LOANHOOD: The revolutionary emergence of rental fashion platforms – an exclusive interview with co-founder Lucy Hall
Rental fashion and the circular economy are on the rise with sustainability and variety taking centre stage in the fashion industry. Among the innovative rental platforms, LOANHOOD is making strides as a pioneer in this field. The platform offers a fresh approach to rental fashion with a diverse range of high-quality clothing and accessories.
In an exclusive interview, Tiyanna Mistry speaks with LOANHOOD co-founder Lucy Hall, bringing you an insight into the revolutionary emergence of LOANHOOD and what it means to be part of the growing circular economy in fashion.
First, a huge congratulations for the success of LOANHOOD. It seems to have blown up super fast and our founder/editor, Emily, loved speaking with you during Graduate Fashion Week.
Going off GFW, you seem to be everywhere and always hosting events. In fact, Emily had spotted LOANHOOD at The Cirkle pop-up a few months prior to GFW - we love it! Why do you find it’s important to be attending events like that?
“I think we have a really strong focus on our community. Having those in-person meetings is so much more important because we kind of lose that [sense of community] with social media and staying online.
So, we want to prioritise in-person pop-ups, whether that’s our clothes swaps or our fashion rental studios so people can come and meet, share stories, and learn more about the circular economy because it is such a new behaviour. We are changing mindsets.
I think that lots of people have reservations about renting so if they can come try on new clothes and get to know the designers, it alleviates some of those pressures.
We also encourage people to rent in person so they can come and pick up clothing which reduces the carbon emissions and costs for clothes to get shipped back and forth.
As you know, graduates are also a real focus for us as seen by Graduate Fashion Week, so it is really amazing for them to be seen at pop-ups like The Circle.
So, these events are really important for us, and they are just a lot of fun!”
Your Swap Shop at Selfridges looked incredible too, how do you find hosting in-person exchanges in comparison to your online platform?
“You get more of that personal interaction. We have a messaging function on our app, so people can get to know one another, and they can ask about their fits but again having those in-person meetings makes a huge difference.
We have had relationships blossom from our in-person meets which is so nice to see, especially with sustainability advocates or influencers who may know each other from social media but have never had a chance to meet up before. It allows them to build upon these relationships.”
Do you have any advice for people looking to host their own swap shops? Even if it’s simply trading within friendship circles etc.
“That is kind of how this journey started really. At work, we all used to bring in our clothes and put them in a big pile and ask who wanted what, and that worked well amongst our small group of friends in the workplace.
So, that is where I would start! Ask your friends, ‘Do you have clothes that you don’t love anymore and don’t want to give to charity shops as they are inundated with products?’
Or even organise to go around one of your friend’s houses, crack open a couple of bottles of wine or get some cute non-alcoholics and nibbles and just make it a fun event and just keep circulating your clothes.
I even still have some clothes from my business partner Jade from around 15 years ago that she gave to me when we first met and I’m still wearing them now.
Friendship swaps and swap shops carry on a sense of storytelling as well which is something we really want to bring back into fashion and really focus on because when you have a story attached to a piece of clothing, you want to prolong the life of that garment.”
You describe LOANHOOD as a ‘home to emerging designers and independent brands with one-of-a-kind pieces, custom collections, and statement styles that are anything but ordinary’, do you believe the support of emerging fashion creatives is key to creating a positive fashion community?
“At the end of the day, they are the next generation of fashion designers, so if we can support and educate people at the youngest levels then we can start to carve out our own sustainable fashion future.
What we have found by working with universities and graduates is that everyone is really keen to do something with their collection that is more sustainable but often doesn’t have the funds to do it or create these one-of-a-kind collections for their graduate courses but can’t do anything with it.
So, with the rental, you can upload it to our platform and people can rent it out and they still get to keep their collection because you may have such an emotional attachment to something you have created and it’s a one-of-a-kind piece. So, selling it once doesn’t always resonate with people.”
Are there any brands or designers we should be keeping an eye out for on LOANHOOD?
