The rise, fall and rise of the fashion rental industry

Between January and March, Adita Karki took part in six important social events. For the six events, she needed six different traditional ethnic outfits.

One day, while Karki was browsing Tiktok, she came across an account run by rental store 1st step, a company that rents out party outfits. Since then, the store has been Karki’s go-to place for renting sarees and other traditional clothes to wear to events.

“If rental places hadn’t existed, it would have cost me a fortune to order six different outfits for so many parties,” says Karki, 21.

In 2019, Kathmandu started to see an increasing number of fashion rental stores. The majority of these stores rented party outfits that people wore at social events, thus relieving people from the financial burden of buying new dresses. But as the Covid-19 pandemic gripped the country in 2020, social events began to be canceled and people began to worry about contracting Covid-19 from touching and using rented clothes. The growth of fashion rental stores then came to an abrupt halt. However, with the decline in the number of Covid-19 cases, fashion rental stores are now making a comeback.

Over the past four months, Karki has not only rented outfits from fashion rental stores, but also encouraged her friends to do the same to avoid having to pay for dresses they will only wear for a while. in time.

“Another factor that has contributed to the popularity of fashion rental stores is social media,” says Nista Neupane, 24, owner of 1st step rental store. “Young people want to look fashionable at social events, and in the age of social media, where people post their photos, they no longer like the idea of ​​wearing the same outfit at multiple events. But buying a new set of clothes for every event is not practical for many, so the only sensible option is to rent outfits for events.

The idea of ​​starting a fashion rental store came to Neupane in 2020. That year, she custom-made a lehenga to wear to an event. The dress cost her Rs 13,000. “Since it was a lot of money, I decided to offer the lehenga for rent, and many came forward to want to rent it. This incident motivated me to start a women’s clothing rental business.

Nuepane operates its fashion rental store from a rented apartment in Anamnagar. The store’s location isn’t what many would consider ideal, but Neupane says that hasn’t hindered the business.

“We rely heavily on TikTok to promote our store and products, and the majority of our customers come to us after seeing our videos on the video-sharing platform,” Neupane explains. “Thanks to platforms like TikTok, it has become much easier for companies like ours to establish our presence in this market.”

One of the early players in the clothing rental business in Kathmandu is Antidote Nepal, which started in 2019. Unlike the 1st step rental store, Antidote Nepal started as a platform for people looking to offer their clothes for rent and those seeking to rent clothes.

“The entire fashion rental market has been hit hard due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Our business has dropped by 90%,” says Manish Jung Thapa, owner of Antidote Nepal. of the market, we have decided to pivot and stop renting clothes and we only sell second-hand clothes.”

Another fashion rental company that started in 2019 and has also served as a platform for renters and tenants is A and S, Rent the Runway. The store has since changed its business model and rents out its in-house designed clothes and sells ready-made kurtas.

“After the pandemic hit the country, the number of people sending us their clothes for rent began to drop drastically, and it no longer made sense for us to continue with the rental model. We started manufacturing our own kurtas and renting them,” says Anita Dahal Paudyal, owner of A and S, Rent the Runway.

But given the steady decline in daily Covid-19 cases, some former fashion rental store operators the Post spoke to said they were optimistic about restarting their rental business.

“If things continue like this in the next few months, we will restart our fashion rental business,” says Manish of Antidote Nepal.

Affordability is one of the main reasons why the rental industry has become a huge success. Depending on the clothes, most rental shops charge between Rs 500 and Rs 1,500 per dress.

“For around Rs 1,000, I can wear the latest Rajasthani lehengas and saris. For students like us with no source of income, renting party clothes for events is much cheaper than buying one,” says Karki.

Another factor that has helped popularize fashion hire is the hassle-free process.

“We ask our clients to deposit either their citizenship certificate or their university ID card and a cash advance with us. Our customers must return the dresses within three days,” says Neupane.

Most of the fashion rental stores the Post spoke to said the standard time allowed was three days.

“However, if customers do not return the dresses within three days, they will have to pay an additional Rs 500 for each day,” says Paudyal of A and S, Rent the Runway.

In neighboring India, some of the country’s top designers have also partnered with companies to offer their collections for hire. But in Nepal, the fashion rental industry is still completely dominated by non-designer clothes.

One of the few Nepalese designers to have ventured into fashion rental is Yubi Thapa, a renowned name in the high-end fashion industry in Nepal. After witnessing the growing popularity of the fashion rental industry internationally, Yubi started renting out his designer clothes in 2013, but the experience, he says, was not a pleasant one.

“In Nepal, the fashion rental industry is dominated by party wear, many of which require users to take great care of clothes. When I first started renting lehenga cholis, people didn’t take good care of the clothes and returned them damaged. After a year of renting, I was losing more money than I was making, so I decided to stop the business altogether,” says Yubi.

Given the growing popularity of fashion rental businesses over the past few years, Yubi says renting designer clothes is a great way to make them more accessible to the masses.

“But renting high-end designer clothes also jeopardizes brand exclusivity. Why would people buy when you can just rent? Yubi asks. “Instead of taking the fashion rental route, I now have an annual sale every year to make my clothes more affordable and accessible to as many people as possible. I don’t see myself taking the fashion rental bandwagon so early.

About Carl Schroeder

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