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Onloan / Clothes without the baggage

Feature 14.07.20

Interview Katy Lassen Photography Sam Copeland Creative Direction Natalie Hasseck

“Two friends and female founders, with a shared mission to reduce waste, curate brilliant independent designers and reignite a love of clothes without the guilt.”

This is how Natalie Hasseck and Tamsin Chislett  introduce us to their clothing rental platform Onloan. In the tumultuous times of 2020, shopping for clothes and dressing in general is undergoing a global shift. From the unsustainability inherent in trend driven mass consumption to the lack of dressing-up opportunities of pandemic induced lockdown, how we buy and wear clothes in the new normal demands a re-think.  But the concept of clothing rental offers women the opportunity to try out new designers, experiment with their style and refresh their wardrobe without the guilt and financial drain. We think that’s a winning combination.

Also Journal collaborated with Onloan for their SS20 campaign and sits down with co-founder Natalie Hasseck to find out more about their growing business.

Black dress by By Malene Birger, blue dress by House of Dagmar

Onloan is a clothing rental platform with a difference – you specialise in daywear rather than occasion wear like many of your competitors. What was the drive behind this decision?

We’ve set out to create a business that inspires the exploration of personal style without treating clothes as disposable. We love this idea of bringing joy to our customer’s every day life… while simultaneously shifting her fast-fashion habits to rental. Changing behaviours required us to look at the every day rather than special occasions. Tamsin and I are also at a stage where we’re not going out so much but feel very passionately about making the most of our everyday. We often laugh about how we basically built ourselves our own walk-in wardrobe! 

Vegan leather shirt by Designers’ Remix

Fashion, in its very essence, is not sustainable or environmentally friendly and clothing rental has emerged as a way for us to shop and dress up in a more responsible way. Can you elaborate on Onloan’s environmental credentials and how do you see yourselves as part of the shift in the industry towards greater accountability?

Ultimately the biggest problem in fashion is overproduction & overconsumption, so that is the primary issue Onloan is tackling.  We know from our customers that we are helping them buy less fast fashion – and it makes our hearts sing to hear it! But it’s not just that. We want to reignite a love and respect for clothes. At their best clothes represent true artistry and craftsmanship, and somehow that has got lost in the modern world of ever faster supply chains.  That’s why we partner with the world’s best designers, and take them on the rental journey with us.  We introduce new customers to them, demonstrate a love and respect of their creations, and structure our partnerships to ensure brands are rewarded for designing clothes that have longevity.

Aside from this, we look at our environmental impact across our business.  We are not perfect by a long shot, but we’re trying to be transparent and keep things moving in the right direction.  We use a carbon neutral courier (DPD), we wet-clean instead of dry-clean clothes as much as possible, and we use reusable packaging called Repack to avoid anything single-use.

Shirt by Maggie Marilyn. trousers by ALEXACHUNG

A lot of your customers would have been loaning items to wear at the office, pub, parties and weddings this summer. How has the pandemic and subsequent lockdown affected the company and has it impacted the way you will be running the business in the future?

Yes, its fair to say that at the start of lockdown we were a little panic-struck, as everyone sang the praises of wearing leggings night and day.  But we have always carried a very broad range of clothing, and that really saved us, and meant we could deliver what our customer wanted even as that changed throughout the lockdown period.  The majority of our customers kept renting.  Not only that, but as everyone settled in to lockdown, they rented some of our most flamboyant and exciting pieces. In customer interviews, we learnt that many of them saw getting dressed as an act of self-care in a very stressful time – and with the freedom of not going anywhere but the sofa, they experimented with pieces they might not have worn otherwise.  We believe renting clothes can replace all kinds of fast-fashion fix, not just special occasions, and lockdown has confirmed that belief in the most extreme of circumstances!

Organza blouse by Tela

As they have continued to loan, women are clearly wearing these clothes for themselves rather than to impress others.  What have you learned about how women wear clothes in the last few months?

During lockdown we went on such an interesting emotional journey with our customers. One of the great things about rental is we get to track our customers mood in real time. It’s the ultimate ‘rent now, wear now’ service – so a customer’s choice with us reflects how she feels right in that moment.  

Initially, as lockdown hit, our customers reached for comfort.  Every knit and every sweater in the building went out on loan. The Hayley Menzies ‘Gladys’ was an instant hit as was our ALEXACHUNG patchwork sweater.

Two weeks later, we saw a significant pick-up in eccentric tops – we assume for never-ending Zooms. Anything with a detail, whether an oversized collar, or a puff sleeve – and no doubt teamed with trackies. The Shrimps Cordelia wrap top sums this upsurprisingly as did this top as part of our exclusive collab with Olivia Rose. Then to our surprise, about a month into lockdown our boldest dresses were the most popular. 

We asked our customers why – and found out that whilst some were for HouseParty parties, most were destined for the sofa and a large glass of wine, and an attitude that said “I can wear whatever the f*** I like because I’m not getting on the tube, I’m not going to be stared at”. This Kitri slinky leopard-print dress with maribou feather sleeves was super popular, and also this backless cloud print Baum und Pferdgarten dress which we imagine no one wore with a bra and felt like a literal breath of fresh air in fashion-form 

For the rest of lockdown our most fun, playful pieces have been the most popular.  Whilst athleisure and loungewear have remained big across retail, rental was a different story. Customers renting to bring joy to their day and colour into their homes. If we were to crown a designer “winner of lockdown” it’d be Farm Rio. We can’t keep it in stock and believe it’s the clearest brand-indicator detailing the joy women need from their clothes right now. The shift we’re witnessing that makes us the most excited is how our customers are dressing for pleasure-seeking rather than for status. 70% of the time they’re discovering a new brand through us and don’t necessarily need to know the designer to loan it. 

Suit by ONLOAN LAB

You have a great range of designers on the site from Shrimps and Alexa Chung to Mother of Pearl and By Malene Birger. What qualities does a brand need to catch your eye and what are your most loaned pieces?

We first set out to champion the sustainable leaders with fashion kudos (Mother of Pearl, Maggie Marilyn. Designers Remix)

We’re also mega excited by introducing global designers to our customers and giving them a platform (JejiaPoustovit  Ciao Lucia and Rachel Antonoffand we also back the best brands helmed by female creative directors who know how to make our woman feel amazing (Joseph, Shrimps, Stine Goya, ALEXACHUNG). 

Our woman loves colour, print and being comfortable. She dresses for pleasure rather than status so we do a lot of homework into the designers that deliver on this. 

We don’t believe in the endless scroll. We believe less is more and small is beautiful so plan to build our roster slowly and carefully as we grow. 

boiled wool jacket by House of Dagmar and knitted skirt by House of Dagmar

What are your aspirations for Onloan in the next few years and how do you see the fashion industry adapting to the new normal?

We see ourselves as the final frontier in fashion. We’re excited for the day we see great fashion and style on the street knowing that the clothes are rented and shared rather than consumed and destined for landfill. Onloan is setting out to change behaviours… but without losing all the good stuff fashion still has to offer; amazing design, endless inspiration and a capacity to dream up the future via a textile medium 

Green raw silk shirt by Soeur, purple cotton blouse by Soeur 

Interview Katy Lassen Photography Sam Copeland Creative Direction Natalie Hasseck Fashion Direction Also Journal team Hair and make up Lou Box Models Aurelie and Danielle at Premier Model Management
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