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Episode 65 Charlotte Morley – thelittleloop – the UK’s first shared wardrobe for kids

Circular Economy Podcast Episode 65 Charlotte Morley – thelittleloop – the UK’s first shared wardrobe for kids

The UK’s first shared wardrobe for kids… Charlotte Morley founded thelittleloop to offer a solution to clothing waste with convenience, choice, quality and value. Charlotte grew up being an advocate for sustainability, and found becoming a parent was a watershed moment. The fear of an uncertain future drove Charlotte to make big changes in the way she lived.

But, when it came to dressing her children she couldn’t find a satisfactory solution to the waste that rapidly-growing mini-humans create. Hand-me-downs were haphazard and offered no choice. Buying new then trying peer-to-peer resale was incredibly time consuming and didn’t recover much of the original cost. Charlotte was intrigued by how to incentivise children’s clothing brands to create garments that would last.

Shocked by the problems of under-used clothing and frustrated by the lack of convenient solutions, she decided to solve the problem by working with children’s clothing brands to create a rental service, thelittleloop.

Charlotte drew on her background in retail and technology, and set out to build a solution offering maximum convenience, choice, quality and value, at the same ensuring each garment lives its full potential life.

Charlotte founded her business while working as Head of Digital Product at Notonthehighstreet – and now runs thelittleloop full time.  She describes it as both the biggest risk she’s ever taken, and the best thing she could imagine doing for her children’s future. 

Thelittleloop works hand in hand with brands, who take a share of the rental revenue, sharing responsibility for the lifespan of the garments, and receiving data to help improve their production standards.  Charlotte’s business is already winning awards, including from Marie Claire and Junior magazine, and was featured in the Guardian last month.

Podcast host Catherine Weetman is a circular economy business advisor, workshop facilitator, speaker and writer.  Her award-winning book: A Circular Economy Handbook: How to Build a More Resilient, Competitive and Sustainable Business includes lots of practical examples and tips on getting started.  Catherine founded Rethink Global in 2013, to help businesses use circular, sustainable approaches to build a better business (and a better world).

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About Charlotte Morley

Circular Economy Podcast Episode 65 Charlotte Morley – thelittleloop – the UK’s first shared wardrobe for kidsCharlotte Morley founded thelittleloop while working as Head of Digital Product at Notonthehighstreet – leaving her role to build it full time.  She describes it as both the biggest risk she’s ever taken, and the best thing she could imagine doing for her children’s future. 

Although a lifelong sustainability advocate and geographer, Charlotte found parenthood to be a watershed moment for personal environmental action. The fear of an uncertain future for her children drove her to make significant changes in the way she lived – reducing her consumption and switching to less wasteful habits.

However, when it came to dressing her children she couldn’t find a satisfactory solution to the waste that rapidly growing mini-humans create. Hand-me-downs were haphazard and offered no choice, and the existing system of purchasing then reselling peer-to-peer was incredibly time consuming and rarely financially rewarding. Plus, she was particularly struck by the problem of how to incentivise children’s clothing brands to create garments which would last.

And so, drawing on her background in retail and technology, she set out to build something which would turn the outdated system of buying and re-selling on its head – offering maximum convenience, choice, quality and value, while simultaneously guaranteeing each garment lives its full potential life.

And she did so working hand in hand with brands, who take a share of the rental revenue, sharing responsibility for the lifespan of the garments, and receiving data to use in improving their production standards.

Interview Transcript

Provided by AI

Catherine Weetman  00:01

Successful circular businesses compete on value, convenience, choice and quality. And they’re better for people and planet. Hello, and welcome to the circular economy podcast, where we find out how circular approaches are better for people, planet and profit. I’m Catherine Weetman, everything global. And I’ll be chatting with those people making the circular economy happen. rethinking how we design, make and use everything. We’ll talk to entrepreneurs and business owners, social enterprises and leading thinkers. You find the show notes, links and transcripts at Circular Economy where you can subscribe to updates and our fortnightly edition of circular insights.


Catherine Weetman  00:52

It’s episode 65. Welcome back to the circular economy podcast. And if this is your first episode, I hope you enjoy the show. Today we’re talking to Charlotte Morley, who grew up being an advocate for sustainability and found becoming a parent was a watershed moment. The fear of an uncertain future drove Charlotte to make big changes in the way she lived. But when it came to dressing her children, she couldn’t find a satisfactory solution to the waste that rapidly growing many humans create Hami downs were haphazard on off at no choice. buying new than trying peer to peer resale was incredibly time consuming and didn’t recover much of the original cost. Charlotte was intrigued by how to incentivize children’s clothing brands to create garments that would last shocked by the problems of underused clothing, and frustrated by the lack of convenient solutions. She decided to solve the problem by working with child children’s clothing brands to create a rental service the little loop, Charlotte drew on her background in retail and technology and set out to build a solution offering maximum convenience choice, quality and value. At the same time ensuring each garment lives its full potential life. Charlotte founded her business while working as head of digital product at not on the high street, and now runs the little loop full time. She describes it as both the biggest risks she’s ever taken, and the best thing she could imagine doing for her children’s future. The little loop works hand in hand with brands who take a share of the rental revenue, sharing responsibility for the lifespan of the garments and receiving data to help improve their production standards. Charlotte’s business is already winning awards, including from Mary Claire, and Junior. Magazine, and was featured in The Guardian last month. Let’s hear from Charlotte. And as usual, I’ll catch up with you afterwards to share what I took away from our conversation. Charlotte, welcome to the circular economy podcast,


Charlotte Morley  03:13

Catherine, Hello.


Catherine Weetman  03:15

It’s great to see you on the other end of a zoom call. And before we get into the detail of how you started the little loop, perhaps you could just give us a quick overview of how it all works.


Charlotte Morley  03:27

The little loop is that the UK’s first shared wardrobe for kids, which essentially means a rental service for children’s clothing, which we’ve designed to try to improve the environmental impact of children’s clothing whilst also improving the process for parents and just making life easier, more convenient, more cost effective, and guilt free, actually, relative to the kind of standard linear method of purchasing children’s clothes.


Catherine Weetman  03:57

I love that phrase the shared wardrobe. I really like that. So how did all of this start? What What brought you to starting this business?


