Wardrobe is a just-launched circular clothing rental platform aiming to take sustainability and affordability to the next level, letting members borrow luxury, designer and vintage fashion from each other’s closets
In this interview, PSFK speaks to Adarsh Alphons, CEO and Founder of Wardrobe, about enabling circular luxury apparel rental, providing members of the P2P sharing platform with a seamless system that solves many of the common consumer pain points around renting clothes: convenience, cleanliness and value. Ultimately, he hopes to create a bustling network of members eager to discover rare, vintage and even couture pieces.
PSFK: What inspired you to found Wardrobe?
Adarsh: The idea for Wardrobe occured to me while attending a wedding in India. While admiring the elaborate outfits of fellow guests, I was reminded of how many of my own clothes at home remained untouched or worn no more than a handful of times. In a world where millions of strangers use Airbnb to stay in each other's houses globally, I wondered if it would be possible to normalize a world in which we borrowed clothes from strangers in lieu of constantly spending money on new items.
We only wear 20% of our wardrobe regularly. In the U.K. alone, 3.6 billion clothes were left unworn last year — and the U.S. has 5X the population of the U.K. Globally, billions of clothes go completely underused in our closets every year, while consumption in fashion has doubled in the past decade — people want to try new things. Our goal is to address both these realities with one managed, seamless marketplace.
What drove you to use local dry cleaners as hubs?
I realized pretty early on that to make Wardrobe successful at scale, we would have to make the experience seamless, predictable and repeatable. We decided to partner with local dry cleaners (we call them Hubs) as we needed to make the logistics and operations of the rental marketplace consistent. Fashion and in particular renting is all about logistics. Furthermore, dry cleaners are able to warehouse, inspect and clean the items in between rentals. We considered all kinds of options, including laundromats and bodegas.
Tell us about how Wardrobe embodies its values of sustainability, transparency and gender fluidity.
We are building a new way to interact with clothes and each other, through circularity, transparency and quality. Wardrobe’s values are a natural extension of its users — real people with real bodies and real closets. While circular fashion is an obvious objective of our marketplace (we are the literal embodiment of it), we also think it’s important to highlight processes, support local institutions (local dry cleaners) and each other.
Tell us a little more about how the service works! How have you designed the app experience as well as pickup and dropoff to be seamless and convenient?
We designed the app experience completely ground-up and based on user feedback. Progressively iterating the product from private beta to public beta to launch, we gathered feedback and data from thousands of users, dry cleaners and rentals to make the renting and lending experience as seamless and intuitive as possible. The product experience we built today is something we never could have predicted when we started working on Wardrobe. In the current app, you can book an item in 3-5 clicks, including picking dates and choosing how you want it delivered to you (pick-up at Hub or delivered to your home). We also regularly focus-grouped and A/B-tested design iterations.
Currently, the hubs are located across Manhattan. Would you consider expanding to other areas?
We decided to zero-in on Manhattan for our launch for two principal reasons: Manhattan already offers a large cohort of our core customer base, and we wanted to focus on providing consistent service experience to these users. Particularly since there’s quite a bit of logistics involved in this business, limiting the coverage area at launch helps ensure everything runs smoothly. Once we’re able to prove consistency in service in this area, we’ll be branching out.
For your launch, you focused on womenswear. Would you consider other groups down the line?
We are definitely considering men’s and kids' lines in the future. As a go-to-market, we are going to focus on one group that has already shown a high amount of adoption of Wardrobe: the contemporary working woman. Once we have met our internal metrics with this cohort, we'll expand to other areas.
What do you think we will see more, or less of, in the future of sustainable and ethical fashion retail? More p2p, more subscription rentals — or something else? We spoke to the founder of menswear e-rental service The Rotation, who hopes that one day, our entire everyday wardrobes could be delivered on a weekly basis, even for categories like streetwear. What do you hope to see for the future of fashion?
We believe we’ll see more circularity and more focus on process. However, I do believe convenience and price-sensitivity are here to stay as well. Simply put, we believe companies will have to deliver sustainable products using logistics and offer their products at price points that make it very easy for the average user to participate.
Lead image: Wardrobe