Celebrating Women’s History Month this year, we’ve been lucky enough to sit down (virtually) with an incredible range of inspiring, powerful women across the retail and eCommerce industry. Today, we’re feeling inspired after our chat with Sacha Newall, CEO and Founder of MyWardrobeHQ.
How did you start your own business, where did you get the idea for the concept?
I was working in a peer-to-peer car sharing business, and saw how men viewed their cars as prized possessions, and invested in them. On the other side, women who purchased designer fashion were thought to have ‘expensive habits’, when in actual fact the items they were buying were just as much of an investment if looked after.
After having a chat with my co-founder Tina Lake, I thought there was the opportunity to turn those investments that many women had made into something more with luxury womenswear rentals. Done correctly, you can buy less, but buy better and those items could provide you with a return on your investment
I love the sustainable nature of MyWardrobeHQ – were you always interested in the Sustainability of fashion?
Yes I was always interested in sustainability, particularly given the fashion industry is one based upon waste. The industry is deliberately designed with waste in mind. This can be from those brands who purchase too much stock so they know they can discount down the line, or, the individuals who do not want to wear a piece that isn’t ‘this season’, as they view it as some kind of walk of shame.
I like to think that rentals are one way to start solving the problem of fast fashion and supporting the designers who have created the original pieces. Designers put so much into their collections and pieces and by renting, we can offer people the chance to wear the original at the same price that they can buy a fast fashion copy. Wouldn’t you rather wear the original and support the person who designed it if you could?
I love that at MyWardrobeHQ and through rental, people can become a real patron of the brands they love, so we are helping to protect new and emerging designers.
How did you make the leap from employee to business owner?
To be honest, I’ve had a lot of autonomy in my previous roles in other businesses so it wasn’t too much of a leap. I knew how to run a team, managing and getting the best our of people, I knew how to run a P&L – so starting a business wasn’t as daunting as it could be to some.
What has been the most difficult part of growing your business? Was there a barrier in the industry do you think with trying to make luxury rentals?
Well to start with, Covid is not great for the fashion rental market!
I think the main barrier has been that when people see the low prices on the high street, it’s very easy to go down that route and buy replicas.
Actually, your wardrobe can be an investment, when you walk out of some of the high street retailers, the second you leave the door, the items in your bag are worth next to nothing. With luxury, it is different, the right pieces will retain their value if looked after. When you leave the store, that £800 handbag is still worth that and often is it a great example of how you can buy less, but buy better.
This is one of the reasons I love working with Klarna, people are able to invest in statement pieces and spread that cost into smaller amounts.
What’s the riskiest move you’ve taken in your business?
I think the riskiest move we’ve taken was in combining the business to include both rental and resale as part of our offering. Some could see these as competing offerings, but for me, I think they have different audiences and we are able to broaden appeal. It’s essential we remember our business goal is to reshape what the life of one garment looks like. From the initial design and delivery, through to the afterlife of that item.
One fantastic example is a pair of Jimmy Choos that one customer has listed on our website. She has rented them out 15 times in the past few months, so they have more than paid for themselves. Buying well can be an investment, and now with that money, she can buy them in a different colour, keep them for herself or continue to rent them out again.
Who is a woman who inspires you?
Jane Shepherdson – she is the founder of the High Street and we are incredibly lucky to get to work with her as our chairman.
What milestone are you most proud of?
We decided to launch at the Fashion Awards, the iconic British Fashion Council event. On the day, we dressed over 100 people in MyWardrobeHQ items which meant that 10% of the outfits being worn were rented. They all tagged us, and this was a fantastic stepping stone for our business, we were featured in Vogue, Elle and loads of national newspapers. There couldn’t have been a better platform and launch for our business.
What 3 traits do you think are most important when running a successful business?
- Being able to put together a good team
- Be prepared to work really hard. When I say hard, I mean 7 days a week, 16hrs a day – it’s your business, you don’t switch off.
- Timing is everything (and a bit of luck is always helpful)!
What’s the best business advice you have ever received?
The best piece I have ever received is to “always employ people who are cleverer than you”.
Any advice to future entrepreneurs?
Firstly, get as much work in the field you’re interested in to make sure you love it, this will also help you build your network which is essential to any new business. You can also then identify your motivation, and you will get to know the hard work that is required. Secondly pick your timing, timing is everything in business.