Charlotte Morley  04:08

Um 95% of the time we make our decisions based on instinct. So we’re only kind of 5% rational beings. And that’s something which definitely I’ve in retrospect recognised applies myself. So to change our habits is not an easy thing. It’s not easy to change instinct. And it takes big life changing events for us to change our habits. And what happened to me was I had a child and I think this happens an awful lot. And a lot of businesses do get formed when people have children and that’s why it’s because when we have children, we shift our habits we shift the way that we think and I think for me, although I’d been theoretically a sustainability advocate for years, it was having a child that actually made me start to make changes in my life. So the biggest and the probably the first thing I did was actually shift to using cloth nappies on my kids and everyone He said, Are you crazy, it’s going to take so much time, it’s going to be horrendous. And actually, this is very topical, because the government’s just announced a tax on disposable nappies aimed at getting people to use more Reusables. And what I discovered very quickly was, it wasn’t very hard, it wasn’t very time consuming, a tiny bit more, I’m not gonna lie. It wasn’t hideous. And actually, I got a huge amount of pleasure from it, because I felt so good about what I was doing. And I realised that actually, if there were more solutions like that out there, and moreover, if it was made to be easy, it’s I think, what’s hard about cloth nappies is, it seems very daunting, doesn’t seem easy, doesn’t seem like something that you can just do. And that’s what puts people off doing it. And there’s a lot of preconception around it. And when I started doing, I discovered, it really was easy. So to cut a very long story short, what I realised was that, particularly in the in the children’s wear space, there was a big opportunity to make more sustainable ways of doing things easier. And to build a service, which made being environmentally friendly, and being more sustainable, reducing waste, something that actually was a bit of a no brainer, that wasn’t only better for the environment, but was better for the parents as well. And it was a real pain point for me that the clothing wasting, I just hadn’t even thought about it, how quickly children grow, how much you’re going to these clothes. And I used to think it would be a lovely thing to be buying new clothes all the time, or what a great experience these cute little things. It’s so painful. And more more because of getting rid of the old ones is what do you do with them? I felt it was it was incredibly tedious, time consuming, but it was also very wasteful, and I hated it, I would feel genuinely sick every time. So that’s that all of that together is where the little loop came from. And I would sit at night breastfeeding, my child kind of my brain didn’t stop racing for months and months, like, what can I do? How can I fix this? This is broken, and it needs to be fixed. And that’s that’s where it came from.


Catherine Weetman  06:57

So all those lost lost hours of sleep. This? Yeah, and you probably didn’t know whether it was you know, would you have slept through that if your brain wasn’t already on overtime? To solve all these problems? Exactly. The two things working in perfect harmony. So yeah, and I think the the kind of the the lack of convenience with reuse, we forget about don’t wait, as you say most people do think about the excitement of buying new things, and not about the headache of of getting rid of them. I was just watching something on TV last week, you know yet another decluttering programme, and you and you kind of see how people have got attached to what seem to us to be completely illogical things or just haven’t got around to getting rid of things. Because what do I do with this, that’s, I don’t really want to just put it in the dustbin because that’s wasteful. But everything else requires investment in in more time and that we that we haven’t really got.


Charlotte Morley  08:04

And I think we just accept it. As this is the status quo. This is what people do. You just build up stuff and you keep it and I think we underestimate how detrimental It is to your mental health to have stuff building up and up and to be constantly seeing it because you are and you’re especially if you don’t live in a huge house, and lots of us, particularly living in cities, you’re living in flats and things. And people have bags and boxes of things on top of wardrobes underneath beds, it’s very bad for your mental well being because you’re subconsciously feeling all the time hemmed in and cluttered. And, you know, it’s been a side element to this, you know, it wasn’t maybe the core driver, but certainly, and I am quite a neat freak. I’ll be honest. But I do think it’s really important to acknowledge that we’ve accepted that stuff is what we should have. And actually we don’t need stuff. We don’t need as much stuff as we have. But because it’s so hard to get rid of it. You know, we just we just take it.


Catherine Weetman  09:01

Yeah, I think there’s there’s lots of interesting stuff being you know, researched, and, and brought brought to people’s attention in that whole area about the sort of hidden aspects of stuff and our mental health and so on. So, could you tell us a bit more about how the little loop works in practice for customers, you know, what, what do people do and what kind of clothes and brands and so on how to Pete How long do people keep things for? Talk her through that if he could?


Charlotte Morley  09:35

Yeah, of course. So we built the little loop hand in hand with parents and we, you know, we spoken to as many parents as we can to build a service which we think is as seamless as possible. And as I say I was driven obviously by the environmental sustainability aspect, but really also very heavily driven by convenience. And so what we you’ve ended up building is, as I said, we describe it as a shared wardrobe. Because the idea is that it’s one huge wardrobe in the cloud, which you can take items in and out of as and when you need them, you don’t have to buy all those things and have them in your house, you simply rent what you need when you need it. And then when you finish with it, you put it back into our shared wardrobe and you take something else, it’s as simple as that, really, obviously, the, the mechanism for making that work is, well, not obviously, the mechanism for making that work is a subscription, a rental subscription. And the subscription gives you access to that wardrobe. So as long as you have a live subscription, you can be taking clothes in and out of the wardrobe as and when you want to. Most parents tend to do it about every three months, they’ll choose a new set of clothes, so if the child’s grown, or if the seasons have changed, or they’ve got bored, because let’s face it, we all do get sometimes bored of our clothes. And our children do. You know, we have a lot of people who sweat because they they’ve got something for their child who said, I’m not going to wear that. And rather than in a purchase scenario where it just then hangs in the wardrobe, because you think maybe they’ll wear it, you just send it back and you choose something else. So it’s genuinely as simple as that. And a lot of rental services, they kind of insist on you having a set number of clothes, and you’re having it for a set amount of time. From the beginning, I was very keen not to limit our customers in that way. And so we built it in a way that means you can have, you have a set number of credits, which you can spend as you want to on the clothes. So that would mean you could get probably around, say 10 T shirts, or three coats, you know, it depends on what you need. You can have you can buy more credits to have access to more items or clothes, or you can have fewer to have access to fewer items. So you can use it very flexibly as you want to. And you can hang on to them for as long as you want to, or swap them as often as you like. And we don’t and I think we’ll come on to this later. We don’t encourage people to use this like fast fashion. So the idea is not that you’re swapping clothes every two weeks because you want to fashion fix for starters is a children’s clothes. And most parents don’t want to do that anyway, you know, who’s got time. But obviously, this is it is meant to be more sustainable. So it’s meant to mimic the natural patterns of purchasing children’s clothing, you generally do need to swap clothes about every three months because of the changes in your child. And that’s it. Yeah, that’s pretty much everything.


