The rise, fall and rise of the fashion rental business

Between January and March, Adita Karki attended six major social events. For the six events, she needed six different traditional ethnic dresses.

One day, while flowing Tiktok, Karki came across an account managed by 1st step rental store, a company that rents party clothes. Since then, the shop has been Karki’s go-to for renting saris and other traditional clothing to wear to events.

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

In 2019, Kathmandu started seeing an increasing number of fashion rental shops. Most of these shops rented party clothes that people could wear to social events, thus relieving themselves people of the financial burden of buying new clothes. But when the Covid-19 pandemic gripped the country in 2020, social events began to be canceled and people began to worry about contracting Covid-19 by touching and using rented clothes. The growth of fashion rental shops then stopped abruptly. However, with the number of Covid-19 cases declining, fashion rental stores are making a comeback.

For the past four months, Karki has not only rented clothes from fashion rental shops, but has also encouraged her friends to do the same to avoid having to pay for clothes they will only wear once in a while.

“Another factor that has contributed to the popularity of fashion rental shops is social media,” says Nista Neupane, 24, owner of the 1st step rental shop. “Young people want to look stylish at social events, and in this age of social media, where people post their photos, they don’t like the idea of ​​wearing the same outfit for multiple events anymore. of a new set of clothes for each event is impractical for many. So the only sensible option is to rent clothes for events. ”

The idea of ​​opening a fashion rental shop was born in Neupane in 2020. That year he tailored a lehenga to wear for an event. Her dress cost her 13,000 rupees. “Since it was a lot of money, I decided to offer the lehenga for rent and many came forward wanting to rent it. This incident motivated me to start a women-oriented fashion rental business. “

Nuepane runs her own fashion rental shop in a rented apartment in Anamnagar. The location of the store isn’t what many would find ideal, but Neupane says this hasn’t hindered the business.

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

One of the first promoters of Kathmandu’s fashion rental business is Antidote Nepal which started in 2019. Unlike the 1st step rental shop, Antidote Nepal started as a platform for people looking to offer their clothes for rent and for those looking to rent clothes.

“The entire fashion rental market has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. Our business decreased by 90 percent, “says Manish Jung Thapa, owner of Antidote Nepal.” Given the state of the market, we decided to pivot and we stopped renting clothes and now we only sell used clothes. ”

Another fashion rental business that started in 2019 and which also served as a platform for both renters and renters is A and S, Rent the Runway. The shop 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 who sent us their rented clothes started to drop dramatically and it no longer made sense for us to continue with the rental model. We started creating 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 shop operators the Post spoke to being optimistic about the resumption of their rental business.

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

One of the main reasons the rental business has become such a huge success has to do with affordability. Depending on the clothes, most rental shops charge anywhere between Rs 500 and Rs 1,500 per dress.

“For around Rs 1,000, I wear the latest Rajasthani lehenga and saris. For students like us without a source of income, renting party dresses for events is much cheaper than buying one, ”says Karki.

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

“We ask our clients to file their citizenship certificate or college ID with us and a little in advance. Our customers must return the dresses within three days, “says Neupane.

Most of the fashion rental shops Swiss Post has spoken to say the standard amount of time allowed is three days.

“However, if customers don’t return the clothes 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 made deals with companies to offer their collections for rent. But in Nepal, the fashion rental business is still completely dominated by unsigned clothing.

One of the few Nepalese designers to try the fashion rental business is Yubi Thapa, a renowned name in Nepal’s high-end fashion industry. After witnessing the growing popularity of the fashion rental business internationally, Yubi began renting her designer clothes in 2013, but the experience, she says, was not a pleasant one.

“In Nepal, the fashion rental business is dominated by party wear, many of which require users to take care of the clothes. When I started renting lehenga cholis, people did not take care of the clothes and returned them in damaged condition. After a year of rent, I was losing more money than I was making, so I decided to quit the business entirely, ”says Yubi.

Given the rise in popularity that fashion rental companies have seen in recent years, Yubi says renting designer clothes is a great way to make them more accessible to the masses.

“But even the rental of high-end designer clothes puts the exclusivity of the brand at risk. Why should people buy when you can just rent? Yubi asks. “Instead of taking the fashion rental route, I now conduct an annual sale every year to make my clothes more affordable and accessible to many. I never see myself getting on the fashion rental bandwagon anytime soon. ”

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