Dress to impress

Sìoda is a clothes-rental service that offers women an innovative alternative to ‘fast fashion’. Founder and managing director Naomi Ross tells James Richards how, with her circular business model, customers can keep their wardrobe fresh and the planet green at the same time.

According to a recent study by researchers in Finland, the ‘fast fashion’ industry produces more than 92 million tonnes of waste and consumes 79 trillion litres of water each year. This issue sparked Naomi Ross to create Sìoda, a clothes-rental business for women.

‘The UK churns through clothing at an unsustainable rate, which shows no signs of slowing,’ Ross says. ‘Sìoda was born out of a frustration at the lack of alternatives to the environmentally damaging fast-fashion industry.’

Part of the problem is that customers often only wear an item a few times before discarding it or keeping it unused. Ross realised that a circular subscription-style model could help to address this issue.

‘Our customers browse the collection, select the clothes they want, and tell us where to deliver to,’ says Ross. ‘We collect the clothes a month later and send a new batch out, while dealing with all the laundry. Accidental damage insurance is included as standard for extra peace of mind.’

The Stirling-based company delivers across the UK and offers clothing for women in sizes 4 to 24, from a range of designer brands, including Reiss, Calvin Klein and Hugo Boss. Two pricing plans are currently available: £29 for one item per month, and £49 for four. Sìoda’s clothing is all second-hand, carefully sourced from eBay and other outlets, which prevents items from going to landfill or incineration too soon.

I wanted to make it easier for people to do the right thing when it comes to responsible consumption

‘I wanted to make it easier for people to do the right thing when it comes to responsible consumption,’ says Ross. ‘Sìoda is a more fun, convenient and sustainable option for women who love fashion but haven’t got to grips with second-hand shopping and see sustainable brands as too expensive.’

Before founding Sìoda, Ross worked for nine years at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), which gave her first-hand experience of the challenges facing the sector. ‘Textile production creates a lot of waste and diffuse pollution, and unnecessary volumes of garments are made,’ she says. ‘Renting from us reduces waste at the production and disposal stages.’

For Ross, the case for adopting more circular consumption models and reducing waste is overwhelming: ‘As SEPA says, in Scotland we are living as though we have three planets to take resources from and dump our waste on, which is clearly unsustainable. We need to massively adjust the way we live our lives because so much of our impact comes from the “stuff” we buy, own and use.’

Learning to share the resources we already have is an important part of our shift towards a lower-impact society, she says. ‘It can improve inequality issues too, as a sharing economy is often more affordable for everyone.’

Ross – who recently spoke at the Scottish Resources Conference – would welcome some key adjustments to our regulation system to help reduce textile waste. ‘I’d love to see duty of care-style regulations brought in – similar to those we have for waste exports – and applied to imports of textiles and other goods, to ensure retailers and importers are held accountable for the environmental damage caused by the production of the goods they’re buying.’

Founding a business with a circular model has its challenges, adds Ross, who offers some words of advice. ‘Being at the forefront of new, innovative business models can often mean investors and customers struggle to grasp what you’re offering or how it works. Be sure to take the time to really master your messaging, to help people understand and buy into what you’re offering, as this will really pay off in the long run.’

This article first appeared in the September / October issue of Circular.

Send this to a friend