The platform goes beyond the usual mid-range, mass-produced occasionwear to loan independent talent and avant-garde labels to fashion fans
To the co-founders of LOANHOOD, fashion rental just made sense. Lucy Hall, Jade McSorely, and Jen Charon were all working in the fashion industry and saw celebrities and influencers borrowing outfits for events, and stylists pulling clothes for shoots and returning them to the designer. “We thought, how can we make that available to more people? And how can we use tech to do that?” says Hall, who previously worked as a model booker, which is how she met model McSorely. “After many beers in the pub, chatting and swapping ideas, we came together to create LOANHOOD.”
In 2019 when these conversations were happening, rental hadn’t built up the steam it has now: it was more something your dad did if he wanted a tux for a wedding. So, the trio decided to test the waters of their peer-to-peer concept with a series of community clothes swaps. They were a success, so the decision was made to develop LOANHOOD into an app, which allows users to both borrow looks and rent out their own wardrobes. “It’s very similar to an Airbnb model where you can upload your wardrobe and rent from other people. It’s a way to democratise sharing and make it profitable for people,” says Hall. “Instead of putting our money in the hands of billionaires at the top of conglomerates, why not put our money into communities, into small brands, into our friends in different cities and actually lift people up? That was our long-term vision of embedding circular fashion into people’s everyday lives.”
But building an app, a company and a community is an expensive business and neither Hall nor her co-founders come from families or broader social networks populated by people who can put their hand in their pocket and pull out a few hundred grand as investment. So, with a pandemic forcing much of the world into lockdown, they decided to build the app at their own pace. LOANHOOD officially launched in July 2022. There was some frustration as other rental platforms emerged and scaled quickly, however Hall explains that she and her co-founders wanted to keep LOANHOOD in its own lane, honing a distinctive brand that stands apart from competitors. It was spearheaded by Charon, a graphic designer who took inspiration from fashion magazines and, ultimately, the LOANHOOD community. “The fashion isn’t dictated by us, it’s curated, photographed, and sometimes designed and made by our community, so the brief we set ourselves was to create a visual identity that unites it,” she says.
“Instead of putting our money in the hands of billionaires at the top of conglomerates, why not put our money into communities, into small brands, into our friends in different cities and actually lift people up? That was our long-term vision of embedding circular fashion into people’s everyday lives” – Lucy Hall
Undoubtedly the focus on building a fashion community is LOANHOOD’s strongest feature. You won’t find the standard occasionwear that occupies every millennial wedding photoshoot on the app. There is plenty of wearable vintage, designer, and high street up for grabs from loaners but the major draw is the experimental and one-off pieces from emerging and independent designers, who benefit from the exposure and income that LOANHOOD provides. “It’s an amazing platform as it gives designers an opportunity to profit from editorials and press pulls. As the saying goes, exposure doesn't pay the rent. It also gives people who may not be able to afford to buy our items the opportunity to wear them and feel fabulous!” says British Mustard, the neo-punk duo mashing up prints and textures, who joined the platform this year.
Alongside British Mustard’s power mesh and graphic corsetry, you can rent hand dyed silk puffer jackets from FFTP Studios, undulating multi-textured knits from Lima Rosa, handpainted vintage leather from Redux, and delicate feather-adorned corsets from Ethan Leyland. LOANHOOD is the app for people who are tired of standard order trends and want the creativity and innovation the British fashion scene is famous for. But unlike the British fashion industry at large, LOANHOOD isn’t London-centric in its approach, so you’ll find designers from across the UK on the platform. The three northern founders purposefully set out to make a platform that offers opportunities to all designers wherever they’re based. “You shouldn't have to move to London to be part of the fashion industry, we work with people from Glasgow to Southampton,” says Hall. “There are people in these cool little creative hubs that wanted to be part of fashion but didn't know how to do it. So we were like, ‘Come and learn, let us nurture and work with you, let's give you a platform to be seen.’”
“You shouldn't have to move to London to be part of the fashion industry. We work with people from Glasgow to Southampton. There are people in these cool little creative hubs that wanted to be part of fashion but didn't know how to do it. So we were like, ‘Come and learn, let us nurture and work with you, let's give you a platform to be seen’” – Lucy Hall
“As a sustainability-conscious demi-couture designer, LOANHOOD gives emerging designers like me the opportunity to loan out one-of-kind designs that often would only been worn once for major events It’s creating an income for up-and-coming designers who normally would only have their stuff loaned for free by stylists,” says Leyland. Victoria Jenkins, founder of adaptive fashion brand Unhidden, which joined LOANHOOD in February, is also grateful for the reach that the platform offers, “I'm a small business and I refuse to exploit people or planet which means my costs are higher and I simply can't compete with the high street. [Rental] also opens up Unhidden to the non-disabled community. I use universal design so anyone can wear the clothes, Unhidden isn't just for my community and thanks to LOANHOOD I am alongside other brands in the 'mainstream',” she says.
While the broad reach of brands for rent will appeal to anyone with a taste for fresh talent, the metallic parachute pants, luxe corsets, and print co-ords on the platform are definitely skewed more towards a Gen Z audience, a demographic Hall says is super receptive to the circular economy but needs nudging when it comes to investing more in special pieces, having being raised on rock-bottom fast fashion prices. Rental bridges that gap. “We can organise the logistics better so it’s more accessible to people; having pop-ups in the high street where people can try on, or subscription models. There’s masses of scope for where this can go,” says Hall.
To that end, LOANHOOD has expansion in its sights after fundraising last year, which involved the founders self-training in the complex language and specifics of the investment world. The plan is relaunching the website, hosting in-store swaps and moving into resale in an attempt to become a one-stop shop for the circular fashion economy. “We could go and just get jobs, but actually we want to make a difference in the world. So we have to put everything on the line to do that, but we know we can make a massive impact,” says Hall.