Catherine Weetman  12:23

So people send them back in prepaid, postage envelopes.


Charlotte Morley  12:28

Yep. So when people want to return items, they tell us what they want to return, they have a reused. So we send all our items out in a reusable mail bag. So when they want to send the items back, they put them back into the reusable mailbag. And we can use these bags for 2000 Go. So they’re super sustainable. And we give them a label and they stick it on, they send it back to us. So it’s it’s very seamless. And then as soon as it gets back, they have their credit suspend again, they choose the new items, we put them back into the same bag, and they go back to them. So it’s this kind of seamless cycle of clothing. And we’re actually just changing it. That to be that you can choose your new items and they’re sent to you before you send the old ones back. So it will be completely seamless. Now you won’t actually have any time without the clothes. That’s not launched yet, which is why I’ve described it the old way first. But yeah, again, as I say, we’re always talking to parents to find out, you know, what doesn’t doesn’t work and we’re constantly iterating to improve the service. The thing I’ve not mentioned I suppose behind the scenes, so when we get the clothes back, we launder them, we then steam them to additionally sanitise them. We repair anything that needs repairing, we stain remove, we’re pretty good now at stain removing. So all the garments are insured against stains and general wear and tear, which means if you could just build painted on the front, it’s okay, we’ll sorted out. And yeah, sure, that means we do have to occasionally retire garments, but generally we’re very good at getting the stains out and we can keep them in circulation. So the clothes that people get are actually cleaner than they would be if they bought them in the shops because obviously in the shops, people are touching them trying them on you know, they’re hanging there in a shop full of germs and people coughing etc. Our clothes are stored in a kind of sanitised environment and they themselves are very well cleaned. And we can keep the clothes generally in circulation for up to four or five times. So three or four times longer than then if they were just sold once, which is over twice. Even if they were kind of resold. It’s still we’re still keeping them in circulation two or three times longer than they’ve been recently.


Catherine Weetman  14:33

That’s excellent. So a really big impact in terms of carbon saved, water saved, material saved and so on.


Charlotte Morley  14:40

Exactly. It’s around about 80% of carbon and water saved.


Catherine Weetman  14:44

Right. Wow, that’s amazing. Really, it’s, you know, it’s really fundamental improvement isn’t that that that people can make? We


Charlotte Morley  14:53

really hope so. Yeah, that’s certainly the aim and


Catherine Weetman  14:57

yeah, so and what From your lessons learned so far, what are the fundamentals that customers won’t compromise on? In terms of things like value, quality, style, that kind of thing.


Charlotte Morley  15:11

I mean, I think you’ve just said, I think I mean, children’s wear is different from other other clothing. But every single parent that we’ve spoken to has given us the same what we call the hygiene factors. So with children’s wear, it has to be high quality, it has to be great value, and it has to be convenient. And we tend to put style under qualities like a subheading, so for us quality is comfort, style washability design and you know, has it got poppers in the right places, etc. So we put all of that under quality, but then value and convenience, and I think I think a lot of people go into sustainable business thinking they just need to be sustainable. And what we learned very quickly and actually kind of knew anyway, but was that you have to meet the hygiene factors, before sustainability starts to kick in, you know, there are very few consumers out there who will buy something just because it’s sustainable, if it doesn’t meet those basic needs, and so that’s, you know, that’s where we’ve started, we’ve tried to meet those three needs before the sustainability then you know, has it has an opportunity to become a benefit, if you like. And I think it’s probably fair to say that there aren’t many other sustainable certainly children’s wear options, which meet all three of those. So there tends to be a compromise somewhere. So like peer to peer resale is great, but it’s not very convenient, it’s very time consuming. It’s a hassle. You can buy expensive, sustainably, ethically made clothes, which make you feel better, because they have been, they’ve been well made, which is fantastic. And I definitely encourage that if you’ve got to buy new, but it’s expensive. And actually on a sustainable perspective, it’s only sustainable if those clothes are then reused. So you’re then entering back into resale, etc. You know, we’re trying to take all three of those boxes, as well as the sustainability.


Catherine Weetman  17:00

Yeah, and I think it all comes back to convenience, doesn’t it? As you said, even if you’re buying the high quality clothes, you still got the hassle of trying to find a good reuse route for those afterwards. And having tried to buy a few things myself on eBay, I’m a big Patagonia clothes fan. And in America, they have their one wear site. So everything you know, is genuine, you know that the condition is going to be x or whatever. You know, however, it’s been specified. But they don’t offer that in Europe. So you have to just kind of take your chances on eBay.


Charlotte Morley  17:39

Yeah, exactly. It always feels so haphazard. It’s something that I experienced myself a lot when I was younger. And also, when I first had kids, I was like, I want to go and get something secondhand. I’ve never been particularly bothered about secondhand. I’ve always been very keen on secondhand. And I’m just going through it now with school uniform for my daughter and like how hard can it be to find some secondhand green checked some addresses? incredibly difficult is the answer. And I think it’s that haphazard nature of you know, you know what you want. And you know, you can go to eBay or vintage or Spark and unplugging all of these things, because I think they’re fantastic. But you can’t guarantee you’re going to find them. And I think that was the other thing that we wanted to be able to do was offer a service where people came and it felt like shopping, because we had these fantastic brands. And I can talk more about how we partner with those. And we have a good selection of clothes, which coordinate with one another. So you can choose multiple things from the same range. And because we’re keeping them all in circulation, for around about the same amount of time, you’ll always be able to come back and choose from these ranges. So it feels quite like shopping. And yet it’s still sustainable. And it just takes away the randomness that I think you can get sometimes with secondhand shopping.


