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Going Circular with Sarah Malek of Green Glamour

Green Glamour

First, can you please tell us about the Green Glamour concept?

GreenGlamour is a sustainable rental e-commerce platform primarily curating Women’s high-end clothing. For now we are focusing on special occasion wear and going out dresses and look to expand to other categories including for men.

My vision for GG is to disrupt the way the fashion world has been operating by enabling everyone to rent ALL types of fashion out there without compromising quality or sustainability. I am passionate about reducing the amount of redundant and unused clothes that ends up in landfill and thus helping protect our planet.

The main challenge we are trying to solve for is sustainability. I think shopping for clothes fulfils a deep need and desire for any human being to spoil themselves; but unfortunately, this comes at a COST; both to ourselves and to the planet. We want to change that.

A big concept we are very excited about and that has proven very popular at GreenGlamour is being to sell your wardrobe. It’s proven very easy as customers simply fill a form with the details of the unwanted items, the size and asking price in exchange for store credit for future rentals or cash. The former is better for us as it helps reduce a customer’s carbon footprint even more. I call it a triple whammy: customers give us unwanted items instead of potentially disposing of them; in exchange for renting future items and the best part is what they give to us gets an extra lease on life!

What’s your background and what pushed you to start Green Glamour?

Like many of you I love fashion and most importantly I love to shop!

My wardrobe is full of clothing starting from fast fashion to high end designer dresses; you name it! If I am honest I was the opposite of what sustainability stood for. I only realised how much harm I was doing to our planet when my daughter asked me to help her in her ‘GreenGirl’ presentation at school. I realised then that our behaviours and how we treat this precious planet will affect her and the next generation. It made me wonder why should they suffer due to the poor choices that I make.

My daughter had me research the topic of climate change for quite a while and the subject of sustainability stuck. It made me realise how much carbon I was consuming and how much waste I was contributing to the environment simply to look good every weekend. I was surprised to know that a small combo of wearing just a jeans+trainer+cotton T-shirt +underwear is equivalent to total of 76kgCO2 eq – that’s almost the same as driving from London to Paris, as quoted by Ecotricity.

I then started to think of my dilemma; how do I indulge in my fashion choices (and especially the fancy stuff!) while being as green as I can. And then that’s when the idea came - Why not rent instead of buy?

The concept of renting in itself was something I thought about 3 years ago when I wanted to get something nice for my sister in law’s wedding and just didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg on something so expensive only to wear it once. I thought to give it a try when I shopped for my sister in law’s wedding. The reality is we have all rented in some form or another like for example borrowing a sibling or friend’s dress! So I looked around on most of the rental fashion websites and disappointedly could not find anything that stood out that I actually wanted to wear! I had to fly to New York to buy a very expensive dress that I only wore once! Yes I repeated the same mistake and worse!

And that’s when GreenGlamour was born! I want to help our fellow ‘green fashionistas’ find that perfect dress for a special occasion or an evening out while not harming our precious planet. Doing the hard work and putting in the time to find the best dresses out there is the bit we love to do while making every step of the experience as sustainable as possible is the part we are most passionate about. It will be a long road to help protect this earth from suffering the consequences of climate change but each of us can make a difference.

How does Green Glamour work?

  • Simply search for your dream dress by browsing through our carefully curated GG collection in less than 3 minutes and indulge yourself in our Mid and High-end designer dresses.
  • Join GG by creating an account and become part of our Sustainable Fashion Family
  • Rent and pick your favourite dress (or two!) and preferred arrival day.
  • Return and Repeat! We have made it easy to return the garments by sending a prepaid postal label along with the order. Simply stick the label on the parcel to be dropped off at the preferred drop off location when the rental period ends.
  • We take care of dry-cleaning so we ask the customer not to dry clean or amend the garments by any means.

What are the key benefits of renting garments?

The most obvious reason to me is that by renting you can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 70%; anyone can be part of this circular fashion economy. The number of wasted clothes that goes to landfill should make us all wonder about the emissions and sustainability issues associated with overproduction and the ever-growing excess of clothing inventory in the fashion world.

Another reason that I had personally experienced is that by renting our very own curative styles we take the hassle out of finding a nice outfit to wear for a special occasion while saving a large chunk of money and wardrobe space. We all are too familiar with the effort of having to trawl through web pages and shop floors to find that needle in a haystack. So our view is why not rent the dream outfit and leave us to do the hard work and curation thus saving plenty of time in the meantime.

Green Glamour

How do you choose the garments to list for rental?

Our fashion wear has been meticulously curated by us. We want each piece to create a new story that will have a lasting memory. For every 100 dresses that we consider we literally choose only one or two.

I guess you can call me very fussy but I am very passionate about the quality and sustainability of our stock. At GreenGlamour we want women to feel adventurous and creative every day through a more accessible range that is affordable and sustainable through renting. At the moment, we own the inventory but we have some exciting news about partnering with high-end brands coming very soon. 

