“Closets in the Clouds”

Chialin Yu
4 min readJan 25, 2020

Recently I’ve been following many fashion rental companies out of curiosity and personal interest to save on items that I rarely wear but would like to have. Fashion rental as a space gives consumer plenty promises — a rotating wardrobe; no more expensive dry cleaning and boring cloth-folding; and on top of that, you can be a proud contributor to the world’s garment sustainability, which McKinsey’s 2019 State of the Fashion Report lists as one of the most important factors that millennials consider when it comes to fashion choices. There’s also a hidden appeal — fashion rental gives you the power to remake yourself at a cost that’s actually accessible to the general public. For less than $200 / month*, You can get ditsy floral dresses with cowboy boots one month, and over-sized blazers and ripped jeans the next — this idea, to the public consumers 50 years ago, was probably as hard to imagine as plant-based meat. Welcome to the modern age.

Personally, I’d been a disbeliever in renting fashion for as long as I can remember despite having coming across with this concept at an early age. My first time thinking to myself, “why can’t I rent a dress” was two weeks before my high school prom in 2014. I wasn’t gonna waste money on a dress that I’ll probably only wear this one time but I also didn’t like the options that I could afford. After some googling I luckily found a fashion rental startup based in Central, Hong Kong that had a gorgeous Alice + Olivia dress, which could be mine for $100 a week versus the $700 cost of owning it. My high hopes were crushed rather quickly when I realized the company ran out of this dress in my size, along with every other dresses that I liked on their website. This issue, 5 years later, is still haunting the fashion rental industry — the foundation that supports a rotating wardrobe is an enormous and ever-expanding inventory base that needs to dynamically adjust to seasonality, trends and popularity, and these factors are often more psychological than science. They are hard to predict and often heavily influenced by random fashion events such as Kim Kardashian’s public appearance in biker shorts in 2018. To grow topline revenue and attract more consumers, fashion rental companies need to keep purchasing items to sustain a growing amount of rental activities as well as spend more on maintenance. So, as a company grows its revenue and subscriber base, the…