“One of my favourite designers is Ethan Leyland, he is from Liverpool and came on board as part of a pop-up we did in Liverpool. He is super talented, makes beautiful corsets and is just an amazing person.
Other amazing emerging designers include Ruby Hung who creates beautiful and ethereal dresses. There is also Fotu London whose collection is all about climate change and she creates these amazing stories through her fashion pieces.”
Back to GFW, your stall made sure to feature designer and Nottingham Trent University Graduate Lydia Ellen Jackson, we know supporting up-and-coming designers key to the LOANHOOD ethos, but is your focus on reaching young people specifically? And, if so, why?
“What we find is that most collections that are created cost a lot of money and the only people who can really afford it are older and may have careers or disposable incomes.
So, by renting out these clothes and collections, it means your peers can wear them, and it means that younger audiences can touch and feel really good quality products and that will then encourage them to buy better when they do buy.
It’s all about education and trying to reverse the race to the bottom.
With our focus on emerging designers, it means instead of funnelling our money into big corporates like Zara and H&M who have enough money, we can give money to emerging designers who care about the planet and want to do something amazing with their creations.
So, it’s a great way of funnelling money back into the next generation.”
Moving away from events and back to what started it all, have you always been interested in fashion and, specifically, sustainable fashion?
“I have always worked in fashion, but I had a restaurant for a few years in between which is where sustainability really came to the forefront of my mind.
When I was younger and working in fashion, I was shopping at Zara and H&M, all those fast-fashion brands because when we were younger, we didn’t really know sustainability and it wasn’t a topic well-spoken about. It used to be more about quantity over quality.
It wasn’t till I got older and started educating myself on this topic that things changed. The connection I had with food when I opened a restaurant and found that eating organically, locally, and seasonally was better for us and the planet showed me the total disconnect between this and fashion.
I then spent a long time, especially throughout lockdown, learning, educating, reading articles, and papers, and watching documentaries to really give myself an understanding of why we need to move to a circular economy rather than this linear ‘take, waste, make’ model that we have been operating for so long.”
What were the key inspirations behind setting up and creating LOANHOOD and where did the initial idea come from?
“It was my business partner, who used to be one of my models as I was a model booker for many years. She was like the face of fast fashion and worked at Asos, Primark etc.
When she started her career, she was shooting 10 to 20 pieces a day and towards the end of her career it was almost 100 pieces a day.
Her mind was blown, and she wanted to go back into education and eventually did her master’s at LCF in fashion futures where she was debating what the future of fashion would look like and the part sustainability played in that.
That’s when she came up with the idea of a peer-to-peer marketplace. We were already renting out fashion pieces to press and influencers and we thought How could we democratise that to a wider audience?’, and that’s when she came to me with the idea and right away, I agreed.”
What was your main goal when starting LOANHOOD?
“To bring the circular economy to a mass audience. To have rental be at the forefront of people’s minds when they are looking to experience fashion, so they don’t think to go to brands like Asos straight away.”
What are the key features of your app and platform that set LOANHOOD apart from other sustainable fashion rental platforms like By Rotation, HURR and My Wardrobe HQ?
“We are a peer-to-peer business, so we very much have a focus on the community and our focus on emerging designers is really where we separate ourselves from everybody else.
We wanted to create a space for one-of-a-kind and unique fashion, for example, highlighting pieces that you wouldn’t see elsewhere, and you wouldn’t turn up to a wedding and someone could be wearing the same look as you.
We also have a feature on our app called ‘loan the look’, where you can style two or more items together to add value and rent someone’s style and not just an item of clothing. That allows you to bring in those lower-price items where you don’t have a full designer wardrobe, but you might have that one piece that is expensive and can now pair with a vintage piece to add value to your whole look.”
Do you think the increase in fashion rental platforms like LOANHOOD is proving to be more popular and cost-effective during this cost-of-living period? And, if so, was making fashion the most accessible and cost-effective part of the plan or a happy coincidence?
“Yes, we wanted well-made fashion that is created in a sustainable way, which is obviously quite expensive compared to fast fashion and outside of a lot of people’s income or budget.
