Wardrobe, a peer-to-peer (P2P) fashion marketplace that gives users the chance to rent out designer and vintage items for a fraction of their purchase price, has recently debuted amid many competitors with similar concepts. The company brings two new ideas to the table: replacing warehouses with dry cleaners and making it easy for influencers’ closets to be duplicated.
There is no shortage of digital shopping destinations for shoppers looking to rent luxury clothing or accessories for a few days or weeks – or to snap them up secondhand for deep discounts. Rent the Runway, The RealReal, thredUP, Le Tote, Tradesy, Luxury Garage Sale and Le Prix all offer some variation of the theme.
But when Wardrobe Founder Adarsh Alphons glanced around his own home and realized he owned far more clothing than he had any ability to wear, he didn’t seek out any of those platforms. Instead, he decided to create his own, believing there was a better way to do luxury goods secondhand than what was already on offer in the market.
According to Alphons, the average woman owns 57 pieces of clothing that they wear less than once a year, but are hesitant to throw out or resell them because they are vintage or designer pieces that they still want to wear on occasion.
Wardrobe recently launched from its public beta, powered by a $1.5 million seed round, as the latest entrant hoping to capture the secondhand luxury market. In some sense, the company is late to the race, facing a host of long-established competitors. But Alphons believes Wardrobe is lean and ready to compete with two critical innovations that are unique among fashion platforms in the sharing economy.
The first is mostly a logistical improvement: Wardrobe uses dry cleaners as their product hubs. The second is an upgrade to how shoppers search the site; users can browse for products in the traditional way, but they can also follow certain sellers on the site and monitor the changing content of their closets.
Other than those two small changes, the process is familiar for the vertical. Owners who want to rent out their clothes fill out a questionnaire about their offerings and are sent a shipping label. Once vetted and approved, the clothes are sent to a local dry cleaner, where they wait patiently to be shipped out to a customer who wants them for four, 10 or 20 days. Wardrobe takes a 25 to 30 percent cut for the rental cost, and in return handles all shipping logistics, storage and photography of the pieces to display on the site. The seller collects the 70 to 75 percent remaining balance, minus dry-cleaning fees.
Customers can also choose to pick up their items directly at a dry cleaner for a $5 savings on their order.
And while using dry cleaners as storage areas may seem like a small change, Wardrobe says it has big effects. It freed up the company from having to operate warehouses or figure out complex shipping logistics in its earliest days. It also makes it much easier for the company to scale going forward, as they are creating local partnerships with pre-existing business instead of building fresh infrastructure.
But while having a plan for scaling is a good idea, it is a second-order concern. The more primary concern is driving users to the site itself so that scaling up becomes a priority. And that will be a challenge, Wardrobe noted, because the field is so crowded. Which is why, as opposed to offering a general search for outfits, they allow users to follow favorite owners within the app and then customize their experience around that type of search.
During its recent public beta, Wardrobe saw that not all P2P fashion customers browse the same way. Some stick to goods, while others like to follow the entire closets of those they admire. That will hopefully translate into a sticky appeal for influencers and those with large public and social media followings. It could theoretically become a useful tool for monetizing a well-known name or a digital fashion influencer brand.
As of launch, consumers can opt to rent a Valentino dress from Orange Is the New Black’s Alysia Reiner, Burberry stilettos from Real Housewives of NYC star Heather Thomson or a vintage Gucci bag from fashion influencer Jenya Kenner.
Currently, New York-based Wardrobe has partnered with a little over 40 Manhattan dry cleaners, serving all of the Island below 110th Street. The hope is to bring on more influencers and to continue growing through many U.S. metros in 2020 and beyond, though no specific plans have been announced yet.