What has been the biggest challenge of starting and running your business?

Being a full-time mum with 3 young children ages 6,8 and 10 was a challenge. I am sure you are all aware of the constant demands of children at this age. Trying to balance both was not easy especially during lockdown when schools were closed. My family was a great supporter of all of this.

How has Green Glamour been coping with the COVID-19 crisis and what challenges (or opportunities) have you faced followed by the events?

As mentioned earlier; the GreenGlamour website launched on 2nd July 2021 when restrictions were about to ease. For sure all of us were affected by Covid-19 whether on a personal or a professional level.

On a personal level, sadly I have lost both my parents and closest first cousin earlier this year due to Covid. It was a very difficult time but losing them gave me strength and motivation to keep going and even though I thought many times to postpone the launch of the website, something inside me pushed me to get it done as I knew this would make them proud and happy up there.

On a professional level, Covid has created a lot of opportunities for GreenGlamour. First increasing GG inventory by buying the excess of a lot of designer garments at a bargain cost.

Another opportunity is the change in the way consumers shop. Consumers find it safer and more comfortable to shop online since the pandemic started. As a result, e-commerce has boomed and this helped us a lot. I should add though that we still do offer appointments virtually and physically if any customer would still like the experience of trying on the garments.

Another opportunity is we have seen a more significant shift towards sustainable practices and the purchase of eco-friendly products with consumers acknowledging the environmental benefits brought about by the lockdown. Our market research has shown that consumers would prefer an environmentally friendly brand that also delivers value for money as opposed to the traditional ‘make use and dispose of policy’. From the research, we conducted we found out that consumers are more inclined to reuse and recycle than before the pandemic.

What is something that most people don't know about the fashion industry, that you wish they did?

Simply that Renting fashion is cool and anyone who rents should feel proud about it. After all, we have all rented before in some way or another by borrowing a family or your friend’s clothing for an occasion. Renting fashion makes so much sense in so many ways and I really believe it will form a major part of our future, and even if it takes time to adopt we will be patient!

Green Glamour

If you could rule the world for one day, what would be your first change?

Easy - I would ban the disposal of fashion into landfills and make the fashion world only use sustainable methods of production.

What is your best tip for people who want to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle but don't know where to start?

The first thing I would say is to acknowledge the fact that any big purchase has a big environmental footprint on our planet. So my best advice is to think twice before you shop. Ask yourself if do you really need it and challenge whether you can buy it second hand or even better rent it.

I know we all have heard this retro before: reduce, reuse and recycle. But it’s the only way to move forward if we want to protect our precious planet.

Another thing I would say is to boycott products that endanger wildlife. Shop conscientiously and look for products made from sustainable materials.

]Pay attention to labels whether on food packaging or on garments. Try to choose fair trade certified goods whenever you can to support companies dedicated to sustainable production and the ones that pay fair wages to their labour.

Finally, drive less and drive green.

What is a book/ movie/ podcast you have recommended to your friends/ colleagues recently and why?

For book I have recommended : What is so amazing about Grace? By Philip Yancey

This is one of the best books I have read as it contain a great exploration of the concept of GRACE in a very simple and practical form. The world we live in can sometimes be unfair in so many ways while Grace is not.

Podcast: Remember who made them. This is a six part podcast series that is very informative and inspiring.

Movie: The Walk. A very inspiring movie about a man achieving his dreams by pushing his limits. Breathtaking movie!

At BLANC, we cannot agree more with Vivienne Westwood's message "Buy less, choose well, make it last". Do you notice a shift in mindsets in general or do you think there’s still some work for this approach to become mainstream?

That’s a great statement by Vivienne Westwood and I could not agree more with her. I do believe there is a huge mindset change in consumer’s behaviour, especially in the last two years. Consumers are more inclined now to buy less especially after the pandemic when they realised how much-unwanted clothing they already had. According to a recent study by McKinsey, consumers want value for their money. I believe that consumers are less loyal to specific retailers. So switching brands is happening much more now. But for sure there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in this area. I believe changing their mindset towards purchasing fast fashion will happen but may take a long time.

What goals do you hope to achieve in the future in terms of sustainability, whether personally or for your company?

Personally, I hope that I am able to teach my 3 children how to live sustainably.

For my company, I hope one-day GreenGlamour can be a platform where consumers from all over the world can exchange their cupboards for new and exciting products. I also dream that all the global brands will choose to rent through us (and not just their excess inventory but quality pieces) with the aim of avoiding landfill disposal altogether. 

How do you hope the landscape of fashion will look in 5 years time?

I hope that Fashion Rental will become the norm and that big brands start to acknowledge the waste they contribute to our environment and embrace the change and partner with us.

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