Download the latest issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine just for ₹69/-

Meet 4 Women Behind India’s Rental Fashion Movement

The women behind the country's burgeoning clothing and accessory rental fashion movement tell us why it’s the future of fashion. 

1. Sabena Puri CEO and Co-Founder, Stage3

“We launched Stage3 in 2015 with a mission to make top designers affordable and accessible to everyone. We built an inventory of top-tier designers like Sabyasachi, Shantanu & Nikhil, Ritu Kumar, etc, by buying it at a markdown, and renting it out at a price as low as `599. With time, we’ve established a name for ourselves, and are now working with most designers on a revenue-sharing basis. Recently, celebrity stylist Rhea Kapoor joined us as Style Director, helping us add more designers to our roster. We also procure inventory through customers who want to make money off their closets, which means you can get paid for your old, designer goods! The rise of ‘sharing economy’ is a big deal across sectors—think platforms like Uber, Netflix, and AirBnB. With the power of technology and Internet, we’re creating a ‘sharing economy’ for fashion, helping people experiment with their style without having to commit to an expensive designer piece. As of this month, Stage3 has over 70K signed-up users, and nearly 50% of them are recurring customers who have run up over 40,000 transactions till date. We believe in creating an engaged community—our team of stylists help customers find their dream outfit through in-store and telephonic styling sessions. And there’s even more—we just launched the Stage3-On-Wheels service in Delhi-NCR, to make our service accessible to people at their door-step. Right now, we offer clothing and select accessories (like jewellery) for both men and women, and very soon, we will be expanding into categories like handbags, plus-size clothing, maternitywear, etc, and introducing a subscription service!”

2. Ashri Jaiswal Co-Founder, Ziniosa

“Both Varun Ramani (Co-Founder) and I are engineers and were working in the US. My passion for fashion and Varun’s fascination with the rental economy led us back to India. During our initial research, we spoke to nearly 2,000 potential customers to identify their pain points while buying a luxury product, and the biggest gap was in the handbag category. To combat issues like high prices, unavailability, and an Instagram lifestyle where nobody wants to repeat an outfit, we launched Ziniosa, an exclusive handbag rental service. Currently, we function on a hybrid handbag procurement model—we own some of the products and also let customers rent out their own handbags through us. We understood early on in our journey that people are still figuring out how rental services work and in an attempt to simplify the process, we assign a stylist to each customer to help them make the right pick from brands like Gucci, Sabyasachi, Michael Kors, Coach, among others. Our customers are digitally-savvy women, and renting bags gives them an opportunity to spend more on experiences and less on ownership. Our team curates products basis the current fashion trends—it also makes more sense for millennials to rent a bag worth one lakh at around `4,000 for four days to a week (depending on the brand). As we’ve experienced a surge in customers, we will be launching a pre-loved and vintage luxury handbag section soon.”

3. Shilpa Bhatia Co-Founder, The Clothing Rental

“Launched in 2005, The Clothing Rental (TCR) was one of the first rental services in India. Back then, we catered to the media industry, where shoots often require a certain aesthetic, but on a tight budget. We started renting out clothes to stylists for celebrities and editorial shoots, and soon realised that there is a market for designer rentals otherwise as well. A decade later, in 2015, we opened our doors to consumers, in an attempt to bring everyone an extensive variety of designerwear at a fair price. When we started out, convincing designers was a difficult, but now, some of the biggest names in the industry reach out to brands like us to off-load their garments. Since the market is still warming up to clothing rental solutions, our model is fairly simplistic right now—we offer a complete solution for all occasions. We source from designers all over the world and often buy pieces at full price. Catering to both men and women, our customers can not only rent, but also buy select merchandise from our website. In the past 15 years, we’ve seen a surge in such services. Many competitors come well-funded, making a huge splash when they enter the industry—offering crazy deals, free deliveries and pick-ups, alterations at very low prices to gain market share. The reason we’ve been around for so long is because we’ve stuck to great service at a great price.”

4. Payal Batra, Co-Founder, Lionise

"I once calculated what my wardrobe was worth and came to a realisation that it was all a waste because I won’t be wearing 70% of it ever again. Turns out, it wasn’t just me—many of my friends play safe when it comes to clothes and consider buying expensive pieces a total waste. That’s when it struck me to launch Lionise. ‘Lionise’ is an English verb that means to ‘treat someone as a celebrity’. Befitting to our name, our mission is to bridge the gap between high fashion houses and consumers, helping every woman feel confident and fashionably empowered. It would have been naïve to start a venture on a whim—and from a single person’s point of view—so Aman Kaushal (Co-Founder) and I surveyed around 500 women, quizzing them on their shopping patterns. Once we had enough data, the next six months were spent building technology and setting hygiene and logistics processes. Finally, we launched Lionise in 2018. Most of the labels we work with understand that rental is a part of the fashion industry and is here to stay. In just two years, we have built an inventory of international brands like Alice + Olivia, Alexander McQueen, Nicole Miller, Antonio Berardi et al, and a host of Indian ones like Ridhima Bhasin, Satya Paul, SVA Couture among others. Renting is the future of fashion, not ownership. It is also more sustainable. In the coming months, we’ll be launching several new services like helping users create an entire ensemble on our platform, and aim to cut our response time for delivery by optimising custom sizing, ensemble suggestions and customer styling through AI-based technology solutions. We are also partnering with a number of sustainable fashion brands in India to truly contribute to the circular fashion movement and play our part in the sustainable fashion economy.”