So, by creating a fashion rental platform, we can give people products that are a fraction of the retail value, and it becomes more inclusive.”
It seems a lot of former fast fashion addicts are making the switch to slow fashion, why do you think is and why is it important?
“I think it is education – people are becoming more aware of the detrimental effects of the fashion industry and rental is becoming much more popular and more people are doing it so more people talk about it.
It then becomes validated by other people doing it and the products on the rental platforms are amazing and more accessible, so why would you not rent really?”
Do you think there is a stigma when it comes to renting fashion/clothes? And, if so, why do you believe this and what can be done to reduce this stigma and encourage different attitudes towards rental fashion?
“I’m not sure that there is a stigma surrounding rental fashion.
I know some people have some pain points such as the fit of the product, however, we can try to alleviate some of these problems with same-day returns, refunds, or even in-person events where people can try on the products and even messaging so you can check whether the product fits.
I know hygiene can be another pain point as some people might be concerned whether products won’t be clean enough, but again it’s another education point because you can dry-clean the product if you wish but most platforms are hygienic.
It’s just a different way of experiencing fashion! For example, when Airbnb started, people were conscious of people staying in their beds, but look where we are now, it is one of the biggest platforms in the world.”
What has been the most significant challenge with trying to get new users on LOANHOOD?
“I think we get a lot of new users every day and every week but getting them to engage in the actions can be a struggle.
Once they do their first rental, we know they are going to rent time and time again, but struggles arise from those pain points around different things.
It’s a new way of experiencing fashion, so it is all about just taking that first step in the right direction and having a good experience.
The rental journey is not perfect by any means but as we grow as an industry, it’s getting better, and we can start to alleviate some of those pain points.”
Your press release mentions that LOANHOOD aims to empower bold fashion choices and break barriers, but how would you define or describe fashion that ‘breaks barriers’?
“Just by being part of this circular economy – It’s a whole new industry that’s coming through.
We’ve seen the growth of resale and how that changed people’s shopping habits and we want that to be the same with resale.
It’s also about unique fashion and one-of-a-kind pieces and just being able to stand out from the crowd.
The issue you can have sometimes with buying new sustainable fashion is that they fit into capsule wardrobes with neutral colours. Whereas, with rental fashion, you can experiment with lots of different styles and bright colours.”
How can LOANHOOD help budding fashion lovers curate a new style or even find their style?
“Come down to one of our events, have a chat with us and meet our designers!
We often have the designers there, talking about their clothes and collections and they can help style you and test new things.
Everyone’s shape is different; something we’ve seen at Selfridges (Swap Shop) was that so many people were trying on things that they would never normally wear or try.
It is all about experimentation really.”
We’d love to know more about your style! How would you describe your day-to-day vibe? Are there any colours/items/brands that you always seem to lean towards?
“What I love about rental fashion is that I get to experiment. Whenever I wear something from our graduates or emerging designers, people always stop me in the street and ask where my clothes are from.
Sometimes it’s just a casual jeans and t-shirt kind of day but when you have rental fashion you can experiment so much with bold colours and symbols.
For example, I wore a Sinead Gorey piece the other week and everyone loved it. I have rented it out a few times already.”
What is the one piece of advice you would give to individuals who are trying to make more sustainable choices when it comes to fashion?
“Take it one step at a time. Instead of buying something new in the next month, try rental or go to a swap.
Take small steps to try different things. It might not be perfect but at least you are trying and reducing some harmful fashion choices by renting.”
If our readers only take one thing from this interview, what should it be?
“The circular economy is the future, so start trying it, testing it, downloading our app, coming to one of our swaps or events, and joining the movement!”
Finally, how would you summarise LOANHOOD in 3 words?
“Bold, Experimental, and Joyful!”
LOANHOOD, is definitely an up-and-coming platform to check out if sustainable and rental fashion is up your street!
The platform is making a huge difference in the fashion world in a highly accessible way, so why would you not want to join the movement and invest in fashion that makes a difference?
For more information about LOANHOOD, head to their Instagram page, download their app or even check out their website.