Co-owners of Style Rotate, Natasha Liesner (seated) and Cleopatra Marcopoulos (standing), are joining the fashion rental revolution in Cape Town. Supplied
Co-owners of Style Rotate, Natasha Liesner (seated) and Cleopatra Marcopoulos (standing), are joining the fashion rental revolution in Cape Town. Supplied

Fashion rental revolution

By Chelsea Geach Time of article published Dec 19, 2020

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Co-owners of Style Rotate, Natasha Liesner (seated) and Cleopatra Marcopoulos (standing), are joining the fashion rental revolution in Cape Town. Supplied

Cape Town - Two local women have combined their expertise in style with their passion for sustainability to create a wastage-free dress hire business that shows there’s no excuse for single-use fashion.

Style Rotate gives customers access to a designer wardrobe full of outfits for any occasion, but without the commitment of having to buy one.

You simply rent it online, it turns up at your address via contactless delivery, you rock it at your event, and afterwards it gets collected from your doorstep, thoroughly cleaned, ready for the next party.

The looks in the collection are hand-picked by co-owners Natasha Liesner and Cleopatra Marcopoulos, who combined their experience in fashion styling and buying with their passion for sustainability.

The business was born out of their own experiences of buying outfits for occasions, wearing them once or never at all, then watching them gather dust in the wardrobe.

“We were going to weddings and events and doing what we call a ’panic-buy’,” Liesner said.

“There were all these one-time-wears and panic-buys sitting in our closets. You buy something, wear it a couple of times, maybe donate it, but ultimately it ends up in a landfill.”

One study estimated that 18.6 million tonnes of clothing would end up in landfills in 2020 alone.

“The real driving force behind the business idea was to create a solution to an outdated and unsustainable fashion model.

“Everything else has been revolutionised over the past few years, but the closet system hasn’t,” she said.

The pair met when they were interns together at Elle magazine. They then went their separate ways, Marcopoulos to being the fashion editor at Cosmopolitan magazine and Liesner as a corporate retail fashion buyer.

The two reconnected at Liesner’s clothing swop event, and Style Rotate was launched within four months.

It may be a new way to shop for an event outfit, but the concept of a communal closet is anything but new for women who have grown up in a group of girlfriends or sisters.

“In varsity and high school, we used to share clothes between us. The same skirt would be worn by five different friends on different weekends,” Liesner said. “We wanted to create that sense of community on a bigger scale – a community of like-minded women who could have a little sharing economy between them.”

Style Rotate has stock of over 100 pieces from international as well as local designers, and they pride themselves on carrying a wide variety of sizes.

Like all businesses, and especially those centring on the events industry, Style Rotate has had a rough ride during the Covid pandemic, but they’ve managed to emerge busier than ever.

“We launched at the end of November 2019. We had three months of normal operations before Covid hit and cancellations streamed in from March, then absolutely no business for about six months in the middle of the year,” Liesner said.

“We’ve opened up and been busier than ever. We’re really proud of ourselves for doing that. Every time somebody rents, we get so happy that someone else believes in the concept like we do.”

Liesner said customers have been a little nervous about renting clothes that other people have worn during the pandemic, but the cleansing processes they’ve implemented are stringent.

Each garment is quarantined for 48 hours after being collected, then it is heat steamed and thoroughly washed.

“It’s meant we’ve had to change and adapt, but all businesses have had to. We’re just happy we can still operate,” she said.

Rental prices range from R400 to R1 500, which includes delivery, dry cleaning as well as snag and spill insurance in case that glass of champagne takes a trip down your outfit.

Find out more at stylerotate.com or @stylerotate on Instagram.

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