The Interview, Charlotte Morley, Founder of Thelittleloop
Earlier this month, childrenswear rental brand Thelittleloop made the news after a successful appearance on BBC's Dragon's Den. Brand founder Charlotte Morley left the boardroom with a double investment and an influx of support from new and existing customers.
Launched in 2020, Thelittleloop is a sustainable childrenswear rental brand that aims to reduce children's clothing waste. Catering for children aged 12 months to 10 years, the brand hopes to make dressing children environmentally friendly and hassle free for parents.
Charlotte speaks to TheIndustry.fashion about the brand's journey, the benefits of fashion rental and her recent Dragon's Den experience, which is opening a plethora of opportunities for the brand.
Why did you decide to launch Thelittleloop?
I wanted to do something about the issue of waste in children’s clothes. Myself and my husband were quite eco parents. I thought what can we do to reduce the impact of these children who always growing and always churning through stuff. I hated the process of their clothing. It's just this really horribly broken system. Every few months you’d have to sort through these piles of clothes and you don’t know what to do with them. I certainly wasn't going to throw them away because there's so much life in them.
I had my second child and then I took the plunge. I started doing focus groups, surveys and talking to people in the summer of 2019. I then launched in April 2020 to the public. We launched a rebrand in September, improving the website and adding a proper checkout process.
Can you tell me a bit about how the process works?
We describe it as a shared wardrobe. You should take the things you need, when you need them and when you no longer need or want an item, you put it back and take something else. We've built a system which enables swapping. So, you subscribe to our subscription of your choice and then get credits. The credits you always have. If you put the clothes back in, you get your credits back and then when you choose new clothes, they go down again. We send the new things in one of our reusable bags, so our customers can then return the old items and never be without clothing.
It's designed like this to try to make it super simple. For me, although sustainability is very much the driving force of the business, the other big factor for us was about solving a problem for parents making the process simple and easy.
It's built to be as flexible as possible. You can swap clothes at any time. You could have something for three days, three months or six months. Most people rent between six and 15 items. So, you could swap all 15 items all at once or you could swap three.
With rental you run the risk of receiving damaged items after they're returned, how do you solve that problem?
It can happen, but it’s not very common. Our customers are fantastic and look after things really well. So, we don't get a huge proportion of things back that are damaged. We do insure all the clothes and we don't want customers to restrict what their children do - we want them to have fun, their kids! We don't want parents to ever be worried about renting. It should feel like buying, you shouldn't have to stress about the fact that these are rented clothes.
We have a very professional laundry process and we can get nearly every stain out. Also, with our technology we've built it so that customers can rent brand new, gently worn or well-loved clothes. So, you can choose the condition of the clothes you rent. Even with the well-loved clothes, it's never going to be hideously stained and disgusting.
What kind of brands do you work with?
One of the big selling points for us is that we offer the consumer the ability to access clothing they might not be able to afford otherwise. So, we only partner with brands that are sustainably and ethically made – nearly all organic cotton. So, the clothing is made from cotton that is grown and manufactured in ethical circumstances.
We're taking on more brands all the time. It's quite a marketplace and a discovery tool for those smaller brands as well. If there's a cool sustainable brand, which is ethically manufactured and they want to get their name out there, then we're kind of promoting them and they're coming on board as well.
Why would you encourage parents to rent clothing rather than buying new?
There are lots and lots of reasons, but I would say the main ones are that it takes away the guilt and the hassle. There is so much waste, children are always growing and you’re constantly having to replace things. Once you get your head into the idea of just accessing instead of buying clothes, you can almost breathe because you don't have to think about buying clothes all the time and what you're going to do with them afterwards. It's really simple. It’s also fun, it's actually like shopping for new things and for like a third of the cost of buying new. So, it's much better value.
I do think the world's changing and a lot of our customers say they really love doing something that's a bit cool and a bit different. They feel like they're ahead of the curve a little bit and I think that's been really rewarding for some of them.
You recently appeared on Dragon’s Den, what was that experience like?
I was terrified in the run up to it. It was probably the scariest thing I've ever done. There's an awful lot to prepare for it and I wanted to go in there knowing everything. I convinced myself I wasn't going to get an investment because I'm one of those people that tends to prepare for the worst. When they accepted my offers, it was just a complete relief. The Dragons were fantastic. They’re such great and intelligent people. It was genuinely like having a really good chat with some very interesting people, who had some great feedback. I loved every minute of it.
How will the investments help your brand?
It's given us another six to nine months of runway, so that we can really cement the brand, grow it over the next six months and get even more investments - that’s what Steven and Deborah are supporting us to do. It's practical financial support. They're fantastic entrepreneurs and they've got great advice. We're already working together and meeting with them regularly. They're there to mentor and support me, which is just amazing as well.
How has your appearance impacted the business?
We’ve tripled our customer number, our subscriber number, which is fantastic! It continues to grow everyday. It's getting us a bit more momentum and to the point where we're better known. We’ve also had lots of great brands approach us to partner with them.
More importantly, I think it's putting rental on the map for people to know what it is. I think it’s making it more mainstream and helping people to really understand it. The reason I went on Dragon's Den was because I knew that to make sustainable fashion more mainstream, it needed somebody to do something like that so that people would start to get it. So, the biggest impact has been getting that conversation started. Dragon’s Den has got a massive audience and it was a really great opportunity.
What are your future ambitions for the brand?
It will really depend on how the next six months play out I think. It would be great to scale the business to get to a point where it's a viable company, where rental becomes a mainstream alternative to buying new. So, I think just increasing our profile and getting more people doing it.
It would be great scale into Europe, we've had huge numbers of requests from people there. There are no companies in Europe, no one's doing it quite the same as we are. I would definitely like to get there in the next two or three years. We're also planning to add resale to the business. Resale and rental go hand in hand, no one's going to have a fully rented or fully second-hand wardrobe, they should have both. We want to become the marketplace that is the one stop marketplace that you can get both things. That's coming soon.