By Namita Shibad Hindustan Times, New Delhi
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) While "Rent the Runway" has been super popular with women in the United States, there is a similar service called 'Rent an Attire" in India which is putting its own twist on rent to wear fashion.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Dreaming of wearing a Sabyasachi or Manish Malhotra or Anushree Reddy outfit for your or your friends wedding but the fat price tag is pulling you down?
Laveena Laitonjani an IT employee has a perfect solution.
Big fat weddings do generate a lot of businesses, and a part of it involves dressing up. But the problem is the cost of these fancy clothes. Laitonjani says " I am from the North and we have really big, showy weddings. My problem was how many expensive dresses could I buy every time I had a wedding to attend?"
So she hit upon an idea. Why not hire a dress? "Anyway the dresses that one buys for the purpose of attending weddings are generally stored in the cupboard, so why not there be a system to hire a dress, wear it and then return it back?"
At the time Laitonjani was working at Persistent systems so she had those coffee corner chats with her colleagues to test her idea. "They all thought it was a good idea to be able to hire high end clothes."
According to Laitonjani a good dress that one could wear at weddings would cost anywhere between Rs 10,000 to even Rs 3.00,000 or more. "Who will spend that kind of money every time? At best, a girl would have five to six such outfits in her cupboard. Besides she can't be wearing the same dress over and over again?"Laitonjani did a small study for the next six months and found that there was a gap in the fashion industry.
Laitonjani says, "The industry is very fragmented. Female fashion is at the far end of affordability and most people cannot afford to buy the really good clothes. I mean a Sabyasachi outfit could cost Rs four lakhs or more but how many girls can afford it? But all want to wear it!"
Armed with this information from her study, Laitonjani set up her first store called 'Rent an attire' in 2015, whilst holding on to her job. "I rented a small 750 sq ft shop in Warje. This was the first 'Rent an attire' store in the city. In the early days Laitonjani got her friends to give their dresses on rent."I had just 30 dresses in a 750 sq ft shop. It was not enough but it was a start." Laitonjani says she had to spend most of her time explaining the concept to customers who walked in. "They had many doubts like why should I wear used clothes? What about hygiene? And so on."
The system Anticipating this Laitonjani had worked out a system to clear out these doubts. "Hygiene is very important. So when an outfit is hired, it is thoroughly dry-cleaned before it is rented. And then dry cleaned again after it is returned." To hire a dress you had to first visit the store and choose one. "I hired a designer who could explain to the client if the dress she chose could be made to fit to her size or not."
After the client and the designer agree on the dress she picks, the dress is altered. "The lady has to give us an advance amount that equals the cost of the dress. So if the dress costs Rs 20,000/- according to the owner, the client pays that amount as an advance. I charge 10% of the amount as hire charges." One can hire the dress for a period of three, five or seven days. Each period has an additional charge of 30, 40 and 50 per cent. Hiring a dress takes seven days' notice.
The supply side When Laitonjani started she had just 30 dresses mostly lent to her by friends. Over the last three years she now has over 1,500 dresses on hire. "We explained to the owners that if a dress costs say Rs 30,000 it will be rented out for Rs 3000 to Rs 4,500. I give 40% of the charges to the owner, so instead of keeping a good dress in the cupboard you stand to gain from it." Laitonjani also reached out to the local designers and offered them this concept. Today Laitonjani has 235 designers and women who have kept their dresses for hire.
Getting customers At the very outset, Laitonjani leveraged the benefits of her network and influencers to promote her business. "I checked out people who had a large following on Facebook, Instagram whose recommendation could reach out to say 20,000 people or more. I met them and asked them to take a look at my store. They did and were impressed. Their blogs helped me gain a lot of traction. Soon my business grew and now I have at least a 100 outfits that are hired every month."
The funding Laitonjani started this business with her own funds. This money she spent on renting a store, hiring three people and for logistics. She now has stores in three cities, Pune, Delhi and Dehradun.
Apart from her website people can also rent outfits from her app. So far I have used my savings, but now I am in talks with an investor and am looking for funding to set up stores in at least five cities like Bangalore, Ahemdabad, Chandigarh, Indore and more."These cities have a huge demand as they have very poor access to high end designer clothes.
Stores are important to Laitonjani because unlike other retail businesses she believes that "online only supports, it is the offline, the stores that drive business. After all a woman would like to see the dress she would like to hire, get an idea of the fit and whether it can be altered or not, so the presence of a store is a must. Online of course is a big help, but the store gets the business started."
The future Laitonjani wants to add five cities to her kitty. In the next two years she wants to grow that number to 10. "There is a lot of potential in this business and with the stores and online presence I aim to make high fashion clothes available to every woman in the country. After all everyone has a right to look good." How Rent an Attire Works
Select a style:Pick your perfect style from a wide collection of designer outfits and accessories.
Book your outfit: Book your look for 3, 5, 7 or 10 days. The outfit is altered to your size and dry-cleaned before delivery.
Flaunt it: Flaunt your look with that perfect outfit chosen by you and enjoy the compliments
Return it: Pack the outfit and 'Rent an Attire' will pick it up a day after your occasion or the dates chosen by you.
Earn through 'Rent an attire'
If you have a heavily embellished or a designer outfit that you want to rent out, 'Rent an attire' helps you do that. Every time someone rents your outfit, you earn a healthy percentage of the rental price, without having to bear any responsibilities like laundry or maintenance.
Submit pictures of your outfit: You get a notification only when'Rent an attire' accept your outfit. Display: 'Rent an attire' will shoot the outfit and make it live online and at their stores. You get order updates.
They fulfil, you earn: 'Rent an attire' will dry-clean and send it to customers. You can earn up to 40% revenue share when the order is served.
CUSTOMER SPEAK: Uma Jangiani, make up artist I find 'Rent an attire' good with their delivery schedules. I had to attend my brother's wedding and was not interested in spending on a dress I'd wear only once. So instead of spending Rs 50,000 for a dress that I would wear for my brother's wedding, I paid just Rs 5000 and got a lovely dress to wear. Makes sense. It's better to go to the store than get it online because the fitting is done better in person. At the store you can try out the clothes and see how they fit.