Shopping sustainably takes on many forms. When opting for a more mindful or conscious approach to style, it doesn’t always mean buying from brands that are ethically or environmentally inclined – although this is a good place to start – it can mean choosing vintage, upcycled garms, or pre-loved items. RIOT is the latest destination to come out of Dubai that offers consumers the chance to purchase that previously owned luxury piece of fashion.

“One of our key principles as a pre-owned luxury e-tail platform is obviously sustainability through the merits of shopping in a smarter, more considered way,” explains Lara Akkari, RIOT’s Editorial and Marketing Director. “For us, that means advocating the principle of buying better, buying less, and buying pre-owned to further extend the lifespan of a well-made item, rather than resort to mindless consumption.”

RIOT is also dedicated to creating a network of culturally conscious women [check its Instagram and look for the RIOT GRRRL posts]. By connecting these women online, they are fashioning a collective wardrobe for us to give new-life to items that were previously taking up space in other’s wardrobes – having a positive impact on limiting the fashion industry’s waste, an important benefit of the secondary market. “And what makes it truly exciting is the prospect of digging up these fashion gems,” states Lara. “Scouring an almost never worn pair of Margiela Tabi boots, or a bagging a discontinued old Céline luggage tote – items that have their place in fashion history – is what gets our pulses racing.”

Read the full interview below…

Tell me a little bit about how RIOT came about… We realised that we, and pretty much everyone we know, was to varying degrees “hoarding” luxury designer items. There were thousands of dollars’ worth of assets lying around in our closets. The realisation that we could sell our pre-owned items on the second-hand market was not new, but we wanted to go about it a new way. We wanted to empower women to finance themselves by creating a micro-business out of their shopping habits. We envisioned a community of savvy fashion lovers buying, selling, and then repeating the process; making money, learning about fashion and what translates into fashion currency, and having fun.

RIOT offers a sartorial “solution that is more in line with the evolving world of recycling, reusing, and global efficiency.” How do you promote this? Why it is important? Pre-loved, second-hand, pre-owned – call it what you like – for us is an alternative for women to express their personal style in a unique way… one that is based in a well-versed fashion dialogue to better understand the provenance of the items, the story behind them, and enable women to discover and appreciate these unique fashion finds for themselves. Ultimately, good design doesn’t age, it just gets better with time [provided it’s a good to start with].

A great deal of what we do goes into educating and inspiring women on the merits of pre-owned – not only as a more affordable way to gain access to high-end luxury goods, but importantly as a means to really carve out personal style and find items that are simply no longer available in the primary market [unique fashion finds that are drenched with some sort of fashion story or heritage]. It’s the difference between buying an off-the rail “IT” item that is on the market for all, vs scoring the original Balenciaga power shoulder blazer circa 2009 that is the driving force of today’s current hits.

How has the business had to adapt due to Covid-19? Apart from the obvious logistical inconveniences faced across the board for all industries – the lock down has forced us to be much more agile, efficient, independent and really look and act upon creative solutions on a daily basis. Being an on-line platform with a very lean team, we were already familiar with working remotely.

However, what has been most impactful during this period was taking the time to really reflect on long-term plans for the future of the company and making some hard calls. It has forced us to take stock, re-look and improve our fundamentals – not only as a means to stay afloat and ride out the pandemic, but importantly put future strategies into place to ensure we maintain relevance within the resale market post-Covid.

How can Dubai + UAE residents support you and other small businesses at this time? Well, the easiest and most obvious way would be to buy from us . As a small business every sale makes a difference. At the same time, we are sensitive to the fact that people’s income has been negatively impacted by the lock-down, so we don’t expect everyone to go into a shopping frenzy… People can show support by following and sharing our handle with their audience and spreading word of mouth in that way, leaving a positive review on our FB or Instagram feed. More than anything now, we should all be paying it forward, supporting one another and using the power of community to rally each other by.

Have you had to change your future growth plans? If so, how? As I mentioned earlier, the lock down forced us to not only look long and hard at our current situation, but really take stock on what we need to do to stay operational and relevant for what is yet to come in order to service our customers in the best way. Asking ourselves: what consumers will be looking for post Covid? How will the economy impact their spending? What is the role of the secondary market in post-corona? What will be the “new normal,” and how are we gearing ourselves to be able to cater to it. So certain plans that were in our pipeline got derailed, only to re-align themselves in a much more agile way – with a prime focus on-line and scaling up our audience globally, not just focusing locally.

I would say we have learned not to be hung up on things that don’t work but learn from them and push on to try new alternatives. Have a clear strategy that allows for flexibility and constant re-iteration to fine tune and push forward. Look around you to get inspired, but don’t feel you have to do things the same way. Often, it’s carving out one’s unique path that is the most challenging…

When everything goes back to ‘normal’, what are you most looking forward to? I think the “new normal” that we’ll need to navigate [through] will be interesting. Hopefully we won’t take for granted the things we have gleaned during this period – in slowing down, I feel we have given rise to better understanding our priorities and what really matters. Spending a little more time alone and having that headspace was a real luxury… So hopefully we stay a bit more mindful and not get sucked into going through the motions that may have not served us that well to start with.

That said, I do miss human energy. An escapade at the beach with some sundowner cocktails and a little bit of dancing with close friends would definitely be something to anticipate.

Shop and support RIOT HERE.