In Conversation With: rho
rho is an ethical, environmentally conscious and socially driven company that creates organic luxury loungewear, made by their Fair Trade artisanal manufacturer in Jaipur, India. The brand was born thanks to the founding friends’ desire to help others have a safe nights sleep, through creating sustainable and ethical products and working with their charity partner, Oasis.
We speak with Hannah, one of the co-founders of rho, about why they started the brand, and what makes their loungewear so special.
Tell us a little about yourself, and what inspired you to create rho?
My business partner Elena and I have been close friends for over 18 years and counting, after meeting on the first day of secondary school in Kent! Elena’s background is in luxury fashion design & development, plus she has a Masters in organisational sustainability, so she is the creative sustainability nerd behind the brand, and my background is in fashion buying and business and I have an affinity for finance and business development, so I take on more of the operational and business development responsibilities for the brand. We are an amazing partnership if we do say so ourselves and absolutely love working together!
We started working on rho after I went travelling around Sri Lanka back in 2019, where I bought a beautiful block printed kaftan which I lived in for most of the trip. I adored the intricacy and craft of the block print and so reached out to Elena when I got home and we started brainstorming about how we could make pyjamas just as beautiful, but that were kind to the planet and could have a positive social impact. From the very beginning rho was founded with the mission to help others have a safe night’s sleep and that has been at the heart of everything we do from working with a Fair Trade manufacturer, to donating £5 from every unit sold to our charity partner Oasis Domestic Abuse Service.
How did you choose the name rho?
When trying to think of a brand name, we knew we wanted it to be something that meant something to us and reflected the feeling we wanted to create with our products. rho is a (very abstract!) anagram of our Grandmother’s names as they all mean a lot to us and have inspired us to become the women we are today. The word is also coincidentally similar to the old Norse word ró meaning rest, calm and tranquillity which we think fits beautifully with our mission to help others have a safe night’s sleep.
We have also named each of our products so far after our Grandmothers and will continue to name our products after people who inspire us.
What makes rho completely different to all the other pyjama brands out there? Can you explain to our readers your social mission?
rho was born from a love of artisan craft, natural materials and slow mornings, and founded on our core belief that everyone deserves to have a safe night’s sleep. This belief guides everything we do as a business, and in combination with our values of transparency, accountability and compassion, helps us to dream up beautiful loungewear that doesn’t compromise on our respect for the planet, its people and its resources. It is why we decided to partner with domestic abuse charity Oasis, based in Kent where we both grew up, and donate £5 from every sale to support their incredible work. It is also why we chose to work with a Fair Trade manufacturer to ensure that every single person involved in rho’s production is, at the very least, paid a fair wage, treated with respect and works in a safe and pleasant environment. We use only GOTS certified organic cotton and AZO-free dyes to limit our impact on the environment and protect the health and safety of the workers, and also use recycled or recyclable materials for all of our packaging. We are by no means perfect, but we hold ourselves accountable for continually improving all of our practices so that we can spread our positive impacts far and wide, and contribute to important change in the fashion industry and in the world.
We really want people when buying rho to feel connected to the artisans that made their loungewear and appreciate the craft and skill involved. We share as much detail as possible about our mission and values, how our products are designed and made and who they’re made by, as well as the social impact the purchases have on those affected by domestic abuse. We also try to educate our consumers about social and environmental sustainability issues, how to take care of their products and make them last, and hope to use our brand as a platform to raise awareness about important issues and be a part of the solution. We want to be more than just a product-based business, rho is the change that we want to see in the fashion industry and in society as a whole. We aim to be a successful example of how you can use business for good.
Why did you choose cotton for your sleepwear?
We use only all natural, renewable plant-based fibres because they bring ultimate comfort and breathability for our customers, and because they have a lower environmental impact than man-made fibres like polyester. Cotton is still not perfect however and has implications for soil health and water usage so all our products are made from 100% GOTS certified organic cotton grown in India, where the loungewear is produced, to help keep our carbon footprint to a minimum.
GOTS stands for Global Organic Textile Standard and is the current, worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibres. This means every step of the production process, from the growing of the cotton to the spinning and milling of it, is all certified and every person involved is protected by the high quality GOTS environmental and social standards which supports our mission to ensure everyone has a safe night’s sleep. The environmental standards include but are not limited to:
– No use of pesticides, insecticides, herbicides or GMOs which are toxic and harmful to farmers, consumers and the ecosystem.
– Growing techniques use much less water and maintain soil fertility for longer.
– End garments are free from toxic residues found in conventional cotton products.
What has been the most rewarding feedback you have received from a customer who has purchased one of your products?
We absolutely love getting feedback from our customers, it makes all the hard work so worthwhile and is also really useful for us when designing the next collection so we can continually improve our styles, fits and approach. Some of our favourite pieces of feedback have been:
“I’m on my hols lounging in my rho loungewear as I should be! They are so so comfortable and amazingly wonderful. Well done you girls.. simply perfect xx” — Debbie, Kent
“Well if this isn’t the most brilliant thing I’ve ever had the honour to wear I don’t know what is!” — Agnes, Sweden
“The design is beautiful. The double breasted PJ top is beautiful and such a unique design. The trousers are roomy but with a great waistband so there’s no risk of them falling down even when sized up.” — Alison, Hertfordshire
“I feel relaxed and comfortable but also stylish in a subtle but eye catching way. An indulgent investment for many cosy and comfortable evenings at home but also flattering for stylish nights away.” — Alison, Kent
“I can’t wait for you to do new colours. I love the print as although it’s ornate it’s not overtly floral or excessively feminine. It’s unique and that’s what I love about it.” — Leigh, London
Of the rho products that we are featuring on myza, which is your particular favourite and why?
It’s so hard to choose! But…I’d be lost without the trousers — I wear them in the house all the time as well as out and about, whenever the weather allows! We designed our products to be versatile so you can wear them wherever and whenever you want, that’s one of the things I love most about them.
Where do you see rho being in the next five years?
In five years we will have grown steadily and sustainably in order to increase our positive social impacts in a really meaningful way. We are committed to our partnership with Oasis, and want to be able to ramp up our support for them to expand their amazing, crucial work. We still see ourselves still working with our trusted Fair Trade manufacturer, using only organic or recycled fabrics (hopefully gradually introducing styles, prints and colours to cherish — plus becoming steadily more size and gender inclusive) and staying true to our values of transparency, accountability and compassion.
What drives you, and where do you get your inspiration from?
We are driven by our belief that everyone deserves a safe night’s sleep and that a business can be built in a way that has strong social commitments, and honours both people and the planet, not just profit. We are inspired by nature and our environment, both local, when we travel and particularly by the culture in Jaipur where our pieces are made. We LOVE colours and prints and are also very inspired by the magical craft of hand block printing.
Finally, a few pearls of wisdom from you! Run us through your recipe for a great night’s sleep, and some do’s and don’ts that you recommend following, or including in a pre-sleep schedule.
Our favourite pre-sleep rituals are drinking a lovely herbal tea and reading a book with some lavender oil or incense burning to wind down and get ready for rest. We believe the best things are always the simplest, and find that taking a few deep, grounding breaths as you are winding down before bed can go a long way to calming the mind and letting go of anything that happened that day.