By Tanya Kini
Originally published on 10 September 2016.
Darshana Madhavan, a college graduate in business management, was tasked to find a dress for her prom themed college farewell. This meant having to find a dress that fit the theme, but Darshana didn’t want to buy something she wouldn’t have the chance of wearing for any other occasion. It was then that she chanced on Flont.com, from where she could rent internationally branded dresses, run by one of her junior’s brothers. When they didn’t have a dress in her size, she searched around and found Candidknots.com, another clothes rental website, which had a stunning long red gown, perfectly flowy for the occasion.
Here’s another instance of a clothes renting experience gone right — Vidisha, an environmental consultant working with ERM, needed an outfit for a wedding. She didn’t want to spend on something she wouldn’t wear again (you see the trend?). Vidisha had heard about StyleBank.in from a friend who knew the people responsible for it. When she browsed the site, she immediately found a lehenga she liked, at 10% of the retail price. Four days later, she returned it with no hassle, and actually recommends this option to people attending weddings.
So why have clothes rental portals become such big news? FlyRobe, another clothes renting portal, which started its website in October 2015 by three IIT Bombay graduates, has already secured 5.3 million dollars in investment. It’s easily one of the more popular platforms in India, along with Flont.com and Candidknots.com.
As I browsed their website, I became more intrigued by this concept of renting clothes, so I thought I’d look to see if it was all legit and popular. It turns out that the process itself is pretty simple: you browse and select the clothes you want online, and it’ll be delivered to you in the next 24 hours. You can either pay the full rent price, or deposit equal to the rent price, and you can keep the clothes for a maximum of four days, after which the websites say they’ll send someone to come and pick them up.
So what does it feel like wearing rented clothes? Darshana says she was scared to decide to rent clothes because she was worried she’d drop something on the dress, or tear it. But all websites say that after wearing the clothes, there’s no need to worry about anything — they will take care of everything, including the dry cleaning.
Dhruvi Shah, a fashion writer and blogger at AliceWandering.com, who hasn’t used a renting portal but has heard of it in fashion circles, says, “Renting clothes is a way to keep up with the fashion trends that people are becoming more aware of without spending a lot of money.” With the recent influx of high end brands into India, people are becoming more aware of global fashion trends and want to be ‘on fleek’ with the rest of the world.
Fashion editor at Femina and celebrity stylist (for Ranveer Singh amongst others), Nitasha Gaurav, says it creates a sense of “conspicuous consumption” — “People are becoming more aware of the latest fashion trends which means they want to be seen keeping up with them. But they don’t want to spend, so renting clothes is the next best thing. It’s a relevant service in today’s day and age.” Gaurav adds that comparing the fashion tendencies of college girls and boys now to 10 years ago shows that more of them are investing in looking good, and since this requires money, renting clothes is the best option.
There are of course, some of quick tips to keep in mind when you’re renting clothes. Aishwarya Sridharan, also a celebrity stylist, warns all clothes renters about hygiene. “You don’t know who wore it before you, so when you’re selecting a place to rent clothes from, the portal’s process of maintaining hygiene needs to be ratified,” she says. Gaurav points out that the way a dress looks online is not necessarily how it will look when you see it physically, and this is the same risk you take when you’re renting or buying clothes online. Then there’s also Shah’s caution, “People looking to rent need to know exactly what they want to rent from the website. They will be presented with lots of choices which could be confusing if you don’t know what you’re looking for.”
The difference in prices is perhaps a major reason for the increasing popularity of this new trend of renting clothes. Darshana, for instance, paid Rs 800 for her red dress, and her friend, who coincidently found the same dress online, found that buying it would cost double the amount of renting it. I thought I’d do a rudimentary comparison of brands, sizes, and choices available, to the prices of renting and buying these clothes otherwise. On FlyRobe, an average Vero Moda dress costs Rs 429, a dress on Flont could cost Rs 980, and range from Rs 199 to Rs 1,299 on Candidknots.com. But both Myntra.com and Jabong.com has prices that are double of these rent rates.
While Western couture is readily available, it seems to be ethnic clothes that are making the waves and stirring up business. Avantika Mehta, editor of PyjamaPeople.in, a fashion blog, reckons that Indian weddings are possibly the best business for rentals. “Nowadays weddings stretch into 4-5 days, and you need to be seen wearing different outfits for different functions. This concept, while having been around since the e-commerce boom, works wonders for those looking to spend cheap on wedding outfits,” she says. Although Flont.com doesn’t have Indian clothes, there’s still StyleBank, which has the cheapest price range. This increases on FlyRobe, and for the more lavish ensembles, there’s Candidknots, all of which are nearly half the price of ethnic wear on Jabong and Myntra.
For those involved in the fashion industry, this practice has been common among celebrities for a while now. Gaurav says that many of her celebrity clients rent designer gowns and suits for occasions that demand a stylish presentation in front of the camera. And what does this new trend mean for fashion designers? “It’s also somewhat of a saviour for the fashion industry, who generate the most amount of waste with their collections changing every season. This works perfectly for them because they get immense exposure without having to generate a lot of waste!” says Mehta.
I hate the concept of shopping and trying on various outfits, and paying exorbitant amounts for them. I couldn’t care less about how look, but I’d have to agree that even I like to look nice without having to spend so much and worry about not using it ever again. As Mehta says, “It’s no secret that no matter how involved you are in fashion, whether you’re a professional working in a corporate, or a stylist, everyone likes to look nice. This avenue of renting clothes allows everyone that option without burdening your pockets.”