Last month we discussed the global pandemic that is fast fashion.
To follow on from that, in this month's edition of the Unwrapped Interview, we're joined by Tamsin, the inspirational founder of clothes rental start-up Onloan.
Describe Onloan for our readers who aren’t familiar with the concept.
We’re a fashion rental platform - we loan great women’s clothes from the world’s best contemporary designers.
We give women all the fun of fast fashion with all the newness and variety, but without the waste.
Tell us a bit about your background and what inspired you to start Onloan
I started as a management consultant working for huge companies but there was no purpose behind it.
So I ended up working for a cotton factory in northern Uganda. They had 20,000 small farmers there who were organic certified and got East Africa’s first Fair Trade certificate so I learnt how the fashion industry is global and can be a force for good in some places.
But the year I left the Rana Plaza disaster happened [the 2013 Bangladeshi garment factory collapse], so I also got to see how terrible the fashion industry’s impact can be.
I got really interested in fashion but found buying sustainably was always quite boring, the design was always very minimal, nothing very interesting.
Rental is great - you can rent anything, wear it 5 times and then send it back and then someone else wears it 5 times - the shirt gets lots of love and you get lots of variety.
You’ve spoken about barriers in the start-up world for women, particularly women who are pregnant and / or have children. What has your experience been?
My co-founder and I raised our first round of capital while she was 9 months and I was 6 months pregnant. It was definitely an experience; I don’t know if I’d recommend it!
We did feel that there were some investors who passed on us because we were pregnant. My favourite was the investor who said “What do other investors think about the fact that you’re both pregnant?”! It definitely made it trickier but I also believe that it helped us to filter out investors who were never going to be right for us.
What advice would you give to women who are considering starting up a business?
Just to go for it and assume that it will be ok! And get a partner that supports you! I took 2 weeks off and Max took 6 weeks off so we’ve now done one longer leave each.
Most women don’t get paid maternity leave past 3 months either so why not make it the guy?! Max did it which meant I could run the business.
One thing about having a baby is that it is a very…plannable event. You have nine months to work out what to do about it! Whereas stuff happens to people the whole time like getting sick or burn out and none of those things can be predicted. The idea that someone having a baby is the scary one just seems so weird to me. People just need to reframe it a bit.
What two practical tips can you give to our readers - apart from signing up to Onloan of course(!) - to help combat fast fashion?
Definitely buying second hand - Depop, Vestiaire Collective and Poshmark make it so accessible. Also vintage sellers on Instagram – people who just curate vintage clothes. They go and find things like THE '60s jacket that doesn’t make you look like you’re in fancy dress.
Also, keep clothes in great condition. Knowing where your local tailor is, bothering to take things in when a button pops off, or a hem falls down.
Do you think combatting fast fashion is the responsibility of us as individuals?
I definitely think it’s not just down to individuals - I’m fairly pro government intervention in industries that have gone awry. Sensible things like taxes, forcing fast fashion companies to take back old clothes – the amount of hassle that alone would cause would make them rethink their whole business models!
It is one of the largest problems in the world so governments have to tackle it.
Have you always had amazing fashion sense?!
NO I have terrible fashion sense! I’m not the fashion one of the co-founding team, that’s Nathalie. I basically wore Topshop for the whole of my teens and early 20s. Nathalie worked for Mario Testino and knows the industry inside out so thank god I have her.
Do you have plans to expand Onloan and where do you see yourself and Onloan in 5 years?
We want to be THE place where women are accessing great clothes – forget Net-a-porter, forget ASOS. We want to switch 100,000 people from buying to renting. And then menswear, kids, Europe… The world! And all of the above!
What in life do you object to most?!
Fast fashion, of course!
And men that don’t do half the work in a heterosexual relationship!
And lack of positivity and optimism – people who aren’t optimistic just immediately get me down!