Welcome to the latest, highly exciting installment of Who What Wear UK's Best Wardrobes in Britain. It's where we do exactly what it says on the tin: delve into the most fantastical, awe-inspiring and downright influential wardrobes. We're honing in on the women who cause the street style photographers to press their shutters as well as the characters you don't yet know—the ones who fly under the radar with secretly incredible clothing collections.
After five years of our Best Wardrobes in Britain franchise, we really thought we’d seen every kind of wardrobe. However, this month’s is a little different. That is because everything in this wardrobe is also available for you to borrow. Eshita Kabra-Davies is the founder of rental platform By Rotation, which aims to make the fashion industry more circular by getting people to share their special pieces with others. All the items listed on the app therefore act as an extension of Kabra-Davies's own wardrobe, and she really lives and breathes this shopping philosophy. The living room of her London house doubles as a showroom, with rails and shelves filled with a selection of the incredible pieces that are available to rent.
The rental economy in the UK is currently seeing a huge boom, with consumers starting to move away from the idea of ownership while still wanting convenience and the ability to try something new. According to Retail Gazette, the UK rental market is predicted to be worth £2.3 billion by 2029, compared to the expected £400 million back in 2019. By Rotation is one of the leaders in this space, with a peer-to-peer app that sees people list their wardrobes for others to borrow.
Therefore, in this shoot, it'll come as no surprise that Kabra-Davies is wearing some pieces that hold personal, sentimental value to her that she actually owns, such as a Jacquemus white dress she wore to her civil wedding ceremony. However, she’s also wearing pieces that don’t technically belong to her but are available to rent via the app. Keep scrolling to see inside her wardrobe and discover the story behind By Rotation.
When did you get the idea for By Rotation?
I got the idea when I was planning my honeymoon to my motherland to Rajasthan in India, and I was thinking it’d be really cool to be able to borrow or rent fashion from the woman you see on Instagram, but I realised there wasn’t such a solution in the UK. It wasn’t until I was on the honeymoon that I realised the scale of textile waste, even in my suburban hometown. I hadn’t been back to my hometown in India for 12 years, and when I saw the scale of it, I felt like I was part of the problem. I had bought new clothes for the trip and wasn’t sure if I’d wear them 30 times, which is the golden number. There were a lot of cows and animals feeding on textile waste on the road. You look at it, and you just think, This is what we are doing? It’s quite well-known that a high proportion of what we donate to charities goes to African and Asian countries, such as India, as textile waste, so I couldn’t help but think I was part of the problem. And I just thought this whole concept of borrowing fashion… Why don’t we do it with each other? That’s why I decided to make fashion rental more about community and sharing what you already have. It’s all peer-to-peer—anything you see here belongs to people, whether it’s celebrities, influencers or stylists.
What are the most popular pieces on By Rotation?
Dresses as a category and then handbags. Dresses are very popular because they are a complete outfit, and they are more expensive when designer, so renting is brilliant for occasionwear. In terms of brands, Rixo and Jacquemus do really well for us, Self-Portrait and The Vampire’s Wife because it’s such a high-value item, and Dior does incredibly well for handbags. House of Sunny and Paloma Wool, more Gen Z brands, are very popular too. For bags, I would say quite designer and identifiable styles, and then for dresses, anything loud and colourful that makes a statement that people might want to rent rather than own. Daily Sleeper's summer linen dresses also do really well!
How has renting influenced your own style?
Because I list everything I own, I have started documenting my purchases and how many times I’ve worn them or they have been rented out. On the app, you can see how many hearts it has and how many times it’s been rented. It’s like Instagram. It’s a great way of knowing how popular my wardrobe is and which items are really loved. It’s brought a real awareness of what are the hero pieces and statement pieces that really work for me, combined with how much money I’m making from renting my wardrobe. I’ve become much more mindful of what I buy new and have halved my purchases than before when I had my desk job, and I love that. For example, I have two Jacquemus Chiquito bags, and I got the second one because the first one had made all its money back, and both have now made their money back. It reaffirms the purchases I’m buying. I will also sometimes be like, “I don’t need to buy it; I can borrow it from someone else.” If you want to just try a trend or a piece out, you can do it with the app.
Which of your own pieces are the most popular?
The Jacquemus bags and a really big gorgeous pink Jacquemus dress that was rented so much this summer. Then a Gucci canvas wallet-on-chain bag, which is monogrammed and is very popular. Then there’s a 16Arlington feather top that I bought at a second-hand sale, and on the app, it’s been rented more than five or six times, and it only cost me £50. Rotating for us is a lifestyle choice. We want it to be an everyday thing where if you buy new, you buy fewer and better pieces, and then if you rent them, you can also make your money back and make a return on it. That is from my finance background.
Are there any things you are very sentimental about and would never rent?
The Dior saddle bag was a wedding present, and it is on the app, but I ask a lot of questions if anyone wants to borrow it and probably would never let anyone borrow it. I’m particular about my heels, and if anyone wants to rent my Manolo Blahniks, I will ask a lot of questions. But I still list them and everything in my wardrobe because I want to know the pieces people admire. That makes me buy more strategically, so I list everything I buy.
What have you been investing in or buying more of personally?
I have always loved Jacquemus before I founded the app—I wore it to my civil ceremony. He had such a moment after his Provence show, and I really like the designs, and they do really well on the app, so it makes me feel less guilty when buying a dress. I am now more confident buying designer investment pieces, so I bought two Jacquemus dresses recently.
Are you noticing more people are starting to rent?
It has been intense and insane, and we have been doing rentals three times the volumes we projected. Ever since the beginning of April and restaurants opening, people started making a lot of bookings, and women were saying, “This app has changed the way I buy things.” I am definitely encouraging people to really dress up again and just have fun!
What outfits do you tend to wear the most?
I am normally in jeans and a plain shirt. I like fitted silhouettes, as baggy things don’t suit me and make me look more petite. I like very feminine pieces and am always smart. I’d love to dress like Jeanne Damas, but I probably don’t put in that much effort outside of By Rotation! I just always feel more comfortable in high-waisted jeans and a jumper, so that’s my everyday uniform.
You grew up in Singapore. Did your style change when you moved to London?
I was much younger when I was there, but it’s always hot and humid, so lots of skirts and shorts and not many jeans. But now I love high-waisted jeans. Never a coat! I never owned boots until I moved here or knew how to dress for autumn, so when I moved here for university, I had to really learn how to dress for seasons.
Have you always been interested in fashion?
Not really! I started understanding that when I was graphic designing at about 12 but couldn’t tell you about the creative director of so and so. I still don’t know my fashion history at all!
Shop Eshita Kabra-Davies's Wardrobe (Which You Can Also Rent!)
Thanks for having us, Eshita!