Catherine Weetman  18:49

Yeah, and I just going back to what you said about the the kind of core ingredients. I’ve just been writing something looking at those you know that the classic guidance for how do you grow your business or grow your market share. So it comes down to price quality, convenience and excitement. And then I think what’s happening now is that people are getting switched on to being more sustainable in their behaviour. But those things are still essential. So it’s kind of building an extra layer of sustainability. features around that. So instead of price, it’s now about value and affordability.


Catherine Weetman  21:01

So it’s sort of building out from these core features, but thinking about how to bring in the circular and the sustainable aspects and still meet those.


Charlotte Morley  21:12

Absolutely. And I think we’re still at a point where we’re almost having to explain that that’s what we’re doing. And I think, you know, this is a challenge. And we may come into challenges later but this is the challenge for us at the moment with a circular economy that once you’ve when you’re building these businesses, it becomes a bit it’s like it’s a no brainer well of course circularity is more convenient circularity is better value circularity is, means that you’re, there’s quality baked in, because if something’s not high quality, it’s not going to last, it’s not going to be emotionally durable. It won’t be something that people want for a long time. But people are still quite new to the circular economy, people still aren’t quite, it’s not in their psyche. It’s not embedded yet. And so you’re still having to explain all these benefits, because people don’t automatically go, oh, well, it must be. And I think that’s one of the biggest challenges that we have that it’s obvious once you once you’re in circulation, it’s really obvious that it brings with it all of these benefits. But for now, we have to call out in every marketing campaign, and you know, every communication, and did you know that rental is better, because it’s convenient. And did you know, and that’s hard at the moment? That’s, you know, because you’re almost overselling. But it’s it seems a shame not to help people and understand all of these, all of these benefits.


Catherine Weetman  22:25

And people’s perceptions are different, aren’t they? Let’s talk about the brands. And you know, what’s in it for them? Did they? Did they get this concept from the off? Or was it hard sell? And how does it work for them in terms of the insights that they get from being part of a subscription service.


Charlotte Morley  22:46

So probably worth going back a step, which is to say that when I set up the little loop, what I didn’t want it to be was an add on like a bolt onto the fashion industry. And I didn’t want to set up a little business which, and I ran alongside the fashion industry flying in the face of it a little bit and trying to do something completely different. Because I didn’t feel like that was where I would have the most impact. And impact is really cool to what we’re trying to do here. We’re not it’s not just a money business, you know, to make me a bit of cash on the side, it’s genuinely to try and change the way an industry works. So it was always a goal of mine to partner with brands, and we did so from day one. And what I mean by partner with them is rather than wholesaling stock, which is what the majority of rental businesses do, and it’s a good way to get started. But rather than wholesaling the stock, we, the brands own it, we store it so that we can have it centrally located mostly for sustainability. So we can ship it all out together. We don’t want packages flying all over the country. But they own it, and then they take a share of the rental revenue. So every time a garment rents we have built bespoke technology, which rent which tracks every item tracks every day that it rents for, and then calculates the share that the brand has earned. And they take a share of that daily rental cost essentially. And along with the money, they also take data and they so we we help them to understand first of all, how long their garments lasting, how long are they renting for and you can compare them on a kind of garment type basis, fabric etc. And also we give them kind of anecdotal evidence like well, actually, this particular Navy fabric has got a nylon fraying issue and it gets a fuzz very quickly, or these jogging bottoms have actually just shrunk and we’ve had six pairs of them and they’ve all come back shrunk in the same way. And what has been incredible has been every single brand we’ve spoken to was not only enthusiastic for this, but let’s leptin pretty much with Chief, you know, with both feet not 80% of the brands we’ve approached have said yes and they’ve locked in with both feet. Other brands who said maybe in a year or two we’re not quite big enough or we’ve got a few other projects going on but we’ve not had Anybody say, this is a ridiculous idea, we absolutely don’t care about sustainability. And we don’t want to get involved. You know, I think we are approaching predominantly ethical and sustainable children’s wear brands. So they already have that in their psyche. But what’s been amazing is to find out that that’s not just a marketing gimmick, these brands genuinely wants to, they do want to be more ethical and sustainable. And, you know, we are asking them to adopt a really quite different business model, and to find a way to account for that and to build it into their processes and things. And that’s not easy. And they’re all making it work, which is, which is fantastic. And they’ve been grateful for the data, and they’ve taken action on the data. And, and that’s, you know, that it’s going to get more sophisticated as we get more data, we have more customers, we have more products. But for now, it’s already starting to make a difference. And the other brands have been fantastic. They’re very engaged. And I think they quite enjoy it. And was, you know, we’re starting to do co marketing with them, which is a, I think, a sign of the fact that they are that they’re now really fully on board that they’re prepared to put out there. We publicly you know, we are partnering with this business, we are doing rental and where I think some of them to start with wherever slightly concerned about cannibalization would rental. You know, would it cannibalise their sales? I think they’ve all come to realise that it doesn’t it either attract a different type of person, or actually we have some people rent and say, I love that thing so much that I went and bought it from the company. And then I’ve sent it back to you and I’m renting something different now because I wanted so there’s an element of try before you buy as well. And it’s not a massive element because most people don’t want to buy and lots of things. That’s why they’re renting. But it certainly doesn’t appear to be cannibalising sales for companies at this point, hopefully.


Catherine Weetman  26:49

And what about trends with your customers? You know, are you noticing types of feedback? Or are you starting to notice new kinds of customers engaging with you? Because I think over the pandemic and the lockdown, there’s certainly been a lot in the press about people’s change in mindsets and people being much more open to making lifestyle changes to be more sustainable, more aware of their carbon impacts and so on.


