If we learned anything from Kim and Kanye's 73 Questions video with Vogue, we know that perhaps the most conspicuous consumption of all is appearing to own next to nothing. While this example of high-end minimalism might seem extreme, it can be seen to speak to several consumption patterns taking hold: the democratization of luxury, and the rise of the sharing and rental economies.
This second trend offers several benefits in line with modern consumer values: flexibility and reduced commitment, accessibility thanks to lower costs and greater environmental sustainability. For the fashion industry in particular, known for its carbon footprint and waste generation, rental models are becoming increasingly popular, and sharing capabilities are continuing to pop up across the price spectrum. With personalized e-rental and styling service Armoire, CEO Ambika Singh perceived an opportunity to not only clean up women's cluttered closets along with the environment, but also to increase fashion accessibility for everyday working women, who increasingly value variety and novelty.
PSFK spoke to Singh about how Armoire works to create rental-based, entirely personalized virtual wardrobes for women, enabling them to evolve their styles, accommodate changing sizes (especially for pregnancy), increase accessibility to premium brands, all while disrupting a wasteful industry with a highly sustainable model:
PSFK: What trends did you notice in the apparel space that drove you to found Armoire?
Ambika Singh: Armoire was created to relieve the pressures the “modern boss lady” feels to always dress the part. Being from Seattle, I also care deeply about the environment and knew there was a better and more convenient way to get dressed.
The U.S. has seen a rise in mass consumption, leading to a rise in fast fashion. It creates this pressure to stay up-to-date with trends, which is incredibly costly, both to the consumer and in terms of the resources this takes. Clothing rental is a way to consume responsibly, giving the consumer the ability to stay on trend and try new things without the guilt or waste of owning so many material goods.
What were any unmet consumer needs, particularly for women, that you identified and strive to meet with Armoire?
The professional woman isn’t being spoken to, so we’ve taken an active approach. So many of our customers are busy—whether they’re CEOs, lawyers, or moms, and don’t have the time required to find clothes that fit her style, body and are affordable. We strive to give this time back to her, streamlining our service so that she can choose from clothing that has already been selected as styles she might like, as well as taking care of dry cleaning and mailing her package right to her.
With women in particular, there’s a tremendous amount of pressure to stay on trend and always look put together. Wearing the same outfit twice is always seen as uncouth, while our male counterparts can wear the same suit everyday. With Armoire, the customer is able to return garments whenever she is done with them, giving her access to an unlimited wardrobe, changing easily with trends, seasons, or events.
Tell us about some of the other problems and pain points that Armoire solves for, like issues with sustainability and affordability.
The need to produce in order to keep up with the demand is detrimental to the environment. About 20% of industrial water pollution is due to garment manufacturing. As consumers, we often don’t realize how damaging our consumption habits can be, especially when it comes to fast fashion.
Needless to say, rental drastically helps reduce individual consumption. It also helps increase the lifespan of a garment, increasing the number of times a garment is worn before it is thrown away. Not only does rental provide a more sustainable business model, but a more affordable lifestyle for the consumer. Women don’t have to feel guilty about renting something they’ll wear once.
Finally, are there any other reasons why you think clothing rental, especially now at more premium price points, is taking off?
The sharing economy has done a lot to de-stigmatize renting, whether it’s sharing cars with Uber or houses with Airbnb, so why not clothing, too? Renting also allows us to meet our needs in the moment without a permanent impact, allowing us to focus both on decluttering our own lives and reducing the industry impact.
While one of our members may not be interested in buying that $500 designer dress in a unique print that’s a bit outside her comfort zone, she would rent it and be able to experience the thrill, joy and confidence boost that it brings. With Armoire, we see so many members who try and end up loving things they would never buy because of this innate lack of commitment which renting provides.
Lead image: stock photos from puhhha/Shutterstock