Next in our Women Who Win interview series are Rosie Gunn and Hannah Johnston, the power duo behind Endless Wardrobe...
You may not know the names Rosie Gunn and Hannah Johnston just yet but you’ll certainly know their fashion platform that’s taking the world by storm.
They are of course the best friends and CEO duo behind Endless Wardrobe.
After noticing a gap in the market and a need for eco-conscious high-fashion options, the female founders created the only platform where you can shop the same style three ways – rent, buy new or buy nearly-new.
‘When it comes to sustainable fashion, we believe you can have your cake and eat it too,’ the power duo announced on their website. ‘Conscious shopping doesn’t have to mean sacrificing newness, excitement and the latest trends. In fact, here at Endless Wardrobe, our model is dedicated to bringing you even more of those things so you can love fashion and the planet.’
Our Women Who Win interview series features trailblazing women who are unafraid to go against the grain, and Rosie and Hannah with their innovative ideas and strong work ethic are that in a nutshell.
Take me back to the beginning of Endless Wardrobe…
Since we were teenagers really we have always borrowed each other’s clothes. It meant we could wear outfits we wouldn’t have chosen ourselves and simply gave us access to more clothes than we could afford. A concept all women are familiar with! We felt happier and more confident wearing something ‘new’ on all of our important life moments and memories, and it meant we were always wearing something different for ‘the photo’. Fast fashion was the only real alternative, yet we always wanted to wear aspirational brands, better quality, and were becoming more environmentally conscious as we got older.
So it was born out of a need…
We couldn’t believe this ‘service’ didn’t exist on a big scale. It was a real lightbulb moment when we realised all women need this – it would save so much money and so much waste, we knew this was going to be the future of fashion. Rosie has always worked in fashion and Hannah ran her own business before Endless, so between us we had the right skills (and ambition) to leave our jobs and make it a reality.
From day one, we wanted to work with the brands directly – even though it was seemingly impossible at the beginning without a store or site. In Feb 2019, realising it was Paris fashion week and we should be there if we really wanted to make this happen, was a defining moment for us. We flew to Paris, door-knocking at all the showrooms, and it was on that trip we managed to secure our first two brands De La Vali and AlexaChung, followed by Free People – three brands was enough to launch our proof of concept site with that summer for rental, followed by the launch of pre-loved that autumn – we pioneered the rent/buy hybrid model.
How has the pandemic changed the business?
The pandemic has made people rethink how they shop fashion, it’s accelerated shopping in more sustainable ways which is brilliant for rental and resale (and the planet). We actually decided to take a step back when covid hit and think about the business coming out of the pandemic. We focused on our new tech platform and continued to grow our wonderful team (who we are super grateful for – it hasn’t been an easy ride!). We also added in our third pillar to offer brand new clothing, in addition to rental and nearly-new, which is totally unique and gives the customer choice on how she shops, depending on the garment’s end-use. If she will wear endlessly – buy, new or nearly-new, if it’s a wear-it-once-or-twice outfit then rent. Our range was always for ‘going out’ – drinks, dinners, dates, brunches – rather than true ‘occasion wear’, so that didn’t change too much. Although these smaller occasions and the joy of dressing up for them are more important than ever as we are reunited with friends and family after the pandemic.
When were you bravest?
It’s hard to say. We did a skydive together in Australia in our early twenties, maybe that. Well, actually.. It probably will be setting up the business in hindsight, people do tell us that, but we definitely don’t see ourselves as brave. We really do challenge ourselves so much, every single day. We both tend to find different things scary which really helps.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Honestly, convincing people rental was the future and a viable business model. Now, people can see it – but two years ago we were laughed out the door (many times!). Another big challenge was actually getting the company off the ground in the first place, getting our first brands to work with us when we had no store or site was really really hard.
Have you ever felt discriminated against as female founders?
We hope not. We have definitely been underestimated throughout this journey. We’re sure this is something other founders can relate to – male or female.
Do you have a favourite product in your collection?
That’s a hard one! We adore one of our newest brands, Musier Paris which has been a sell-out. The collection is super simple yet chic, affordable – ideal for dates, drinks, brunches – not too dressy which has been great for lifting lockdown style.
We also can’t wait to get dressed up in the De La Vali dresses again. De La Vali was one of our founding brands, it’s an Ibiza born brand also with two female founders. The dresses are just, wow!
How can you achieve the right work/ personal life balance?
We both actually find this really difficult, especially when we do love working on Endless and there’s always so much to do – it can be hard to stop and switch off. So we try to more consciously block out time for the things that matter – friends, family, joy, life – which helps make sure we have a life outside of work. Switching off from work does often mean better ideas and more clarity. Of course it can be easier said than done so having supportive friends and family who understand when we need to reschedule has been important to us.
What is the best advice you’ve received?
Hard work always pays off. Oh and, never ever ever give up!
What has been your proudest moment?
Probably when we first saw an Endless customer photo. She was so happy with her rental and that’s when it became real for us. We love seeing every single one, it genuinely still brings us so much joy!
How can we all ask for more?
I guess the best advice would be not just asking, but explaining why you feel you deserve more. Being assertive as to what you have achieved and where you have gone the extra mile. Then when you ask for more, you’re making it easier for the person you’re asking to agree with you. Everyone is busy, so bringing this to someone’s attention should earn you respect, if done with good grace and at the right time.
What is your superpower?
We both just work really hard and never give up. Hard work always pays off (it’s really not a superpower). A lot of the time it’s down to you and how hard you want to push yourself. Everything really is in your power.
How do you celebrate success?
Sometimes it takes a really really really long time to see the results of lots of hard work. So we really try to recognise and celebrate the small wins along the way – and remind each other how far we’ve come. It’s definitely something you struggle with as an entrepreneur, the task at hand is quite literally endless. There’s always so much more to do, or that could be done so it can be difficult to feel proud of where you’ve got to.
What will you never compromise on in business?
Our integrity and following our intuition – it’s so powerful. We have learnt to only work with people who share the same values as us, who care about the business and the vision. It really doesn’t matter how much talent or experience someone has if they don’t believe in what we’re doing and why we’re doing it – and be authentic doing so. There really isn’t much point for us, or for them!
What is the biggest mistake you’ve made?
We have made lots and lots of mistakes! But we never like to look at things as mistakes. You will always learn something from everything, it helps you grow. Some of our mistakes have been based on other people’s advice and opinions – rather than trusting ourselves. We have been so lucky and grateful to meet some super smart and experienced people on our journey but, we have learnt that you just can’t listen to everyone. Sometimes other people’s advice can take you off course, just because it worked for them, it doesn’t mean it will work for you, and ultimately no one knows more about Endless than we do. So we have learnt to be careful and selective over who we take advice from.
What is your mantra?
When you’re going through hell, just keep going. Someone told us this once at exactly the right time, and we’ve never forgotten it!
What would you want to change for women?
We’d love to see an increase in the number of female-led companies raising venture capital. Crunchbase data shows that in 2020 just 2.3% of venture capital funding went to female-led start-ups. There are some really inspiring female founders out there, including several in this space, showing that it’s definitely possible. It would be great to see more of these businesses raise investment and get to the next level, and we’d love to inspire more women to start businesses. There’s no secret or superpower – you just need to start, work hard, keep going and really believe in what you’re doing.
What could we all achieve if we supported each other?
Anything, everything! Connection and connections are so important – we could change the world.