Charlotte Morley  27:23

Yeah, I think I mean, I definitely we are hearing that people are making more conscious choices, more conscious consumerism is starting to become it’s becoming more normal. And I think it’s fair to say that, that is stronger amongst the younger generation. So people probably in their teens and early 20s are probably slightly further ahead of people in their 30s and 40s, which is our target market. I like you know, kind of 24 to 44, really as our target market. And they but there is there is a shift, I think what’s been fascinating, has been that we don’t really have our type of customer. I have one fabulous customer. She’s one of our brand ambassadors, and she lives in a caravan on like a communal site with lots of other people who is an eco community is the best way of describing it. She loves rental because she doesn’t have a lot of space for children’s clothes. So she has a small selection of summers, which she wears, and then she swapped them out when she needs to. And yeah, I have people who rent from me because they love children’s clothes, and they want to be able to change, you know, they want their children to look beautiful. And they recognise the value and the convenience of doing it this way. And then much more kind of mainstream, I think you would describe them as you know, I haven’t there’s a real range. I think what is shared between them is that they all describe sustainability as the main driver. But then they all recognise a different kind of sub factor as to why it makes sense for them. And it goes back to what we said before, but there are so many reasons to do it. To use circularity for stock to be more circular that I think it does appeal to a really wide range of people. It makes it harder for us because it’s not that we have one niche group to market to. But I think I would probably say that we’re starting to get more mainstream and more mainstream customers coming on board. But it very much depends on how we’re marketing and what we’re marketing and you know, how we’re talking about it. We got a piece in son, which was unsolicited, I didn’t you know, it was it was completely came from nowhere. And it was all about how renting saves 1000s of pounds and we’ve suddenly got a rash of new subscribers that I assume are people who value seekers. And yeah, if we’ve got a piece that was more about our environmental credentials, and I could I’d expect that we get a different type of person. So it’s quite hard to generalise at this point. But it’s really fascinating.


Catherine Weetman  29:48

Yeah, sounds it it’s and yeah, I think all those different threads that he could pull to uncover more about what what’s driving behaviour change and how how you can build on that or what that leads to with conversations they’re having with other people. And you know, all the word of mouth marketing that that’s probably happening out there. And you, you know, as well as the rental option that is extending the lifetime of clothing, because you’re doing all the reuse and caring for it. Do you do anything to help to encourage people to care for clothes whilst they’ve got them to help them? You know, wear better last longer and so on?


Charlotte Morley  30:32

Yeah, I’m glad you asked that, because because I think what we identified really early was that we had an opportunity and a platform for just educating people more broadly about how they can look after their clothes. It seems to be kind of accepted that wearing something once a fashion is bad, but if you destroy your clothes through lack of care, that’s okay. And I think that partly comes just because we’re so busy. And there’s just this increasing narrative of convenience, when it comes to everyday things like laundry, you know, nobody wants to spend time doing their laundry, we all have a laundry machine. And we have liquid tabs. And we, we don’t think about those things anymore. And as a result, I think people increasingly don’t look after clothes in the way that perhaps our parents and grandparents generations did do. And I have heard a lot, but my kids trashed their clothes. And you know, kids are hard on clothes, and none of us want. And I don’t stifle my kids creativity, and my kids climb trees, and they roll in mud and all of that. But I think what we’ve forgotten is actually it’s very easy to get those things out, you just have to put a tiny bit more effort in. So what we, what we realised through what we were learning ourselves through the stain removal and through it through the condition that we were seeing closed in was that we could we could help to teach people a little bit about that. And we don’t do it in a guilt, guilt, kind of, we don’t want to make people feel guilty, they don’t look after their clothes. But we want to show again, how easy it is to do it. So we do kind of a series of short, very short, very absorbable videos and things like that. And we have tips on our website and stuff, which is just, if you just watched this Vince’s in cold water, if we put in the washing machine, you’re going to get out 90% More stains, and if you put it on a hot wash, and it’s just things we’ve forgotten and things that the date the information is just not out there. So we thought it was a very easy way for us to have a broader impact. We don’t need to do it, you know, people do tend to look after their clothes very well. And it is staying, you know, staying insured, and we can get the stains out ourselves. But I think we do it more for people who aren’t renting really, we do it just because we have a platform, we have followers on Instagram, many of them aren’t renting with us. But if we can just help them keep their clothes in circulation for a bit longer than we know our impact. You know, it’s like a multiplier effects for the impact that we can have. And it’s funny, you know, I actually really enjoy it when somebody goes, thanks so much for sustainability. I got this out. And you know, it’s actually really rewarding. People really do quite enjoy it. We’re all we’re all a bit geeky at heart, I think. So yeah, that’s that’s something we’ve been trying to do. And we actually did, we did a close for the festival that we ran a closed swap. Again, really just to kind of get the broader word out there that sopping clothes is fun. It wasn’t it wasn’t we didn’t make any money from it wasn’t a business thing. And we had a wonderful seamstress come along to show people how you can alter and repair trades very easily as well. So we do a bit of that we do repair tutorials, like how to embroider a star over a whole child’s t shirt or stain or whatever. So it’s all about making these things easy, accessible and enjoyable, and helping people to realise that clothing should be valued. You know, clothing has a story behind it clothing. And you know, that’s the story of your child who’s worn it. But it’s the story of the person who put hours into making it and who put hours into growing the cotton and the person who designed it, you know that there is a real story behind every garment. And I think we unfortunately got ourselves trapped into the cycle of thinking that items were cheap and therefore disposable and therefore we forgot about that value. But actually if going back to what you said before you spend a little bit more buy something that’s better quality with the workers have been treated better where the cotton is organic and therefore grown better. And we know that we can repair it or remove the stains from it therefore it becomes more worth spending a bit more money on next is going to last a bit longer. It becomes this virtuous cycle instead of a kind of cycle of a spiral of decline where it’s like buy a cheap don’t look after it doesn’t matter because it didn’t cost me any money throw it away. So we’re trying to take it away go in the other direction trying to help people to value things rather than see things as disposable.


Catherine Weetman  34:33

Yeah, and I think you know, the repairing and caring for videos they translate to every age of clothing use it and they say it’s not just helping keep children’s clothes in in use for longer but helping people think about how they can you know keep keep their own clothes in better condition. And it reminds me again of Patagonia and one of their slogans on the one website is the scars tell the story. So yeah, COURAGING you that even if what you’re about to buy that’s pre used, has some, you know, where or a repair or whatever on it, that means somebody has been out there and had an adventure. So it’s kind of making the garment cooler than than the


Charlotte Morley  35:14

absolute brand name we’ve discussed before Kevin, haven’t we? And I think you gave me this brilliant idea that, you know, could we put little badges in our garments to say, you know, this, this has had? Well, this has been worn by one that led venture or that to, you know, because I think


Catherine Weetman  35:28

so, are you doing that, then?


