Sacha Newall started My Wardrobe HQ, a fashion rental and retail company in December 2019, four months before the world was plummeted into lockdown. Here she describes how she’s survived, both personally and professionally and how ‘being the only one in the office’ has got her through.
Tell us about your work…
“I’m the founder of My Wardrobe HQ, it’s a new fashion platform that allows customers to rent and buy luxury fashion from individuals and brands. Everything is set with a ‘buy’ and ‘rent’ price, so you can try that Vampire’s Wife dress before committing to buy it and if you do buy it, the rental comes off the price. Then you just leave it on the platform to rent and buy so that if you wear it a few times and fancy a change you can do so guilt-free. It’s a completely circular economy designed to prevent fashion waste and support fashion designers who put their hearts and souls into beautifully made clothes.”
Where do you work?
“Our office is in Kensington, next to a 24 hour supermarket where we have free three hour parking which is a joy in central London and has meant that most of our team has been able to come into work, albeit for a few hours, just enough to keep ourselves sane.”
What’s the best bit about your job?
“The best bit about the job is the team. That moment of calm when we all grab a coffee outside and plan the day ahead. We really are in unchartered territory, both with the nature of the business and of course these COVID times. We’ve overcome so many seemingly insurmountable obstacles and it’s the resilience and fortitude of every member to the team that gets us there.”
What’s your context outside of work?
“We launched in December last year, so there isn’t really an ‘outside of work’ at the moment. We have two children and two dogs and everything is quite chaotic as I’m out 14 hours most days.
We launched two weeks ago in Harvey Nichols so that’s weekends too for the short term. We spent lockdown in a flat in London so that we could look after my husband’s mum. It was hard with the boys, but they ended up playing sport in the road as all the cars disappeared. It seems a bit surreal that they had table tennis set up on one of the main through roads in the area!”
What was your ‘normal ‘day to day life like pre COVID?
“Pre COVID-19 the business was really starting to flourish, we launched in December and by February we had hit our budgets for the first 6 months. And then COVID, no going out and fear of infection. A pretty tough combination for a fashion rental business. Luckily we always had resale as part of the business, so we focused on that and spent lockdown securing stock from brands who had had cancellations from retailers and also from individuals, many of whom spent lockdown refining their wardrobes.”
What is your day-to day life like now after Lockdown?
“Since the ‘going out’ rules are still pretty restrictive, we are still working on the resale side of the business, with a few rentals starting to happen. We are cautiously optimistic the emergence of a new ‘dinner party’ culture.
We work with a table top rental business called Maison Margaux (they literally rent out super stylish tableware), and they are starting to see a lot of bookings, and it’s exciting for us. We have some INCREDIBLE gowns coming in, and the idea of very flamboyant at home parties that are a real alternative to going out, could be great fun.”
How has the Corona crisis impacted you professionally?
“The biggest challenge is keeping everyone motivated, the team are amazing, but of course when people are remote, it can be hard to feel motivated all the time. We have a little Friday night ritual where we open a bottle of fizz and stand outside on the terrace chatting. We’ve been so lucky with the weather, it makes all of this possible and quite special.”
What are you now finding challenging right now?
“Everything is challenging as there is no certainty. We are all on minimal wages and not spending any money. Personally, I’d like to feel more financially secure, but I’m not missing ‘spending’. Since we don’t really go out now and I can’t imagine queuing to shop, I just thank God that everyone is healthy and I’ve had work and the responsibility of looking after the team to focus on.
On the bright side, the dogs have LOVED every minute, everyone at home and unlimited walks. Dog heaven!”
What has got you through? What have been your coping strategies?
“With the boys home, I did lots of exercise with them to keep them active and fit in lockdown. They now look like body builders, I, managed to gain 10 pounds. I’ve always been a gym goer, but I’m not rushing to go back. I quite like the freedom of going for a run in the park whenever I fancy it or using the Pilates machine.”
What are your thoughts on travel right now?
“We were lucky in that we managed to get a trip to France prior to quarantine measures being imposed. They came in later, and it would really make me think twice now, there is no point in travelling if it requires two weeks at home after. I’d rather just stay in the UK, but that’s easy to say after the beautiful Summer we have had!”
What are your current handbag essentials?
“I rarely carry a handbag. I have a phone holder with my debit cards and ID and pockets for my mask! On the flip side, I have a MASSIVE 50 cm Chanel bag that fits literally everything. So if I need a mobile office, I’m fully equipped!”
What gets you through Working from Home?
“I wasn’t good at working from home, I found it quite depressing and was desperate to get back into the office. It’s about 500m from where we were locked down, so thank goodness could get back quickly. I was the only one there, but being in a work environment definitely made me feel more confident that real life was coming back.
Coffee pods kickstart the morning and in the afternoons, Duchy afternoon tea, English breakfast with a hint of Jasmine, it is delicious. Oh and 85% dark chocolate has been essential.”
What is your work wardrobe like now from what it used to be?
“The work wardrobe is back to normal – we work in fashion and you can literally register people’s disappointment when you look too casual, even on Zoom. We have some gorgeous earrings from Pink Piglet that are a winner to spruce up any outfit.”
What are your current 5 essential items of clothing?
This elegant black Victoria Beckham coat which is up for rental for £32 a day but would retail at £2000
Classic quilted Giant Chanel XXL bag which you can rent for £118 a day and it would retail for £6000
Ripped jeans from Zoe Karssen
This Monse dress with asymmetric hem which you can rent for £30 a day but would retail at £1870
What is your vision for the future of your business?
“I’d love to see a future where every one gets to enjoy the best of fashion stress free, it shouldn’t hurt their wallets and it shouldn’t hurt the planet.
Imagine if we could refine our wardrobes down to the core essentials and then just rent and return the rest. We have just launched kidswear and the aim is to offer rental packages by age, that are returned once outgrown. It’s all about being sustainable but keeping the fun and the thrill of dressing up in fashion.”
If you enjoyed reading this article you may also like to read about how other fascinating women have managed their lives in lockdown with the rest of our ‘How She Carries On’ series here