Can a Clothing Rental App Help You Meet Your BFF?


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A 30-year-old Indian woman named Eshita Kabra-Davies is speaking before a rapt audience at the United Nations. She has long amber hair and is wearing an olive green maxi dress, and leans into the microphone with forward-forcing energy, like it’s the top frame of a Peloton. Speaking with steely calm, Kabra-Davies touches on the impact of single-use plastic on the Global South, the importance of female-led enterprises to uplift global economies, and the shock of seeing fast fashion landfills mar the dunes of Rajasthan. Near the end of her time at the podium, she stares down the room of CEOs and pundits and says, “It’s all great that people do a lot of talk about backing sustainability and women of color, all that stuff. But the reality is, we don’t need training and mentorship; we need money. It’s just cold hard facts. Sorry!”

But Kabra-Davies isn’t sorry at all. Because, honestly, she’s too busy to be.

After all, she’s the founder of By Rotation, a peer-to-peer rental app positioning itself as “the Airbnb of fashion.” Kabra-Davies dreamed up the concept while working as a financial analyst by day and navigating “a zillion of my friends’ weddings” by night, needing a steady supply of Instagram-worthy dresses while having zero time to shop, and zero desire to contribute to the buy-trash-repeat cycle of some peers. “I’m a third culture kid,” she says. “I’m from India; I was raised in Singapore; I went to school in London. I’ve seen on a global scale how fashion can empower women creatively, socially, economically…but also, it can be so bad for the planet! So I knew circularity needed to be key.”

She began her side hustle in 2019, beginning with a small sample of friends and working out the startup’s tech kinks as the 2020 pandemic brought in-person gatherings—and with them, most clothing rental services—to a halt. (“Would you like to rent my PJs?” she jokes when talking about the early days of lockdown style. “They’re actually quite cool with heels.”) Social media and word-of-mouth helped the initial business grow, along with a “special sauce” that’s tough to find on any other rental outlet: cool British brands owned by her friends and acquaintances that began picking up steam through celebrity and street style cred.

by rotation

Eshita Kabra-Davies

By Rotation

Early rental hits included pieces from independent label 16Arlington—including a slinky sequin dress with Tom Ford-era Gucci vibes last seen on Hailey Bieber—plus Kendall Jenner’s sculptural sheer gown from Nensi Dojaka. By Rotation is also heavy on IYKYK brands like The Vampire’s Wife, Rixo, and Simone Rocha—and takes special care to recruit renters of all sizes and gender identities. In the U.K., the app has been downloaded over half a million times, which means about one in 70 British women have used it at least once. Like Airbnb, a few “power users” have made up to $50,000 in a year by renting their #oldceline staples; other women (including the influencer Hannah Strafford-Taylor) have turned “frequent flier” pieces, like a flirty print set by Spanish designer Celia Bernardo, into a $7k investment.

By Rotation isn’t the only peer-to-peer rental app looking to transform women’s closets into lucrative lending libraries. In the U.S., Dora Maar lets you rent Prada and Proenza Schouler must-haves from vetted “muses” who often work in the fashion industry or larger creative world. The New York-based boutique rental app Tulerie has a similar hold on coveted designer goods, especially status bags from Louis Vuitton and Bottega Veneta. But besides a deeper bench of buzzy emerging designers and extended sizes, By Rotation has one more ace up the sleeve of its Jacquemus La Maille cardigan: a small but growing contingent of celebrity lenders turning their red carpet castoffs into circular gold.

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The actress Nicola Coughlan in a dress available for rent on By Rotation.

By Rotation

That includes the usual roster of models and influencers, plus Bridgerton and Derry Girls darling Nicola Coughlan and her stylist Aimée Croysdill, who have made her Barbiecore Valentino dress and white Rotate Birger Christensen pieces available for rent, and even Dame Helen Mirren, who says that “teaming up with By Rotation is another way I feel I can do something simple to promote circular fashion!” (“I met her at a charity event,” Kabra-Davies explains. “And when I explained the concept, she just totally got it.”)

Those hoping to cash in on their own closets on this side of the pond can sign up for the By Rotation app starting this month, but be prepared to swap more than just clothes. “We see quite a few By Rotation members who have become friends after doing a few rentals,” Kabra-Davies says fondly. “It becomes a real form of bonding when someone loves your dress the same way that you do.”

Headshot of Faran Krentcil

Editor at Large,

“Her beauty and her brain go not together.” —William Shakespeare

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