Co-founders Cleo and Natasha launched Style Rotate October 2019: your new wardrobe rental platform. They believe ‘renting is the new owning' and they aim to make fashion rental 'an everyday occurrence for the South African fashion lover’ #BuyLessWearMore
Read on for our interview with this ambitious eco-conscious duo.
Tell us about yourselves
I’m Cleo! I fell in love with the world of fashion at a young age (parading around in my gran's pearls and my mom's highest heels). I started in the fashion industry as an intern six years ago and have worked my way up to Cosmopolitan’s fashion director since. Borrowing, lending and buying vintage and second hand is something I’ve been doing since I was a teen so the ‘sharing economy’ has been a reality for me for most of my life.
My name is Natasha. I’m a fashion lover who is determined to create a sustainable alternative to fast fashion and overconsumption. In my fourth year of working as a buyer, I started to challenge the cycle of over-production and wasteful practices and in March 2019 I decided to leave my full-time job in search for a more sustainable alternative.
How did you guys meet?
Cleo: Tash and I met at Elle Magazine where we both interned for six months in the fashion team. We were probably the two most enthusiastic interns they’ve ever had, and we took our jobs very seriously, so we have always had that sense of passion and work ethic in common from the start.
What made you start a sustainable business?
Cleo: I knew I wanted to create a business that empowered women (through fashion). Sustainability is the future and it is really our only option. There is no alternative but for brands to start making changes. After one rather huge spring clean a while back, I had a bit of an 'ah-ha' moment after realising how much clothing I owned but didn't necessarily wear. I knew that there has to be a better way of dressing — something that allows us to wear and experiment with different looks without buying, accumulating and constantly consuming.
Natasha: When I started making changes to the way I lived my life, I started to question my job. I was preaching sustainable swaps and home practices but my career was centred around promoting excessive buying and fast fashion. I decided to resign knowing all aspects of my life needed to be aligned with my personal beliefs.
Who came up with the idea for StyleRotate?
Natasha: Cleo! She’s the powerhouse behind the concept for StyleRotate. I jumped in after hearing her talk about it at a clothing swap event I organised. I suggested we reconnect and talk about this fab idea of hers because I wanted to be a part of it. And here we are.
What does a day in your lives look like?
Cleo: We meet most mornings around 7 am for an hour and a half and then I head to my full-time job. Our morning meetings involve strategising, planning social media, organising orders and discussing future plans. Being a start-up, we do everything, from branding and design to loading products, organising shoots and influencer collabs, the list goes on! We’re both always checking our Instagram page to ensure we’re replying to messages on orders and garments and essentially, communicating with our StyleRotate community.
How do you try and live more sustainably?
Natasha: I try and support small, local businesses and shop at second-hand markets and stalls. I try and buy responsibly sourced items and use the “30 wears” campaign rules. Before I buy a new clothing item, I ask myself, “will I wear this at least 30 times”? I’ve been a vegetarian for three years now and I introduced a moon cup into my menstrual routine.
How do you balance local vs international brands for StyleRotate?
Cleo: We curate our product very carefully. With Tash’s buying experience and my styling and experience in the industry, we have a good eye for what people actually want to wear. We stock product from a variety of overseas brands you can’t access here, as well as partnering with local brands and stock their product. Making local brands more accessible to the millennial and Gen Z audience is a huge focus for us.
Where is your favourite sustainable place to shop?
Cleo: Faithful to Nature always has practical goodies.
Natasha: Nude Foods and Shop Zero.
What sustainable beauty prods are your fav?
Cleo: Skoon has some incredible products like their Glowdrops! The Body Shop has always been super focused around fair-trade and I love their Honey Bronze Dry Oil.
Natasha: I love my wooden toothbrush and Back2Nature's Rose Toner.
Do you have a favourite sustainable clothing brand?
Cleo: Reformation! We both love the brand and it's classic feminine pieces but it's a little pricier than most. I just bought a super cool stretchy black catsuit from a new brand called Soul Skins that's made in Cape Town from recycled plastic bottles.
Natasha: I also love Happy x Nature- Kate Hudson’s new label that uses only recycled fibres and fabrics. I also love Stay Wild Swim for their brand message and inclusivity.
Your advice for anyone wanting to create a sustainable brand
Cleo: Do your research and remember to see the bigger picture. Think from start to finish. For example, we use biodegradable (our boxes, tape and branded stickers) and resealable packaging (our beautiful garment bags). Stay passionate and focused.
Natasha: Jump right in and don’t be afraid of failure. There is never a perfect time to start a business. Even if it means starting your sustainable business as a side hustle, just get it going.