Charlotte Morley  35:30

Not yet, but we will do


Catherine Weetman  35:32

it right, you


Charlotte Morley  35:32

know, I think definitely want to go down that route of telling the story of the items. And I think in time, we might even do it online, you know, so that you can scan your item. And you can see, maybe not the names, maybe not even the photographs, but a little story. And at the festival we were at when we did the code swap, part of the condition of being able to swap an item was that you had to write a story about the item you were donating. And what we found was really into there were two things that were really interesting. One was people loved doing it, and they put loads of energy into it. And then when people actually swapped that garment, they loved reading it. And, you know, people were saying I couldn’t choose between these two things. And so I went for the one with a better story. And what was the other thing that we learned? I can’t think what it was now, but it was it was really brilliant. And you know, we we just enjoyed seeing people putting out it. Oh, sorry. The other thing was that it meant we didn’t get people just bringing stuff that they didn’t care about, you know, they donated beautiful items that really meant something to them. And they, you know, you could see they put effort into it. And you can see they cared about the item and they donated it because of that. And then you got the sense that the person who had taken that item would therefore treasure it more and look after it more because they recognise that it was an important and treasured item of clothing. So again, it’s this virtuous, virtuous cycle of storytelling, and value and understanding the value behind something because, you know, we are storytellers as creatures, and I think we we understand things better through the medium of stories and through the mediums of human lives, rather than something which comes off Iraklis 50. Others have exactly the same item that look, you know, you don’t even think about the story behind it. So we definitely will adopt that. I don’t know how long it will take us to do it, because there’s really only me now and a huge amount of time, but definitely, definitely will go there.


Catherine Weetman  37:20

Yeah, I think you’re right, the stories are so powerful on the and particularly the stories of the workers and so on. And, you know, which is really hard to get across. Yeah. So there’s just so many aspects that, you know, it’d be it’d be a kind of a mini book, wouldn’t it behind each garment if you’re able to tell all the good stuff. And, you know, thinking about the the trends, and there has been quite a lot in the press recently about rental of clothing, and some people eulogising about it, and some people saying, well, it’s, you know, it’s a it’s just a way to create rebound. You know, is there is there anything that you’d say on that front end, in terms of whether it’s, is it suitable for certain types of clothes and not others? Or is it just about being, making, making sure there’s a system where things are able to be used over and over again, so that there is much more use from the materials and the energy that’s gone into making the clothes?


Charlotte Morley  38:30

There’s a lot there, because when I think yeah, and again, we kind of chatted about this briefly before, because that article that we’ll talk about in a bit, but I think the first thing to say is we have to be careful that rental doesn’t just become a replacement for fast fashion. So I think it’s really important that when we’re using rental, we’re thinking of thinking of it as a way as you just said, to, to reuse items and to give them more life. And so it’s not it, you know, the idea is not that we simply churn through more and more clothes, because we can rent them because it’s cheaper. I think whenever people are using it, they should be thinking this is a way to be more sustainable. And and then if you apply that to different scenarios, I think you can see how it would work. So I think it’s always about applying it to your own particular circumstance and thinking, in my circumstance does renting make more environmental, economic, convenient sense than buying something secondhand? Or buying something new and just using it for a long, long time. But we almost always must be thinking what is the best way to meet this need in you know, in a way which keeps this garment in the longest way we can do and I think you know where it’s been rentals been compared unfavourably to buying for an item which you ought to keep yourself for many, many years.


Catherine Weetman  39:56

The customer was going to the store To collect them as well, you know how how,


Charlotte Morley  40:03

what? Exactly. So, you know, the idea that you might rent jeans, and kind of keep renting a new pair every few months, rather than buying a pair and keeping them for years? Well, yeah, of course, that doesn’t make sense. Of course, environmentally, that makes sense. But if you’re the person who needs to have the latest jeans shape, and you were going to be buying a new pair of jeans every couple of months, then think about renting them, because you can send them back and someone else can have them. So I think, you know, it’s about your own habits. And it’s about recognising where rental can make your habits better and more sustainable. And in the back of your mind thinking, but maybe I ought to be possibly changing my habits to be a little bit more sustainable as well. And you know, children’s clothing, baby clothing, it is a no brainer, I think personally, children do grow very quickly. So you know, you are only going to have those toes in the closet for a certain amount of time. And whilst people will say, but I can sell them on, as we’ve discussed, resale is very haphazard. I know. I mean, I have some beautiful items of clothing that are currently for sale on a resale site, they’ve been on that site for four months now. And they haven’t sold and they’re sitting in a cupboard downstairs, and now I’m obviously sustainably minded, I’m not going to throw them away, I will find a way to get rid of them, they may go to charity. And because they’re in good condition, hopefully they will sell. But I know a lot of people, if those clothes haven’t sold, and they’re sitting in the cupboard, and they need a space, they might just throw them away. And that’s where the risk comes in with just you know, the standard linear, maybe I’m going to resell it model, whereas if you’re renting, you know, you’re going to send them back, you know, they’re going to get more use. So for something like children’s wear, or baby clothing, you know, it makes it does make a lot of sense. But it’s about understanding your habits. If you’re an avid reseller, and you have an amazing technique, and you know, you can always get money for them and you know that they’ll go on to get a second life, then resell don’t don’t rent. So yeah, I think I think rental has got a huge place. And I think I see a world where everyone has rental is one of the tools in their fashion arsenal, where they’ll use rental combined with secondhand combined with purchasing new from sustainable and ethical brands. And create a well balanced wardrobe that works in their particular scenario. And they’ll rent the things that it makes sense to rent and they’ll you know, they’ll buy secondhand things it makes sense to buy secondhand.


Catherine Weetman  42:25

Yeah, unlikely. So for most people renting and not having to worry about what to do with it afterwards, is just so much more convenient. And so much less guilt guilt inducing. So, you know, for those people who aren’t avid eBay, marketplace, people, you know, it just makes absolute sense, doesn’t it? And so, in terms of plans for the future, Charlotte, is there anything exciting coming up that you want to tell us about? We’ve we’ve mentioned the stories of the clothes? What else might you be able to divulge?


