For fashion rental app By Rotation’s founder Eshita Kabra-Davies, sustainable fashion is about joy—and finding unexpected friendships

Picture this. It’s a summer evening in a shared student house that slants a little onto the street, like it’s aching to be more a part of the action. The obligatory pre-night-out wardrobe consultation is in full swing. Someone swills the juice of an unyielding lemon into a mug of vodka. As usual, no one has anything to wear. Can jeans and a nice top be the magic formula? If only it were cooler. The air sticks to all of us like a film.

So we swap tops, dresses, entire ensembles. We pull off our skins and hand them to each other, silk and lurex and rough denim. We all know that a new outfit adds a thrill to an evening—even one that will start and likely end like any other: back here, after the club lights turn unceremoniously on, to lie on the sofa or sprawl on a bed, limbs tangled. We all smell a little like each other. We all use the same laundry detergent, yes, but also, half of what we’re wearing is someone else’s.

The endless rotation of clothes was a natural fact of my early twenties—one wardrobe extended into two, four, however many of us were living in one house at one time. It’s easy to romanticise when I blur out the memories of shrinking my housemate’s favourite poplin shirt in the washing machine, to her horror, or when she gave me back a black slip, a little cigarette-singed.

This sartorial thrill, this ability to access novelty—without, importantly, buying and discarding masses of clothes, and contributing to the growing problem of fashion waste—is what Rajasthan-born, London-based Eshita Kabra-Davies is trying to furnish the women of the UK with, through her fashion rental app, By Rotation.

Kabra-Davies started her company in 2019. On By Rotation, lenders list their designer and vintage pieces—each listing is individually approved, and fast fashion brands don’t make the cut—and customers pay to rent them for a day, a week or even longer. Some of By Rotation’s best sellers are occasion pieces: spangled emerald gowns from the Princess of Wales’s favourite The Vampire’s Wife, or slinky, sheer wisps from It-girl certified label Rat and Boa.

Thankfully, By Rotation’s growth was undeterred by the lack of occasion dressing that would follow in the pandemic years: the app now boasts around 360,000 users, including famous UK names like the actor Helen Mirren, Lady Amelia Windsor, and influencer Camille Charrière. GlobalData forecasts that the UK rental apparel market will reach a value of £2.3 billion by 2029.

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