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The Renting Circus

How the fashion enthusiasts in India are coping with designer apparel renting business

If you happened to follow the extraordinaire outfits guests at Sonam Kapoor’s wedding wore, you now have a knack for everything fashion designers in the country do in the name of opulent occasion wear. And for most of the attendees, this opulence perhaps came at no cost. Believe me! if you were getting photographed like celebrities do in India, you wouldn’t have to pay a buck for any designer wear you had your eye on either. But, as most of us aren’t, a few start-ups in India are making it easier for people’s designer dreams to come true, at a nominal cost. No, you don’t get to keep the outfit, but just wear it for a few days — anywhere between three to six days — and have someone collect it from your home after. It is really that simple.
In India, while we have 56 percent of Indians (around 680 million people) lacking the ability to meet their basic needs, there are others who will be enabling the booming of the clothing rental market, which has reached $4-5 billion in the last few years. But what triggers the desire to dress in unaffordable clothes, sometimes with its over-the-top silhouettes? It is perhaps the outbreak of fashion industry in India, especially the occasion wear market and fashion’s consumption through mediums like social media.

One of the testimonials on Flyrobe, a designer clothing rental platform reads like this: “I chose this Lehenga to wear it on my sister’s engagement ceremony. The intricate sequin work on the lehenga was extremely beautiful. I received a lot of compliments.” Many a time, the shine, glitter and flamboyance of one’s outfit are accepted as indicators of one’s wealth. The number of compliments one receives, is directly proportional to how one deems an outfit worthy of its rent.

Stage3, a Delhi-based start-up offers customers style recommendations based on one’s body measurements, personal style and occasion for which the garment is required. The platform recently started designer apparel on rent for plus-sized women as well, a segment that is seeing an increase in demand. There is a pick and drop facility available with most such services and outfits that are altered to one’s size.

We all want to splurge on clothes so much that it does not burn a hole in our pockets. These initiatives play with our urge to indulge in things that don’t fit our budget. The idea of renting out designer dresses we have been lusting over, for a fraction of the cost is overwhelming for most of us. There will be multiple questions crossing your mind if you scroll through the options available on these renting platforms, like, “will it fit me well? Will it be clean?” But these websites have gone through these concerns already.

Even the brides this season are choosing to be less sentimental and going for a route less taken, i.e. renting out their wedding attire and jewellery. A decent wedding dress with suitable jewellery can cost anything up to R1 lakh and spending that kind of money on outfits that one wears for a day is realised to be an outdated idea by the new age brides. Garima Maheshwari of The Bride Fashion Boutique, believes the main reason for the increase in renting of wedding outfits in India are couples being more wise about their spendings. Nevertheless, it is a thing for a very few, daring ones who choose to not have memorabilia from a coveted ceremony of their lives by renting out the outfit itself.

Shreya Khurana of Es clothing tells about her stand on this. “Both as a designer and consumer I think it is unnecessary. Good looking clothes are available at every price. So instead of renting out a lehenga for a night I’d rather buy something for a similar amount from a smaller name. But I’d like to call it mine.”

The rental business that started when a few designer boutiques started giving out designer clothing on rent has now taken the online space by storm. There has been an entry of several players in the apparel rental segment in the last two years. Apart from Flyrobe and Stage3, there are LibeRent, Envoged, Zapyle, Blinge, and Rent It Bae. The promise of these rental services is that they rent looks and not clothes. The curation meets the personal style and needs of the customer. India is shopping more than ever before, undeterred by the industry’s reputation for its impact on the environment. In a scenario like that, we do have the sharing economy to do some good to the ecology. The personal motive may be different but it adds to the larger picture.