shopping & retail Fashion

Glamour on a budget: here’s how renting high fashion is no longer taboo in a post-pandemic India

A Falguni Shane peacock blue lehnga and velvet crop top   | Photo Credit: The Stylease Exclusive, Mumbai

 

“Buy less, rent more,” says Thara George who founded Chosen Ones, a fashion rental range at Mini Me, a concept store in Kochi.“It’s part of ethical fashion and good for the planet,” she adds underscoring the growing idea of reuse. Thara opened the store in August 2021, along with designer Vandana Vinod, who has been championing this cause even before the two joined hands. Vandana has been recycling export surplus fabrics and now rents vintage saris, mainly kanjeevarams.

Though renting clothes has been around for the last decade or so in India, the pandemic has accentuated the idea of sustainable fashion more than ever before. Now renting attires is seen in new light and clothes are hired for different occasions other than weddings. Vandana calls it, “mindful shopping” and gives her clients styling options to wear a garment in different ways, many times. According to Thara, renting wedding attire is common but occasion wear is new.

A love for “brands” led Thara to acquire a luxury brand wardrobe, when she lived in Qatar. She recalls travelling around the world and carefully selecting fashionable clothing, also realizing that her “wardrobe was becoming a sort of a liability.” On return to Kochi, just before the pandemic,Thara saw the dearth of branded clothes in the retail space. “I thought, here’s what I can offer to people looking for luxury wear,” says Thara who rents out labels like H&M, Zara, Gap, Louis Vuitton and such.

Thara George with a rental ethnic wear from her collection, Chosen Ones, in Kochi

Thara George with a rental ethnic wear from her collection, Chosen Ones, in Kochi   | Photo Credit: Mini Me

The range at Chosen Ones is western occasion wear that consists of holiday clothing, resort wear, party wear, brunch outfits, cocktail dresses etc. A branded jacket can be hired at ₹750 and a deposit, while a Kanjeevaram sari can be worn for ₹

A rental company gets listed
  • New York-based Rent the Runway (RTR) has recently been listed on the NY Stock Exchange and is run only by women.
5,000 a day with a deposit of ₹15,000.

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“These are heirloom saris and hence clients need to handle it with care,” explains Vandana. She has put out a range of kids clothing too, with a motive to propagate the idea of renting kids’ clothes, instead of purchasing exorbitantly priced ready- or tailor-made ones.

The new store has attracted curiosity and the response has been exciting for this duo. Many have inquired about accessories, says Thara who has a range of shoes on rent too.

Mumbai-based Jheal Shah who started The Stylease in May 2016 with a range of ethnic women wear and moved very quickly to add cocktail party dresses and fun wear agrees that the pandemic has been a game-changer. “Earlier our target audience were the families of the bride and groom but now we find the bride and groom themselves are renting bridal wear and investing the money saved into other things.”

The idea of renting began in-house, says Jheal. “We are three women in the house, my mother and my sister. Ours is a woman-centric house and we were into mixing and matching our clothes and also with friends,” says Jheal about her mother Jagruti Shah, and Juhi who are both fashion designers.

Exclusive wedding gown with detachable trail

Exclusive wedding gown with detachable trail   | Photo Credit: The Stylease Exclusive

Jagruti retails under her label J Shah and Juhi is the Creative Officer of the company, responsible for building collections and narratives of the company and monitoring photoshoots. Their first set of clothes on rent were samples from her mother’s designer collection. They now have ‘The Stylease Exclusive’, an in-house collection of designer Indo-Western and ethnic wear with almost 1000 womenswear pieces and 500 clothes for men, that includes high-end brands like Sabyasachi, Manish Malhotra, Masaba and Mahima Mahajan.

Theme-based parties

“Metro cities follow trends,” says Jheal, who is the CEO of the company, explaining that theme parties were a rage in 2017and Bollywood themes like Bajirao Mastani and Hollywood themes like Casino Royale steered the business inventory. The Poker Night theme too was common. People needed clothes to fit the setting. The demand for accessories to match the themed attire was added to their list of products.

Her company has now entered the menswear and accessories market too. A fad she talks about in this space is “fun clothing” like students wanting a dash of attitude — funny collars or ties with blazers, for a graduation ceremony or farewell dos at college. Another trendy range is concept saris, with ruffles and pre-stitched ones.

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Besides their own tailor-made collection, the company adds to the inventory by taking pre-used outfits from their owners. “So, if you own an outfit and have no use for it any more, or you want to make some money off it, you give it to us to rent out. We photograph it and either keep it in our store or you can keep it at home. Every time an order comes in for the pieces, we give the client 40-50% of the rental amount as revenue share,” explains Jheal.

 

This revenue-sharing model is followed by Thara and Vandana too.

Rented clothes are custom-fitted, explains Jhael on how an attire is charged. “We take 10 % of the retail price of an outfit and the deposit is the same as the rental.” The outfit remains with the customer for four days. Recently an Armani suit from their exotic range was hired for ₹ 9,500 but a Versace gown has not found takers yet, discloses Jheal who is assisted by her cousin Tarang Shah who handles the technical end.

Speaking of the rental business globally, Jheal says the competition has increased and the new clientele is younger, with a fresh approach to this business.

In comparatively conservative Chennai, J Syed Khudratullah started renting “coats” almost 12 years ago, after watching the need for coats and costumes in film shoots at Kodambakkam. Today Zodiac is one of the biggest names in menswear rental in Chennai with a collection of almost 2000 suits. “The coat was a very big thing in those days. It cost almost ₹ 15,000 to stitch a suit. The underprivileged could not afford it and so we thought to start the rental business,” recalls Syed on phone from Chennai. Known for their menswear tailoring , Zodiac now has an inventory that includes blazers, suits, sherwani, bundi, jodhpuri and the more popular coats.

A win-win for customer and retailer

“The business has increased a lot but so has competition,” says Syed adding that spending ₹ 5,000 to wear a ₹25,000 outfit is a good deal for both the customer and the retailer. Syed’s team also customizes the suits on rent and the hiring rate ranges from ₹ 500 to ₹ 5000, depending on the model.

Syed agrees that people’s attitude towards renting clothes has changed. He now gets the suits tailored large-scale in Mumbai where labour is cheap. He also resells old worn-out suits at the wholesale Moore Market, Chennai for as cheap as ₹10. “They recycle it and the suit gets a new lease for a few more years,” guesses Syed. He also keeps men’s accessories like a bow tie and ties, but on sale.

Turmeric magenta and purple sari

Turmeric magenta and purple sari   | Photo Credit: The Stylease Exclusive

Savita Poddar, who started Kyasa the Rental Boutique in Bengaluru in 2016, also finds that the outlook towards renting outfits has changed. “The rich don’t find it infra dig to rent an attire any more.”

She began her business after finding her children and their friends not wanting to repeat an outfit on occasions. Savita hired a space, connected with tailors, bought fabric and created an inventory of designer saris and lehengas. “I have around 80 to 85 saris and 50 lehengas. We keep adding,” she says and talks about the new line of office party wear, cocktail party wear and an Indo-Western category that she has created of late.

Savita finds that once the initial hesitation of wearing rented attire is overcome, the customer is back to renting an outfit on other occasions. “Renting outfits means ease of living. There’s no headache and no big investment,” says Savita who has many clients from the film and fashion industry.

The wedding season is the busiest time for her with bookings. “My January bookings are on and the booking amount is the full rent,” says Savita, extremely happy with the change in people’s mindset towards the rental designer wear business.


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Printable version | Jan 29, 2022 10:39:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/fashion/post-pandemic-india-sees-increase-in-renting-luxury-designer-clothes/article37468969.ece

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