Ever opened up your cupboard before a special evening out and thought to yourself, “I have nothing to wear?” Ever walked by a boutique and felt tempted by the latest trends but discouraged by the price tags?
A Bengaluru startup has the answer for you – don’t buy, just rent. StyleBank offers for rent a range of Indian and Western outfits tailored to a variety of occasions, at rates that don’t burn a hole in one’s pocket.
StyleBank came about because the two co-founders Aina Barker and Bhavna Suresh realised they struggled with the same problems when it came to fashion. “Bhavna was packing to leave for her MBA in Paris when she realised how many clothes she had to dispose of because she had (like a majority of women) succumbed to the lure of fast fashion,” says Aina.
Meanwhile, Aina was leaving for her “first really big trip”, and had bought so many outfits for it that she had no money left for the actual trip. “I thought back to how much I had spent over the years on fashion and it was truly sobering.”
Customers simply have to log on to stylebank.in, pick what they’d like from a selection of international brands or a range of boutique or emerging Indian designers, and choose when and for how long they would like to keep the outfit. StyleBank covers everything else, from delivery to pick-up to laundering the outfits after.
And no, StyleBank isn’t targeted at the couture or high-fashion segment. “Our inventory is suited to everyday and special occasions in a woman's life, to anything from a date night, brunch or party to even a big day at the office,” says Aina, adding that their higher end selections are suited for events like weddings, cocktail evenings or office parties.
“We do not hold big designer names in our inventory, and all our price points are very accessible because you should have the option to rent for any occasion,” she explains. Thus, the site offers a range of options starting from just Rs 99 right up to Rs 2,499, though a significant portion of their selections are priced under Rs 1,000.
If, at this point, you’re wondering about just how clean rental clothing can be, you’re not alone, says Aina, as this is one of the common concerns their customers have. “We tackle it in multiple ways. The first is letting a potential customer experience us. We do home-trials where we send out a few garments with our in-house stylists to customers so that they can experience the quality and hygiene of our inventory, and can also find their right fit this way. We have had a 95% conversion rate with this because they are satisfied with the hygiene.”
The other part of it is partnering with a premiere laundry care partner, FabricSpa, she says. “We chose to work with FabricSpa not only because they are the most competent when it comes to caring for different types of garments, but also because, in all of our market research, they emerged as a brand that consumers trust.”
An enterprise like StyleBank is ideal for a market like Bengaluru, says Aina, because it is an experimental market even if not a high-fashion one. “We have had customers think that they should only wear a certain style, but try something else and love it. That's part of the whole value proposition of renting, it allows women to experiment and try new things because they are not going to invest in it.”
But doesn’t the constant flux in fashions also throw up a big challenge for the company in terms of staying up-to-date with trends? It’s a question of sourcing smartly, says Aina. “India is fashion conscious but still quite safe and will usually only adopt the more pragmatic trends,” she explains, adding that Bengaluru's pleasant weather through the year means there's no sharp seasonal division in fashion trends.
“Since it's pretty much pleasant the whole year through with no dramatic flux in temperature we do not need to stock heavy jackets and knits for winter. Similarly, since the weather is pleasant women in the city like to wear Maxi dresses all year round, when the maxi dress is usually a summer style.”