic & Fairtrade-certified and that’s what sparked my interest in sustainable fashion.
Natalie: I have a totally different background. I worked in retail and styling and then as Senior Art Director for Mario Testino. I love fashion through and through, but I was getting fed up at the lack of action in the industry on the big environmental & social problems it causes.
Tamsin: We chatted about sustainable fashion for years, so when I realised I was going to build Onloan, Natalie was the first person I called!
2. How else do you promote sustainability in your business apart from the obvious?
Natalie: It’s really important to us to be as sustainably-minded as possible, but also not to claim perfection. We are learning like everyone else, and just looking to constantly improve. Some of the things we do already are avoid dry-cleaning, work with a carbon-neutral courier service, use reusable packaging, and find a happy home for garments at the end of their rental life by selling them secondhand.
3. What do you think are the benefits to the consumer of fashion rental?
Tamsin: It’s fun! It’s all the joy of fast fashion, but without the waste or the guilt or the accumulation of too much stuff. Rental is a great way to try out new styles and new designers, without the hefty price tag and without having to make a long-term commitment. We think rental is a better alternative to pretty much all ill-thought-through fast fashion purchases… if you’re not certain you’re going to love it forever, rent it!
4. What was your first experience of buying second hand or preloved?
Tamsin: I loved going to the secondhand markets when I lived in Uganda. It’s a sad reality that most of the clothes we donate to charity shops in the UK are quietly shipped off to emerging markets where they have a really negative impact on the local textile and fashion economies - sorry, that is a bit of a downer but true! But as a visitor to those markets it was super fun, soo many gems to discover, and the best bit was that you could get anything you bought tailored on site too so that you always had a perfect fit.
5. Why do you think people are put off changing their shopping habits and how do you think we can help that?
Tamsin: Fast fashion has been so dominant for so long - and look, Nat & I were mega Topshop fans in its absolute heyday, we get it! We’ve been taught that clothes are disposable items (Zara’s CEO famously called them a ‘perishable commodity, like yoghurt, bread or fish’ - yikes). High street shopping has been a cheap dopamine hit.
Natalie: But you only have to look at what’s happened to the high street this year to see we’re at the end of an era. It’s sad to say goodbye to some old friends (farewell Topshop Oxford Street, sob!) but also exciting to reinvent the way we enjoy fashion! In our view, to convert people en masse, rental has to be as fuss-free as shopping at Zara. That means ‘good as new’ items, no damage fees or late fees, free and easy returns, free sizing swaps, and a fantastic choice of clothes - all at the same price as a splurge on the high street.
6. What are your favourite sustainable fashion brands or preloved sellers?
We think Mother of Pearl and Maggie Marilyn are really leading the charge. We’re also super impressed by made-to-order designers like Olivia Rose the Label
7. What’s your favourite sustainable fashion find in your own wardrobe?
Tamsin: I’ve got a turquoise silk dress from Japan that I bought in a secondhand market in Uganda which I got tailored to remove the shoulder pads and fit like a glove. I’ve worn it to countless engagement parties and weddings and will hopefully wear it to many more!
Natalie: I’ve always been allergic to having too much stuff (other than photography books) so my wardrobe is pretty minimal and with pieces I’ve owned forever.
8. What are your favourite pieces from your collection?
Tamsin: I love the Mother of Pearl basics with a twist, like this black sweatshirt with tassles on the sleeves that is super comfy but also has a touch of glam.
Natalie: It’s so hard to pick as I love all our designers and take great care in choosing who we work with. I probably wear Maggie Marilyn the most though…
9. Who’s your style icon?
Natalie: By decade: 60s Francoise Hardy, 70s Diana Ross, 80s Sade, 90s Kate Moss and 00s Chloe Sevigny
10. What changes do you see coming down the line for the fashion industry and how we shop?
Tamsin: an embrace of rental en masse - and we are here for it!
You can find out more about ONLOAN at https://onloan.co/ if you'd like £30 off your first month's rental follow this link to take advantage of my special referral code http://onloan.refr.cc/alexstandley If you'd like to be the first to hear about exciting new developments in Sustainable Fashion along with expert Styling advice and a supportive community of like minded women, why not join my private Facebook Group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1052068071920548/?ref=share