Charlotte Morley  43:02

We are actually relaunching our website this week, which is exciting in itself or beer is nothing, it’s we’re not changing the service. It’s just, we’ve rebranded it, we’ve made it look a little bit more modern, we can, you know, we can now properly merchandise off site. So it’s more of a it’s more akin to a normal shopping experience now that we’ve been very keen to make it feel safe feel very much like a normal shopping experience. And you know, the elephant in the room with rental is that people still can’t can’t quite get out of ownership. And it feels weird that you’re getting something but you don’t own it. So if we can make as many other things as close to shopping as possible, you know, we hope that that is then the only thing that we need to get used to. We are having having talked a lot about resale and said it’s you know, saying it’s not the panacea. We are looking at introducing the sale alongside rental. But what we were trying to do is do that in partnership with brands. So peer to peer resale, I find you know, incredibly, as I say time consuming and haphazard and inconvenience. But what we’d like to do and what we’re talking to our brands at the moment quite a lot about is creating a system for resale, which is almost like releasing things. So you buy something, but it’s guaranteed that it will be taken back. And it will be done in such a way that we have all of its data. And we essentially as soon as you want to send something back we create automatically create a listing for it, you send it to us, we sell it you take a share the brand takes a share we take a share. And it’s it we’re trying to build a system which makes retail less haphazard, which means that the garments are more likely to carry on to have a better a longer life and which makes it easier for consumers ultimately. So we don’t want to we’re not going to get rid of rental rental is going to be very much our mainstay but we see a future for resale and also to resell our rented items when they get to the to a certain point in their rental cycle where it economically We can’t afford to keep renting them out because they maybe need more repair than we can afford to, you know, with our margins. You know, I think ultimately, that’s the other thing that people don’t speak about with rental is, it is quite expensive to run a rental service, it does cost money to launder, and to repair clothes, and to try and keep the cost as low as possible for consumers so that it’s financially stacks up, our margins are very, very slim. So once a garment gets to a certain point in it like in its lifecycle, you know, our environmental impact could be greater if we could afford to keep garments in circulation for 678 times, because they would last that long, but we can’t afford to do that. So we will then resell them. And you know, what, if actually they live on again, that person can send them back to us, and we can resell them again. So we can almost keep the rental service going, it’s just it becomes resale. So a hybrid essentially, is what we’re trying to get to. And again, it plays to what I’ve just said about my vision being that everyone should have, I think an aspect of rental aspect of secondhand aspects of high quality, sustainable ethical clothing in their wardrobe. And what we’d like to do is become a service where you can come to get at least two thirds of that.


Catherine Weetman  46:07

Yeah, that sounds interesting being good. See how it develops, you know, whether people go for both options, or, you know, tend to focus on on one or the other? And so, over the time, since you started the little loop, shallow, what, what things have you struggled with? Or what surprised you in the process of building the business?


Charlotte Morley  46:31

Um, I think what I mean, to be very candid, because that’s what these things are for, isn’t it? We probably struggled the most with growth, I think I’ve referred a few times the fact that circular economy is not quite in the psyche, yet. It’s not in the, in the, you know, the masks psyche yet. And I think rental is still there are still misconceptions about it, and people still perceive it to be, well, I rent a wedding suit, or I could rent a dress. But renting everyday stuff, you know, it’s we’re still not quite there with people. And that’s it, you know, it’s no wonder it’s a big shift. What I’ve been surprised by positive light, you know, positively surprised by has been, how loyal and how engaged our customers are. So when we get customers, they stick with us. And, you know, they really seem to love it. And not everybody, obviously, but you know, we have an incredibly high retention rate. And people just get into the groove, and they keep doing it, and they keep renting, you know, they’re lovely, they send us really kind of messages. And if they love it, then other people will love it, too. We just need to get the word out there. So so that’s where we’re at now, just trying to get the word out as much as possible, and help people to understand the benefits so that they’ll take that plunge, because once people do take the plunge, they do tend to stick with it.


Catherine Weetman  47:51

And yeah, that’s a very positive message, isn’t it? And, yeah, I think the more the more people start to consider different ways of doing things, and then perhaps talk to somebody who’s doing who’s renting, you know, a completely different product. And, you know, it’s just about it becoming the new normal, isn’t it in the same way as reusable carrier bags became the new normal quite quickly after a tax was introduced. So it just, it’s just needs a little tipping point. And I always like to ask people to share their top tip for anybody thinking about starting a circular business or going more circular with their business. So from what you’ve learned so far, what top tip would you share Charlotte?


Charlotte Morley  48:35

And I can just give more, and I think it would be knowing your values and sticking with them. So circular business are not going to be immediately Well, depending on your business model. You know, I think if you’re certainly renting high fashion, you know, 1000 pound dresses, your margins can be very, very healthy. But when I set up this business, I wanted to do something which was the most sustainable thing I could possibly do. So I was never going to rent out high fashion, even for children, because to me, those clothes are not needed. But there’s been many times where I’ve thought, Oh, if only I rented out like, you know, sequin party frocks for kids that cost 300 pounds, my margins would be so much better. And then investors would see that my margins are so much better. And all of this would be so much easier. But then I go back to my values. And I remember that actually, that’s not what I’m here for. I’m not here to make an enormous profit, I’m here to have an impact. And that means we do need to make a profit, it means we do need to have healthy margins because we do have to attract investment so we can scale and we’re not gonna have an impact if we remain a small business. So it’s a balance, but my values keep me true to the balance and keep me on the right side of it and make sure that you know, I’m not going to throw it all in to go down the more profitable routes just because you know, that’s easier or because it’s easy to get investments. And actually because You can articulate it in terms of values, you actually then find that when you do find people who want to invest in you, they are doing it for the right reasons. And they’re doing it with their eyes open, and they know who you are, and they know where you want to take the company. And I spoke with a group of investors recently. And some of them wanted to take the company in one direction, and they were all in the room together. And the other said, no, no, we see you, we know what your values are, we, you know, we’ll support you to go the right way to go the way that you want to go. And that was really eye opening, because I realised I had communicated my values, because they were there at the heart of the business. And it was, it was great to know that other people could get behind those. But I think if you don’t know what those values are, when you set out, you know, you could take your business in a very different direction, and maybe not the one that you want to go in and wake up one day and be like, actually, that’s not the business I wanted to build.


