- Australian fashion rental platform GlamCorner, having announced several lucrative partnerships, is anticipating a big year as globally demand for rental and resale explodes.
- Founders Dean Jones and Audrey Khaing-Jones started the company nine years ago with 30 garments, and now they’re providing Australian brands with insights and tech they need to enter the circular fashion economy.
- “My prediction for the future is you will see more and more brands continue to invest in circular fashion,” Jones told Business Insider Australia.
- Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.
Fashion rental platforms have been the surprise success story of the pandemic.
With offices closed, brick and mortar stores shuttered, and closets full of unworn clothes, it’s natural that women would emerge from lockdown with a desire to Marie Kondo their wardrobes and rethink the utility of dresses worn once and consigned to outfit purgatory.
“We’re seeing consumers and brands alike completely embracing sustainable and circular fashion in Australia,” co-founder of Australian fashion rental platform GlamCorner, Dean Jones told Business Insider Australia of the company’s recently announced partnership with cult Aussie label Spell, the latest in a series of collaborations with Australian retailers.
In the UK in 2020 luxury department store Selfridges set up a permanent in-store and online resale platform for customers as part of what it calls its “transformational sustainability initiative.”
In early March, iconic American brand Ralph Lauren launched a monthly subscription service, making it the first luxury brand in the US to take a plunge into the fashion rental market.
Since the launch in 2009 of US-based startup Rent the Runway, which is now valued at over US$1 billion, the fashion rental market has been slowly but surely gaining traction, as consumers shift their mindset and behaviour around renting.
“Especially in the past couple of years we’ve seen a real acceleration” towards circular fashion models, Jones said, as the infrastructure around circular fashion catches up to consumer demand.
The global fashion industry is the second-most polluting industry in the world behind oil, Jones said.
It’s a fact consumers have been aware of for some time, but the fashion industry has to date provided few solutions. The rental industry gives these shoppers an out; a way to participate in the system built by fast fashion without contributing to its worst impulses.
‘We’re building the Netflix of fashion’
GlamCorner, founded in 2012 in Sydney by husband and wife team Dean Jones and Audrey Khaing-Jones, is one of the few rental platforms available for Australian consumers.
Both worked in finance before deciding to launch their business with the goal of building “the largest wardrobe in the country,” Jones said.
Since launching nine years ago, it’s grown from providing 30 garments, to renting out around 50 tons of clothing a month with a team of 130 employees.
Jones said Audrey was the company’s first customer, and it was her dilemma they set out to solve; frustration with the cliche of piles of clothes and nothing to wear, coupled with an awareness that most women only wear a third of their wardrobe and consistently borrow from friends and family.
“You could say that the sharing economy for clothing is arguably one of the oldest sharing economies in existence,” Jones said, and he thinks the growing demand for rental has come from data-driven businesses leveraging customer insights and streamlining processes that make it easy for consumers to opt in.
“We’re removing the burden of ownership for our customers,” Jones said.
I know everyone says this, but “we’re building the Netflix of fashion for our customers,” he added.
“Uber didn’t exactly invent ride-sharing, it just invented technology that allowed that already existing behaviour.”
GlamCorner utilises a subscription model, with two tiers offered at $99 and $149 a month respectively. The top tier, which offers an unlimited stream of deliveries per month, now accounts for 50% of revenue.
In the past year, Jones said a raft of partnerships with department store David Jones, Country Road, along with cult Australian brand Spell, announced earlier this April, have improved brand awareness for their business and increased sales. He said there are more fashion partnerships in the pipeline.
The platform’s partnerships offer customers a rental collection from new and previous season collections for four to eight days through an online platform that’s entirely powered and fulfilled by GlamCorner, giving brands a risk-free pathway into rental.
Jones said more and more brands want to explore offering a rental option but don’t have the resources or infrastructure to do it themselves. He considers one of the company’s biggest successes helping Australian retailers get into the circular economy.
“We’re interested in helping the industry,” he said.
‘Fashion rental is a phenomenal way to ‘de-risk’
The company did not share numbers, but said its subscriber base is in the hundreds of thousands, and – perhaps surprisingly – doesn’t necessarily fit into a higher income bracket.
“Our customer is the average Australian woman,” Jones said, from university students on a tight budget right through to executives “who have a lot of client meetings and need to keep their wardrobes updated.”
Jones said the fastest-growing segment of the business was workwear, as flexible work becomes the new normal, and categories like athleisure that have traditionally been outside the scope for the rental market, but have seen increased demand as the company’s offering expanded.
The mindset-shift from consumers has led retailers rushing to catch up, Jones said, and particularly in fashion, where margins are razor thin, and waste often comes from poorly selling products, there’s a huge advantage for fashion businesses to better understand their customers.
The brands that work with GlamCorner essentially use the platform’s analytics as market research; they can test designs to see what sells, and iterate on that intel for future collections.
“Fashion rental is a phenomenal way to ‘de-risk’ that without betting the farm on an entire season,” Jones said.
“You get a lot of really useful feedback from your customer user base without producing massive waves of clothing.”
He also said brands tap into “new types of customers” through the platform; for example women who may not have chosen to buy clothes from a high-end designer who can now rent.
‘A really big, structural trend’
Joining established resale platforms like The Outnet, Vestiare Collective and Depop, and established players like Rent the Runway that don’t offer a service to Australian consumers, Jones thinks the Australian market has reached an inflection point in its embrace of fashion rental.
“Sustainable circular fashion is a really big, structural trend happening in the industry,” Jones said.
While the company doesn’t have plans to expand outside Australia, they’re focused on expanding business locally, anticipating the rental market will only grow.
“My prediction for the future is you will see more and more brands continue to invest in circular fashion.”