Mamta Arora came up with the idea of her start-up to solve the sustainability challenges in the fast fashion industry. She identified a market gap in the UAE for a clothing subscription service that would help mitigate consumers’ mindless spending on apparel.
“You must have heard people say they are unable to find a dress to wear or don’t want to repeat their outfits because it’s already on their social media feed. However, their closets might be bursting at the seams with clothes,” says Ms Arora, founder of Rent Your Wardrobe, a clothes rental platform in Dubai.
“Nowadays, we don’t buy clothes out of a need but rather to stand out by wearing the best and new attire every time. For the past two decades since fast fashion entered our lives, we mindlessly buy clothes and dump them without realising the hidden cost involved in creating them. This endless buying must be stopped, or at least, diverted to circularity.”
The fashion industry needs business models that keep clothes in use for longer and materials that are safe and renewable, according to a report by the UK-based Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which is a charity committed to creating a circular economy.
The sector was responsible for some 2.1 billion metric tonnes of greenhouse-gas emissions in 2018, about 4 per cent of the global total, according to McKinsey research. To set that in context, the fashion industry emits about the same quantity of global greenhouse gases per year as the entire economies of France, Germany and the UK combined.
Rent Your Wardrobe aims to solve this problem of excesses with its monthly, quarterly and annual clothes subscription packages, which offer customers a choice of apparel to suit their requirements, free cleaning and sanitisation services, as well as free pick-up and drop services.
The Dubai-based business also helps people to sell their pre-loved clothes, thereby promoting circular fashion. The platform was incorporated in 2020 and started operations in May 2021.
“This was the time when people faced a lot of setbacks and realised the importance of saving money and resources. The fashion industry creates a lot of waste every year, so solution-based platforms are the need of the hour,” the founder says.
The revenue of the rental apparel market worldwide is expected to increase to about $7 billion by 2025, according to Statista.
Rent Your Wardrobe currently offers womenswear collection, including casual wear, party wear and formals. The business, which is currently focused on the UAE, aims to expand its services soon to include clothes for men and children, and also grow geographically to other GCC countries and beyond in the years to come.
“The UAE’s total female population is 28 per cent (about 2.65 million), out of which our target segment falls into the 25 to 54 age bracket comprising about 1.47 million consumers,” says Ms Arora, who’s been in the Emirates for five years.
The business is available on a digital platform (both web and mobile-based) where customers can register and explore the rental collection. They can select their choice of clothes, subscription package and make the payment online. Through the platform, they can place an order and have it delivered at their doorstep, arrange for an exchange or return, she adds.
Customers also have the option to upgrade, downgrade or even unsubscribe their package without the fear of losing money or making any long-term contract commitments.
“We are also working on a digital trial room where people can add their face, hair type, skin type and body dimensions to create a digital avatar of themselves to try clothes online before opting for our services,” says Ms Arora, who started her career with an IT company in India and later switched to the beauty and fashion industry to pursue her passion.
Rent Your Wardrobe enjoys the first-mover advantage as it is the first company in the UAE to offer subscription-based clothes rental services, the founder says. There are platforms that offer clothes on rent, however, there is none that provides rental clothing subscription services in the UAE or the GCC, she adds.
“Rent Your Wardrobe wants to solve customers’ day-to-day clothing needs rather than only for occasions. People should start considering clothing subscriptions like any other services to fulfil their daily requirements,” Ms Arora says.
The start-up, which is completely self-funded, is at an advanced bootstrap stage in terms of funding. The founder has made significant investments in inventory, technology, hygiene and marketing, which accounts for the largest pie of the company's investment to date.
“We aim to attain our expected customer scale and revenue size before we look for external funding at the right stage,” says Ms Arora, who refused to disclose the amount she invested in the start-up for confidentiality reasons.
The company's business model is based on subscription customers and it aims to achieve 1,000 such clients by the end of the first year of business.
“Since the idea is new, we are taking careful and calculated steps. We are more focused on maintaining strong checks and balances on quality and hygiene rather than chasing numbers and then losing them due to poor service and quality,” the founder says.
The business places utmost importance on maintaining hygiene for clothes rentals and follows strict guidelines to keep the items in perfect condition. Employees take care of laundry, dry cleaning and general repair to increase each garment’s lifespan.
“We follow WHO guidelines to make sure that our apparels and customer touch points are mitigated from health risks,” Ms Arora points out.
Rent Your Wardrobe leverages technology to keep a lid on costs and outsourced its last mile, IT and operations to low-cost regions.
“At our office, we employ a few people to ensure quality, laundry, customer service and inventory-related services,” Ms Arora says.
Change in customer mindset about renting clothes is the biggest challenge the start-up faces, according to the entrepreneur.
“People still believe that renting clothes is an occasion-based activity. We, on the other hand, are trying to make renting a part of everyone’s life,” she says. “However, I don’t think there is a stigma attached with using pre-loved clothes, at least not with a large part of our customer base.”
“Consumers are smart and understand that an apparel’s lifespan is short. Therefore, it is expensive to own it for a short time, so it makes sense to rent rather than buy it.”
There can’t be a legitimate start-up without challenges, according to the founder.
“Our faith in this idea and this market stands tall and above all challenges that we face on a day-to-day basis.”
Q&A with Mamta Arora, founder of Rent Your Wardrobe
What already successful start-up do you wish you had started?
A cloud kitchen business.
What is your next big dream to make happen?
To become the Netflix of the fashion industry.
What new skills have you learnt in the process of launching your start-up?
Digital marketing, clothes recycling, [operating in] pre-loved markets.
If you could start all over again, what would you do differently?
I would allocate majority of my investment to establishing the brand.
Who is your role model?
Where do you see yourself after 10 years?
I aspire for Rent Your Wardrobe to be the biggest clothing rental platform in the Gulf region.