In this day and age, everyone’s crazy about shopping. Or are they? While men can invest in one good-quality tuxedo to wear for many occasions, females don’t have it quite so easy. Particularly in the upper strata of society, women are pressured to wear a brand new gown at each and every formal event. But recent studies have shown that there has been a decline in clothing purchases, with more and more customers leaning towards fashion rental instead.
This can be due to the fact that renting is a lower financial commitment so people are more willing to be adventurous with different dress styles. It would also in turn help to cut one’s shopping budget and save money. The clothes are also dry-cleaned after use for hygiene purposes.
In the United States, companies such as Rent The Runway, Style Lend and Couture Collective, set up in the last four to eight years, popularised clothes rental. American news website Business Insider US reported that Rent The Runway earned US$100 million (S$136.4 million) in revenue last year.
Here in Singapore, at least five such companies – Style Theory, Covetella, Style Lease, Rent A Dress and Runway Rent – have launched in the past two years.
Style Theory stands out for its subscription-based fashion website and app. Women subscribed to StyleTheory will pay a monthly subscription fee to get access to thousands of designer items. From workwear to party dresses, women can choose any items they want, wear them, and return them to get something new to wear again. It is literally an extension of a woman’s wardrobe, stored in the cloud.
Demand has been growing, with founders Chris Halim and Raena Lim reporting as much as a tripling of revenue in the past year. They cater to a new market of practical shoppers – mainly working women in Singapore between the ages of 22-35 – these women tend to have busy lives and hence use their service to save time shopping. When interviewed, the co-founders stated that they firmly believe every woman should have the freedom to wear and experiment with many styles and designers they adore without being constrained.
So how does it work? It’s quite simple, really. First, subscribe via their fashion website and app. Once you’re in, you’ll be able to browse their online “wardrobe” and pick 3 available items of your choice. They will then be shipped to your desired location in a “ready to wear”, fully pressed and cleaned condition. When you’re ready to return them, place the clothes back in the prepaid bag included and select your next box of 3 items. Then the cycle continues!
“If there is one thing we have learned it is to stay focused on what we are really trying to create. In any entrepreneurial journey, there will be so many temptations and opportunities that could easily be distracting, but we have always tried to remain 100% focused on our goals. Would definitely advise others to do the same!” – Co-founder Raena Lim, in a LadyBoss interview
Covetella functions as both an online and offline marketplace. Lenders can choose to list their items on their fashion website while keeping them personally or give them for storage in the company’s showroom. When an order is placed, Covetella takes care of deliveries and dry cleaning services so their lenders can earn their income comfortably from where they are.
As a former fashion designer, beauty queen, an avid shopaholic, Carol Chen – founder of Covetella – had quite the number of dresses which her friends were always asking to borrow. This sparked her idea of renting them out to anyone who needed them. With her parents and most of her relatives fostering an entrepreneurial spirit, it is no wonder that she would aspire to be one as well. Covetella is her fourth startup and she is currently aiming to expand her company across South East Asia.
Covetella customers can book items online or visit their showroom to try on the dresses, and alteration services are also available upon request. Items will be given to them two days before their event, which they can borrow for 4, 8, or 12 days. After the event, customers will then place their items in the packaging provided for easy returns.
“Entrepreneurship is not the easiest path, but to me, it’s the most worthwhile so I don’t think I could live my life any other way.” – Carol Chen, in an interview with Christian Baker
Style Lease is a self-funded venture, as an e-commerce platform in December 2014, with 50 dresses kept in Ms Ang Jin Yuan’s home in East Coast Road. The founder, aged 30, then moved Style Lease to its current 1,200 sq ft location in Circular Road. It now has more than 500 dresses, with labels including American brand Vera Wang, Filipino brand Monique Lhuillier and evening gown retailer Adrianna Papell. Fitting sessions are available by appointment at the showroom and usually last around 45 minutes, with the company hosting between 100 to 150 fitting sessions a week.
Again, the company targets customers working professionally in their mid-20s to early 40s and they have seen sales more than tripled in the past year. Ms Ang had left her job as a financial advisor to work full-time on Style Lease and is planning to expand the inventory this year to include a winter coat collection.
Carrying more than 50 international labels, Style Lease allows customers to reserve their favourite item and include 2 others to be delivered to their doorstep at the price of 1. They also provide a courier service which delivers your piece 2 days before your event and pick-up from your doorstep the day after your event. Alternatively, customers may choose to opt for self-pick-up/drop-off at the showroom, where they may also try the clothes they are unsure of and wish to try on before renting. Of course, they also take care of the laundry.
Rent a Dress
With the rise of the sharing economy and financially savvy modern cosmopolitan women, Rent a Dress aims to challenge the status quo of fashion and give everyone access to designer dresses without the designer price tag. One can search for gowns by size, designer, occasion, colour, or style. They have a wide array of sizes, ranging from UK4 (XXS) up to UK22 (XXXXXL).
When Shuen, the founder of Rent A Dress, found herself frustrated with nothing to wear amidst a closet full of dresses and loathed the idea of having to head out just to buy a new dress for an upcoming dinner, she decided enough was enough and introduced Rent a Dress to the world.
For weekend events, Rent a Dress offers a standard 4 days rental. However, customers heading out for holidays may opt for an extended rental of 8 days. They offer a try-on delivery for a fee of $10 per dress, with an unlimited quota at a time, but they must be returned by the next day. They also offer temporary hemming (shortening) for most dresses, depending on the material, mainly with the exception of chiffon and tulle. Payment can be made via credit, debit or PayPal, with additional various delivery charges.
Runway Rent provides a unique fashion experience that allows you to rent dresses for a fraction of their original price and provide women with fashionable styles and sleek yet simple designs for formal occasions. They also cater to many special occasions, whether it’s for a night out, an elegant gown for a formal event, or a beautiful dress for a friend’s wedding. Their dresses typically cost between $70 – $270 to rent.
Founder of Runway Rent, Ms Teo Peiru, 33, also saw a gap in the market. The owner of the bridal boutique La Belle Couture says that few stores in Singapore rent out formal gowns that are modern and stylish, yet not too over the top.
As a customer, after browsing through their dresses, one can select the date for rental and duration required for the chosen dress or gown. The dress will be delivered to one’s doorstep accordingly, and there will be a pickup available from the same place once the rental duration has ended.
Fashion itself is a reflection of social, economic, political and cultural changes. It allows individuals a platform to express themselves to everyone around them simply by being there. Over the years, the fashion industry has certainly grown, with the people in it working tirelessly to keep up with the ever-changing fashion trends and at the same time coming up with endless innovations to contribute to the society.
Now more than ever, we as consumers are able to bear witness to many different advancements such as these rental shops and as such, it’s important to be up-to-date with current innovations and be technologically-savvy.
That’s what we’re here for. You’re welcome.
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