Looking for your next luxury eco-friendly bargain? Dubai-based company Riot is your answer…
In an age of knockoffs, constantly evolving trends and faster-than-fast fashion, finding and owning vintage designer treasures has never been so desirable. A good revived and reworn piece is the ultimate statement: an ‘It’ piece that’s highly unlikely to be spotted walking down the street beside you. And that’s exactly what online marketplace Riot prides itself on; finding and discovering pre-loved gems and rehoming them with new owners who will cherish them as if they were box-fresh.
Launched back in December 2016 by Lebanese cousins Maya Talih and Tima Hamadeh, the young Dubai-based company offers an ultra-curated luxury e-commerce site where women can discover archival and pre-owned products without having to leave the comfort of their home.
“The idea behind Riot came from our own closets. We realised that we were ‘hoarding’ luxury designer items mostly because they were expensive and we could not let go of them. There were thousands of dollars’ worth of assets just lying around in our wardrobes,” explains 31-year-old Tima. “The realisation that we could monetise our pre-loved items, either to finance ourselves or to donate to charity got us researching this problem, and that is when we got to the heart of it – which is basically that saying, ‘I have a closet full of clothes but I have nothing to wear’ is no longer acceptable given the state of the planet.”
And they couldn’t be closer to the truth; according to World Wild Life it can take 2,700 litres of water to produce the cotton needed to make a single T-shirt. Moreover, the demand for fast fashion and the quick turnaround in trends means that more clothes are being manufactured every day and more than 80 billion pieces of clothing are produced each year, of which 75 per cent ends up in landfill.
For shoppers concerned with their carbon footprint, and who believe that style and ethics are not incompatible, finding that hidden gem amongst hundreds of cast-offs is like a badge of honour. “Riot was founded from a strong belief in circular and sustainable fashion. By promoting ‘upcycling’ we are offering better consumer choices to people who love high-end luxury fashion. Every time a consumer buys a preloved item, they increase its life by about 2.2 years, thereby reducing its carbon footprint by about 73 per cent,” says 37-year-old Maya. “Fashion is one of the top five most polluting industries and Riot is adamant about making a change by altering consumers’ mindsets and disrupting the status quo of high-end consumerism.”
One of the changes, if not the biggest one, that the duo aspires to bring about has to do with the stigma attached to buying pre-loved in the region. An on-going mission, they have set out to “revolutionise the way consumers think and act about luxury products in the Middle East by promoting the extended lifecycle of luxury goods and leading innovation in sustainable fashion for positive environmental impact,” explains Tima. “We are sure that the Middle East will catch up with the trend. Pre-loved is more environmentally friendly, the hunt is more fun, and the message is more wholesome. It’s all about educating consumers and making sure they know the impact of their choices and, even more importantly, that they are aware of just how much choice they have. We want our consumers to wear pre-loved with pride and shout out that it’s cool to care for our world! That is the kind of disruptive behaviour we want to bring into the local market. Stella McCartney said she believes, ‘the future of fashion is circular, it will be restorative and regenerative by design and the clothes we love never end up as waste.’ And we think our region is up for the challenge.”
With no academic or business background in fashion, Maya and Tima’s outlook is more consumer-driven than anything, where they play a multi-faceted, simultaneous role of buyer, seller and advocate of circular fashion. It takes special talent to come up with a fresh shopping strategy for designer goods, let alone pre-loved ones, but the cousins have managed to master the trick of digging and discovering forgotten-about-pieces, then curating them beautifully in order to find them a forever home.
“Curation is often one of our biggest challenges as we search for items that are vintage, classical and timeless, but also items that are on-trend and in tune with fast fashion. Sorting through thousands of incoming pieces and finding the gems, so to speak, is often extremely labour-intensive albeit lots of fun!” says Tima. “Once we have our beautiful piece (in mint condition) selected, it then goes through an authentication process – this is at the heart and soul of our inventory journey. Every single item needs to be thoroughly authenticated and we do this in two rounds: an initial internal round where it is checked by our team against a set of guidelines, and a second round where it is checked by our third-party authenticators, Authenticate First, based in the US. Then the challenge is how to style this item so it’s relevant to current fashion trends and how to make consumers feel like they are buying something unique that is not just high-end but hand-picked for being special, because it is!” adds Maya.
Sourced by individual sellers who approach the women through the website or social media, items that make it onto Riot’s virtual shopping floor go through not only a rigorous authentication process, but are also subjected to a very detailed pricing process – to ensure that they give sellers the best value for their item while remaining fair and competitive to the consumer.
“The first thing we ever sold was a 35cm Thalassa Blue Birkin. It happened so quickly! The buyer contacted us after seeing the bag on our social media and after studying it in more detail on the website. She asked if she could see it physically which is something that we offer,” says Maya of the first sale. “I took it to her myself, and within five minutes she was paying for it. She had apparently been on the waitlist at Hermès for some time, and had wanted this colour and size for a while. I was so flustered and excited, I couldn’t figure out how to work the card machine, and kept getting an error message. It was a hilarious but amazing day for us. I mean, we had only been live for a few days and a Birkin is a big sale!”
- Words by Dina Kabbani