Founded by model Jade McSorley alongside Lucy Hall and Jen Charon, LoanHood offers a new concept in clothes rental and sharing set to revolutionise how we think about our wardrobes and tackle pressing environmental issues.
Where did the idea for LoanHood come from?
Jade: As a model, I'm acutely aware of just how many clothes are produced every season in the fashion industry; particularly when working on e-commerce jobs which involve a huge number of outfits photographed every day. And of course, we are being enticed into buying more and more through these platforms. Around this time, I also felt I wanted to study again, so I joined the Fashion Futures MA at the London College of Fashion, where I focused on sustainable fashion. I started thinking about how my influence as a model might be used to do something positive, and the idea of renting clothes rather than buying them. That was the very first initial ideas.
Lucy: Jade and I first met many years ago when I was her booker at Models 1. We met because of work, but we became best friends very quickly. I left the fashion industry some time ago and set up my own restaurant, so when Jade was starting thinking about the idea for LoanHood, she spoke to me about it because I have experience setting up and running a business. I immediately felt the idea was really interesting and had an important agenda. I could see its potential, so I came on board to work on the business side of things and allow Jade to develop the concept. Also, I saw a lot of similarities between the slow food movement and what was happening in the fashion world in regards to sustainability and slow fashion.
Aren't people doing this kind of thing already?
Lucy: Other companies are offering rental services, but they all focus on runway clothes and clothes from brands.
Jade: The idea for LoanHood is really a peer-to-peer rental site, so it's clothes that already exist. Those other businesses are also dry cleaning, packaging and couriering the clothes which all impacts on the environment. We encourage people using LoanHood to meet up in person. Not only is that better for the environment, it also helps create a community spirit.
How did you get started?
Jade: Once we developed the initial idea, things started to evolve quite organically, and we found ourselves doing panel discussions and swap shops; going into communities and asking people to bring along their own clothes to swap. We are really keen for it to be a community-led project, not simply a profit-making machine. Currently, we have a deal with Hackney Council for the swap shops, which we will be putting on throughout this year.
Lucy: The aim is to roll out the swap shops throughout the country, each run by ambassadors so that they can be self-managed. Currently, we ask people to bring up to 10 items which they trade in for tokens. Each piece is categorised by value - either under £50 or over £50. The swap shops and the talks, etc. have been great for spreading the word and building the brand but the core of the business will be the online rental service which is currently in development.
So there is going to be a website where people can rent out their clothes?
Jade: Yes. You can think of it almost as a cross between Airbnb and Depop, if you like. It's really about reimagining what e-commerce can be, and a new way of looking at fashion.
Lucy: It will have the same aesthetic and look as a regular consumer e-commerce website. You'll be able to see the LoanHood library where people upload their items. And we encourage people to be creative. You won't be allowed to use stock images; you must be photographed in the clothes you are putting up for rental. Then, as a borrower, you can scroll and search people in their local area.
Jade: Yes, the idea is to keep it localised with a micro-infrastructure that can then be replicated anywhere. We also want to completely shift people's perceptions of their own wardrobes - not necessarily owning things anymore. And through the rental site, people will realise that they can actually make money from their wardrobes. The idea is to rent out a garment for a week at 20% of the original price.
Where do you see your business, and the fashion industry as a whole, going from here?
Jade: My entire MA involved speculating the future of fashion. I started to really consider the value of something beyond its ticket price. So, that might involve who has worn it before, where it comes from, what stories does that particular garment carry with it. Also, I speculated on the impact of technology on fashion - digital clothes, for example. Then I looked at gaming, where people can buy things in the digital sphere. It's not a physical thing; it only exists in the digital realm. If everything is going digital, then why not fashion? And then, do we really need to own anything anymore? So, I think rental can be a huge part of that future. I made a full 3D avatar of myself using photogrammetry. So you can do that with a garment - create a virtually real version. If, for example, you are communicating and engaging with your network online, you only need to change your wardrobe online. Burberry has already explored this with the puffer jacket collection they launched where you can download various things by getting points in a game on their website. And we've actually created a virtual LoanHood hoodie. Every element of materials, production and distribution will be thought about in terms of the environment, so I see the future wardrobe being really minimal, essentially just your basics - with everything else being rented. So, I think LoanHood is right at the vanguard of this change.
LoanHood Rental launches in May loanhood.com