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Stopping fast fashion one rental at a time

Babu’s sustainability mission

Author Alice Horlick & Bella Nesselrode
Categories   Fashion

The Edit

Babu is an exclusive children’s clothing rental service, offering luxury items from newborn up to 7 years old.

Founded in 2021, Babu’s mission is to reduce the amount of children’s clothing that ends up in landfill after being worn only a handful of times through rental boxes that can be tailored to any occasion.

The Edit caught up with Babu Founders, Alice Horlick and Bella Nesselrode to find out more about the subscription service, donation scheme and Babu’s sustainability goals.

Tell us more about Babu. What’s the inspiration behind it?

Alice Horlick, Bella Nesselrode and Georgia Lombard launched Babu to create a solution for the wastage of high-quality fashion garments inevitable with fast-growing little ones, by harnessing the power of the sharing economy and circular fashion movement.

The figures speak for themselves. Today only 15% of all clothing is recycled or donated and globally we produce 13 million tons of textile waste annually, 95% of which could be reused or recycled. And most importantly, parents use an average of 748 pieces of clothing in their child’s first 4 years of life, which is why many are tempted to opt for fast fashion. Babu gives parents access to ethically and sustainably made garments from their favourite junior luxury brands for the price it would cost them to purchase high street equivalents.

Tell us about the sustainability side of the business.

We are so excited to have won 2022’s Marie Claire Sustainability Awards in recognition of our innovative sustainability practices!

Rental itself is innately sustainable, but on top of this we clean and sanitise all our garments in house using the latest wet cleaning and ozone technology to deliver a better quality clean that is kinder to skin, clothes, and our planet. Our mission is to increase awareness that wet cleaning is as gentle and effective as hand washing or dry cleaning, whilst using only water and biodegradable detergents at low temperatures. Running on 100% renewable electricity, our top of the range machines work on the most efficient cycles possible, resulting in minimal water and energy consumption.

And we are delighted to be the first fashion business to be working with cutting-edge sustainable impact partner, Xetrov. Rather than relying on traditional, out-dated textile recycling infrastructure, which often results in items ending up in landfill, Xetrov uses a ground-breaking advanced thermal treatment process to convert Babu’s worn-out items into renewable energy, which can be used in a variety of ways, including power, heating, cooling, drying, and food production.

How does it work?

You can choose between a half box of six garments or full box of 10-15 garments and build your box to suit your child’s size, style and any upcoming holidays or occasions. Or if you are short on time, you can opt for our personalised curation service, for which I will put a box together specially for your child based on your preferences and requirements.

Our 24-hour concierge will be in touch via WhatsApp once you have placed your order so that you have our telephone number to hand for anything you may need help with, including and questions about garment maintenance or care.

Receive your box the next day and enjoy use of your pieces for as long as you like for a flat weekly fee. We also offer optional damage insurance for total peace of mind when it comes to stains and damage!

When you would like to return or change your items, just let our concierge team know and we will book you a DHL home collection within a convenient two-hour window.

Returns are on us. Prepare your box for collection using the pre-paid returns label included in the box and don't worry about washing – we will professionally clean and sanitise your garments upon return. Plus, we will send you a visual reminder to help you remember what goes back in the box!

You can pause until your next occasion or holiday or put together a new box straight away! As soon as your first box is on its way back to us, we will send out your next one.

What kind of clothing do you offer?

We offer everything from daywear and party wear to outerwear for 0 to 4-year-olds from brands including Balmain, Bonton, Calvin Klein, Caramel, Emilio Pucci, GANT, Il Gufo, Levi's, Molo, MSGM, Patachou, Rachel Riley, RaspberryPlum, Roberto Cavalli, Stella McCartney Kids, Tartine et Chocolat and Tommy Hilfiger. We are so proud to be the only rental platform working in direct partnership with all our brands to source our garments, giving us access to the best pieces and allowing us total visibility over the lifecycle of our clothes.

Girls’ party wear has already become so popular that we have increased sizing to 7 years, and we recently introduced skiwear for 3 to 7-year-old boys and girls.

Tell us about the donation service.

Babu members can include their own preloved clothes in their return boxes, and anything in good condition by one of our partner brands will go into the Babu rental eco-system and earn them rewards points to redeem against their own subscription or to convert into a gift card to give to family or friends.

Anything in good condition that is not from one of our luxury brand partners will be professionally cleaned, sanitised and donated on our customers’ behalf to our partner charity Little Village who do amazing work combatting child clothing poverty in London.

Anything irreparably stained or damaged can be included too and we will make sure it is converted into renewable energy by Xetrov, so our customers can be sure their preloved clothes will never contribute to the growing landfill crisis.

How does the children’s fashion industry need to evolve to safeguard our environment?

We are proud to choose our brand partners based on shared quality (which equals garment longevity!) and sustainability values, but it is ultimately up to the customer to change their habits, as that is the only way to drive down the constant demand that brands are compelled to fulfil. This means a change in attitudes towards seasonality so that garments are celebrated for their style, craftsmanship and provenance rather than their newness.

Rental and resale are the number one ways to address the problems the children’s fashion industry is facing and at Babu we have been working hard to remove the barriers to rental. Stains, damage, and cleaning have proven consistent worries for parents, which is why we offer optional damage insurance and why our customers are encouraged to return their clothes unwashed for the ultimate convenience factor.

Author Alice Horlick & Bella Nesselrode

Alice Horlick (pictured centre) has been working in luxury fashion for almost a decade, having founded her eponymous handbag label AEVHA in 2013, which has since been worn by everyone from Beyoncé to Amy Adams. She first realised the need for a sustainable alternative to the way we consume children's fashion through her AEVHA clients. Whilst luxury handbags are for life, no so for luxury children's clothes, which have an enforced shelf life whether we like it or not as children just keep growing! Alice and Bella Nesselrode (pictured right) are childhood friends who decided to join forces to bring parents a solution that doesn't compromise on quality and style and heroes brands who are sourcing and producing ethically and transparently. Bella is a wife and mother to 3 year old Alfie, with her second child due in Spring 2023. With a background at Amazon and in finance, Bella has made it her mission at Babu to help other busy parents navigate family life, in a sustainable way, by harnessing the power of the sharing economy.

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