The Interview: Rotaro's Georgie Hyatt and Tommy Hilfiger's Esther Verburg
The two companies have launched a six-month pilot program, allowing UK consumers to rent from the TommyXRomeo collection, Tommy Jeans and "one-of-a-kind" Tommy Hilfiger archive pieces.
TheIndustry.fashion talks about the new partnership with Georgie Hyatt, CEO of Rotaro, and Esther Verburg, Tommy Hilfiger and PVH's EVP of Sustainable Business & Innovation.
Can you give me a little bit of context into what your role involves at the business?
Georgie Hyatt: I am the co-founder and CEO of Rotaro. My primary role is to bring Rotaro's vision to life through strategy, brand partnerships, creative direction, marketing and fundraising. At Rotaro, we power luxury fashion brands' circular journey through rental and resale using our proprietary tech and app. I've been speaking to the brilliant Circular Business team at Tommy Hilfiger for months, working together to achieve their circular goals.
Esther Verburg: I head up Sustainable Business & Innovation (SB&I) at Tommy Hilfiger Global and PVH Europe. My department exists to ignite and accelerate transformation of our brands to lead to a new, clean and just future of fashion. We have set ambitious targets on circularity, aiming to be fully circular by 2030. Every day I work with talented and passionate individuals to rethink the way we create and do business so we can reach our goals.
What was the driving force behind the partnership?
Hyatt: At Rotaro we are committed to working with established and emerging brands to help them build on their sustainability goals. We were honoured and excited to work with such an iconic brand with a forward-thinking approach to the circular fashion economy. For us, this partnership was always about taking a heritage brand to an audience of Gen-Z and Millennial consumers and putting our Rotaro twist on things.
Verburg: We’re confident that the future of fashion is circular, and to achieve this we’re exploring and building new circular business models that have the potential to keep our much-loved items in use for longer. Understanding the potential of rental models is an important step in our journey, and we are excited to offer our consumers a new way of enjoying our classic American cool style. The rental business is still relatively new to us so we were looking to learn through established players in the market, which led us to Rotaro.
The six-month pilot has been operating for a month now, what has the response been so far?
Verburg: Our partnership with Rotaro garnered a lot of media attention and we’re seeing strong interest so far. We also loved seeing how press and influencers interacted with the Tommy Hilfiger rental collection at our launch event, creating their own personal style twists!
Hyatt: The response has been great, and the pieces have resonated with our community. To celebrate drop one, we hosted a rooftop party at The Standard Hotel in London, where we got to show the collection to the press and influencers. It was amazing to see people’s reactions first hand, and everyone was trying on the pieces and sharing their feedback. The response at the event, and subsequently online and on social, has been positive. We have stocked gender inclusive pieces for a while now, but this was the first partnership we spotlighted on this offering, so it’s been good to see the reaction.
Do you feel like the partnership is allowing the Tommy Hilfiger brand to reach new customers or demographics?
Verburg This partnership offers us the opportunity to learn from Rotaro's youthful community and gather insights into how new consumers engage with our brand, as well as explore which parts of our collections and styles appeal to rental consumers.
Initially, we were targeting the Gen Z consumer with this partnership but from the latest results, we found that younger millennials were in fact renting most of our pieces. This shows that although the partnership is still in its early stages, we’ve already gathered valuable insights into consumer demographics.
Circular fashion is obviously the crux of your job. How does this pilot help further that?
Verburg: We are always open to new and innovative ideas that can help us work towards keeping our products in use for longer. One of the aims of this pilot is to understand how rental models can partly replace the need for buying new fashion items. This pilot will serve as a learning opportunity to validate the potential increase in usage of a single item. We also hope to learn from ROTARO’s circular approach and how it minimizes the operational impact of its business.
What appealed to you about the Tommy Hilfiger brand that you felt aligned with Rotaro?
Hyatt: Tommy Hilfiger launched in 1985, 34 years before Rotaro was born, and long before many of our customers! I imagine nearly everyone has heard of the brand and recognises its distinct logo. For us, the appeal was bringing this brand to our community of sustainability-minded and experimental individuals.
Despite our age difference, since our first meeting, both businesses have been truly aligned in our sustainable goals. Together, we have worked to help Tommy Hilfiger enter the circular fashion economy and access their values-driven rental customers.
This partnership also appeals to those who wouldn’t normally consider renting - it features exclusive archive pieces – how did you select which would be most appropriate?
Hyatt: By working together, we have both been able to attract new customers, which is really positive. Our partnership has been split into three drops (the first launched in July, the second in September, and the third in November), and we have worked closely with Tommy Hilfiger’s merchandising team to select a diverse range of pieces.
This included some truly unique pieces from the TommyXRomeo capsule collection co-designed with Romeo Hunte, alongside Tommy Jeans’s pieces. These collections have opened up our community, and we have seen a great response from stylists and costume designers looking for unique designs.
Drop 2 is an archive drop and takes you back! Expect both gender inclusive pieces and lots of Y2K looks to pop up on the website. This involved working with Tommy’s dedicated archive team to source pieces from around the world to create an iconic edit of crucial styles. Key styles from each drop will also move over to our Resale platform so that the product can find its forever home, and we can close the loop for that garment.
Verburg: The archival pieces in particular are the most exciting to me because some of these styles are sold out and very hard to find anywhere else. We curated this vintage drop in close collaboration with the Tommy Archive team in New York, and Rotaro. Our Tommy Archive team played an essential role in identifying vintage pieces that are still popular today and strongly represent our brand heritage, while Rotaro provided essential insight and perspective into what categories and styles would be most relevant and appealing to their consumer base.
What can we expect to see from Tommy Hilfiger in the next 12 months regarding circularity?
Verburg: We will continue to test circular business models to ensure we keep products in use for longer, and also explore ways to reclaim products and materials at the end of their lifecycle. After we see the results of this pilot, we envision expanding the number of rental collections we offer while simultaneously optimising our internal operations so we can scale them further in the future. At the same time, we’ll be steeply increasing the amount of circular materials like recycled and regenerative materials in our main collections and stepping up our circular design efforts.
This is an exciting new era for Tommy Hilfiger as we work towards our goal of becoming a fully circular brand, and we have lots more to come.
What are your aspirations or expectations from this pilot?
Hyatt: We aspire to help introduce Tommy Hilfiger to a new audience of Gen-Z and Millennial customers and highlight its relevance today. On a bigger scale, we hope this successful partnership inspires more heritage brands to explore the rental and resale platform and recognise the benefits and opportunities this unlocks. We are all acutely aware of the devastating impact fashion has on the planet, and although not perfect, renting is the better option for brands and customers.