A woman from Tipperary is taking on the environmental impact of fast fashion by starting her own designer dress rental service.
Edel Lyons, 31, a former marketing executive and fashion blogger started Rag Revolution just three months ago from her bedroom in Dublin, a premium fashion rental service that allows customers to rent dresses for special occasions, paying a fraction of the price, and returning the item when the event is over, helping save money – and the planet.
According to the Ellen McArthur Foundation, clothing production has approximately doubled in the last 15 years, while the annual value of clothing discarded prematurely is more than 350 billion euro.
While the average consumer bought 60% more clothes in 2014 than in 2000, people now keep each garment for half as long, and discarded clothing made of non-biodegradable fabrics can sit in landfills for up to 200 years.
Second only to oil, the clothing and textile industry is the largest polluter in the world, and produces nearly 20% of global waste water.
As the drive to be more environmentally conscious becomes more immediate, Lyons saw a gap in the market for Ireland’s fashion forward to be more sustainable, supporting reuse instead of consumption.
“I had a lot of events over the last three years, balls or weddings and work functions and was struggling to find something a bit different but that wasn’t really expensive, and I didn’t like the fact I was only wearing things once, it wasn’t good for me money-wise or the environment.
“I kept seeing expensive and real statement pieces that I knew if I bought, I wouldn’t wear again. We’re not like our mums’ generation, we don’t keep pieces anymore for a long time.
“With social media having such a presence in our lives, we’re less likely to re-wear outfits, people don’t want to keep wearing these statement pieces because there’s already a picture of them wearing it on Instagram or Facebook, and it sounds awful but that’s how people are now.
“While all this was going on, I was becoming more and more aware of the effect ‘fast fashion’ was having on the world.
“I am very environmentally conscious and I wouldn’t buy a lot of clothes, and stick to key pieces, and that’s how I fell into this idea.
“I did some research and I couldn’t see anything that offered style that I would wear, and saw the gap and thought; ‘I should do this’.”
Rag Revolution offers dresses from designer labels such as Rixo, Reformation, Olivia Rubin and Self-Portrait, who can command up to 400 euro for a dress, and rents them out for as little as 70 euro.
Lyons’ thoughts on the future of the industry runs parallel with economic experts, who predict that the way we think about clothes is about to shift, as the industry moves to cater to sustainability and mindful shoppers.
Recent research by Deloitte revealed over 80% of millennials across Australia, Canada, China, India, the UK and the US say it is important for companies take steps to diminish their environmental impact.
Consumers aged 25-35 are projected to spend 135 billion euro on sustainable goods by 2021.
“I’m quite interested in the industry and they’re predicting in a few years we’re not going to be buying clothes like we are now,” Lyons added. “We’re all headed toward buying key pieces, good jeans and boots – things like that, but you’re not going to have a wardrobe full of dresses from the high street or occasion-wear.
“At this rate the industry can’t keep going as it is, even in regard to the disposal of clothes. 90% of fashion go to a landfill and aren’t recycled. It’s on a lot of people’s minds now about how and where they shop, people used to want to have loads of clothes, but that’s a thing of the past, people are looking for something more sustainable.
“I’ve always wanted to do something like this and I just took the leap, it’s not for the fainthearted but it’s really satisfying, I’d tell anyone who has an idea to just go for it.”