Jenny Barrett is the founder of SuperLooper, a pre-loved baby and childrenswear rental company on a mission to reduce waste by keeping clothing in circulation for longer.
Eager to learn more about her business, we asked Jenny a few questions about how SuperLooping works, how to get involved and her tips for extending the lifecycle of our clothes.
How did SuperLooper begin?
I had an organic baby and children’s clothing brand called SuperNatural Collections. As well as organic cotton I also used nature-based cotton alternatives like Modal (made from Beech trees) and bamboo. In 2017 I wanted to explore using all the new fibres being developed from things like banana skins, coffee grounds, and orange skins, but I realised that I would need a lot of money to do all of that and be a much bigger player in the industry. I knew that there were many companies out there (like Lucy & Sam) doing similar to what I was doing - only much MUCH better - so I got to thinking that it was a bit pointless carrying on.
I heard about the circular economy. Instead of using stuff and then throwing it away, keeping stuff in circulation for as long as possible, or to be truly circular keeping it, or its parts, in use forever. I heard about a wonderful baby clothing rental organisation called Vigga based in Denmark and wondered if I could adapt that idea to the UK’s wants and needs.
Then I came across the Hubbub stat that there are 183 million items of outgrown baby clothes stored in UK cupboards, so I decided to do something to lessen that load. I came up with the name SuperLooper, and did lots of focus groups and beta tests. With the help of a group of fashion industry friends I finally launched at the end of 2020 and now have a wonderful business partner Ashwin, who is building us a bespoke rental platform, and Kate, who is our social media and operations angel.
When donations arrive, how do you clean the clothes?
We wash and iron the clothes, add SuperLooper barcoded labels, photograph and then upload them to our site. We use eco detergents and never tumble dry.
How are your garments graded? What do you look for?
We grade the items based on the likelihood that someone would want to rent them out and dress their own baby in them.
Some pieces almost improve with age, gaining a ‘vintage’ feel and we also get a lot of barely worn, or even completely unworn, pieces coming in. Things like this would be graded as ‘SuperLoopable’.
If an item is in a good overall condition but is a bit faded or has started to become a little bobbly, this would be ‘Loopable’. We rent these items out at a lower price to account for their worn condition. Items that have been fixed up with new buttons, patches etc. may also make it to this category.Pieces that are very worn, stained, or damaged and cannot be rented will be graded as ‘recyclable’. We ask that people recycle items like this themselves by taking them to a ’SOEX’ clothing bin in Brighton or a local textile recycling initiative if you are elsewhere in the country.
What are the key benefits of renting baby & toddler clothing rather than buying it?
We have a SuperLooper hashtag #ownyourfuturenotyourclothes. This speaks to the fact that by renting, and therefore sharing clothes, you're reducing waste and the need for more garments and all their components to be produced.
In the last 15 years with the rise of fast fashion, clothing production has almost doubled and yet clothing use has declined by almost 40%*. This is why it’s so good to work with brands like Lucy and Sam because your clothes are made from good quality fabrics, with good quality prints and with good quality manufacture - ie. they’re made to last.
We certainly don’t want wonderful brands to stop producing new clothes - what a boring world that would make - and there are many people who don’t fancy dressing their babies in pre-loved clothes. Many consumers would still like to do their bit to help reduce waste though, and this is a great way for them to be involved with what we do.
Renting also gives you flexibility. Because you only pay a few £’s per month to rent, you can try out styles and colours that you might not otherwise have gone for. Or if you have a special occasion you can find lovely clothes from all the treasures in our library to suit that special day - and then give it back! You can also quickly change your child’s wardrobe if there’s a rapid change of season or weather.
You’ll also save storage space because you can just clear out your cupboards and send everything back at the end of each month.
And finally, you can save money because paying a small amount to use an item for a few months works financially.
Do you have any pro tips to help parents extend the lifecycle of clothing?
Prolonging the life of your clothing has the biggest, most positive impact that you can have on the environment when it comes to textiles. Laundering clothes isn’t great for the environment, but of course baby clothes need a LOT of laundry action so it’s good to get into some good habits:
- Try to wash stains as soon as they happen – especially banana stains, they’re the worst!
- Get familiar with wash symbols – they’re there to help us keep our clothes in good condition.
- Wash at 30 on gentler cycles. Washing at cooler temperatures can help clothes last longer, save money on electricity and reduce micro-fibre release.
- Always let your clothes air-dry where possible. Tumble dryers make your clothes shrink, fade and wear faster and are thought to increase the shedding of micro-fibres. They’re handy of course but are to be avoided if possible – they really are an environmental no-no!
How does SuperLooper help to reduce our carbon footprint?
Babies grow so fast lots of items are only worn a handful of times before they head to the back of the cupboard, or worse, to the landfill or incinerator!
90% of carbon emissions are emitted at the first production stage of a garment so an item needs to be worn a lot to balance this out, and with fast-growing babies this just isn’t possible! Renting an item reduces the carbon footprint of an item that would only be worn once by over 50% - even with cleaning and delivery.
We aim for our delivery to be as low-waste as possible. All deliveries within Brighton and Hove are carried out by bike or can be dropped off and picked up from the WRAP Play Cafe at the Low Waste Parenting Group.
For UK wide orders we use recycled materials for our packaging and encourage SuperLoopers to reuse the boxes or bags to return their orders in. We will reuse packaging wherever possible.
- Our planet is over-capacity in terms of waste and consumerism. We have enough clothing on the planet right now to clothe the next six generations of the human race according to Patrick Grant of Sewing Bee.
- Baby clothes and childrenswear in particular represent a disproportionate amount of the thousands of tonnes of clothing in landfill because children quickly outgrow their clothing, typically moving up seven sizes in their first two years.
- As well as the high cost and limited lifespan, mass production of garments places huge pressure on the environment through waste, water consumption and carbon emissions.
- There is a staggering 183 million pieces of outgrown baby clothing stored in UK homes, that’s enough to provide 250 items for every UK baby born each year.
- 7 in 10 parents have outgrown baby clothing stored away that they don’t use.
- 1 in 3 parents bin old baby clothing because they don’t know what else to do with it.
By working together with parents who get what we do together we can really make a difference.
What does the future hold for SuperLooper?
We’ve now built a new and much improved rental site and we’re ready to take on many more customers so we’ll be doing all we can to spread the word and get people signing up. Once they do, they stick with us because we give great personal service and have so many lovely clothes for them to choose from. The addition of Lucy & Sam clothes to the library will really help catch people’s attention.
We're producing a promotional video all about the joy of SuperLooping and we have ideas about making our service available to more people and about what we’ll do with garments that are past their best. We’re finding green-wash free ways to track the impact SuperLoopers are having because apart from having access to beautiful clothes at affordable prices, this is what we’re all about. Exciting times ahead!
Learn more about our partnership with SuperLooper here, and sign up today!