Catherine Weetman  50:54

Yeah. And so Charlotte, another thing we always ask people to do is either recommend a future guest for the programme, or describe their favourite Circular Economy example.


Charlotte Morley  51:07

It’s quite hard this one because I’m in an amazing network called in the loop, which is full of circular economy founders. And it’s full of some really inspiring people who are also working really hard. And so I decided to mention them, but not pick single, any single words, because it didn’t feel right. But I do have an old friend, who I did a ski season with, actually, who has set up a fabulous little business. And I say little at the moment, but who knows what it’s, you know, where it’s gonna go. And it’s actually a community. It’s a community organisation, for circularity, in a ski industry, in the French Alps, it’s called one tree at a time. But what they’ve also now started to do is run a community ski clothing library for people who live locally to us so that you don’t have to own all of the equipment for clothes for climbing and skiing. And you know, all of the different activities you might want to do. You can rent it from their, from their library. And they’re huge advocates of circularity. So yeah, one tree at a time. I think they’re fantastic. And Gavin Ferny. Jones, who runs it, I think he’d make a great guest.


Catherine Weetman  52:11

Great stuff, sort of scribbled down some notes there. And I’ll probably ask you for an introduction. Yeah, that’s that sounds great. And lastly, Charlotte, how can people find out more and get in touch with you and explore what the little loop has to offer?


Charlotte Morley  52:30

Well, you can have a look at our new website, which is at the little And there’s contact details on there. Please do follow us on LinkedIn, or Instagram or Facebook. And I think Kathy will be sharing the links, literally clothing on Instagram is our is our handle. And you can get in touch with me, Charlotte that a little Anytime I love chatting to people just generally like even if you want to say this is awful, I hate it. If you’re going to tell me why and justify it, that’s fine. Because you know, we’re really open to it. I’m really open to feedback of what helps us develop. So yeah, any of those methods, please do check us out and do give us feedback. You know, if you think well, I like it. But if only they did it this way. There’s nothing more valuable than that feedback. So please throw it my way.


Catherine Weetman  53:16

Excellent. Thank you. And I’ll put all those links in the show notes at Circular Economy Good luck with the next phase of the little loop.


Charlotte Morley  53:24

Thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure. Thanks for having me on the show.


Catherine Weetman  53:31

I was struck by Charlottes focus on convenience for the customer, and on gaining feedback to understand how to improve both the offer and the process. sustainability factors are rising up the agenda, but people still want the basics. Charlotte related this to what Frederick Hertzberg called the hygiene factors in his theory of motivation. That theory is more usually applied to job satisfaction. And I remember that from my industrial engineering training back in the 1980s. For childrens, where Charlotte said it has to be high quality, it has to be great value. And it has to be convenient. So you have to meet those criteria first, and then all those people wanting to be green will consider Which brand is the more sustainable and use that to inform their choice. This is a new kind of service one that’s evolving and disruptive. It’s crucial to keep learning more about why people want to rent and to avoid potential distractions in trying to meet a wide range of other customer requirements. I like Charlotte’s points about the importance of being clear on and staying true to your values and your why the reason you’re doing this in the first place. A while ago I wrote an article on how to use Japanese ikigai philosophy to guide your business purpose. I’ll put a link in the show notes at Circular Economy Last time I mentioned that I’m working on a couple of articles challenging the false solutions. We’re seeing initiatives that are circular, but aren’t improving sustainability. The first articles up on the website now in the blog section, head over to rethink global dot info. If you want to sign up for our occasional newsletters, so you can always get to see our latest work. I was invited back to support the latest UN SSC Circular Economy course, this time giving webinars on two separate modules. The first session was a double bill with Brian Bauer of our grandma, the reusable grocery grocery packaging solution. And in the second one, Sandra Goldmark, the author of fixation, join me to talk about how you can go circular in your own lives. I’ve created a circular Changemaker toolkit, based on the flywheel concept developed by Jim Collins, the author of good to great. both Brian and Sandra, a previous podcast guests, so it was brilliant to involve them in the UN SSC course. So there you go. Another episode of the circular economy podcast. Thank you to our guest this week, Charlotte Morley of the little loop. And thanks also to Tamsin, she’s lots of on loan for introducing us to Charlotte. He can find out more and follow Charlotte, Molly and the little loop on social media, or go to the website, the little As usual, you can check out the other links we mentioned in the show notes at Circular Economy If you’re looking for episodes on a particular Circular Economy strategy, or for a market sector, or specific countries, check out our interactive podcast index. There’s a link on the podcast homepage at www circular economy And every episode includes an interview transcript. Don’t forget that you can help make the circular economy happen to with the choices you make at work and in your everyday life. Buying pre used keeping what you have for longer repairing it and making sure it has another life. And you can help spread the word talk about the circular economy and help other people find this podcast by leaving us a rating and a review on your podcast app. Email a screenshot of your review to podcast at Rethink global dot info. And we’ll give you a shout out on the show. If you’d like to learn more about the circular economy, why not go back and listen to episode one and two, or buy the new edition of my award winning book a circular economy handbook how to build a more resilient, competitive and sustainable business which takes you through the concepts and practicalities. With lots of real examples from all around the world. The Circular Economy podcast is brought to you by rethink global helping you succeed with circular. You can find information on our talks workshops, coaching and advice and circular economy resources at www. Rethink global dot info or connect with me Catherine Weetman on LinkedIn. If you like what you’re hearing, please hit subscribe, and we’ll see you next time.

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Podcast music

Thanks to Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow, otherwise known as the brilliant, inventive and generous folk duo, O’Hooley & Tidow for allowing me to use the instrumentals from the live version of Summat’s Brewin’ as music for the podcast. You can find the whole track (inspired by the Copper Family song “Oh Good Ale”) on their album, also called Summat’s Brewin’.  Or, follow them on Twitter.

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