The pair of Chris Halim and Raena Lim have found an opportunity to improve the sustainability of the fashion industry from within by launching the Style Theoryclothing rental app.
The co-founders of the Singapore-based company offer the opportunity to rent clothes to customers based on a monthly subscription. The app so far counts 200,000 subscribers in Singapore and Indonesia and has 50,000 clothes and 2,000 bags available for rent.
The question and the idea
According to the CNBC report, the idea was born when, in “far-off” 2016, the former Goldman Sachs executive couldn’t decide what to wear. “You have so many clothes and you don’t know what to wear?”, Halim had asked himself. This rhetorical question, which has been repeated millions of times across the world between couples, “fired up” Lim’s mathematical and financial brain and gave birth to the idea of the new app.
Sustainability and growth
Lim, who had worked for years in an NGO in Kenya and knew from the inside about the unnecessary wastefulness of the fashion industry, saw an opportunity to make a difference. The textile industry produces pollutants equal to 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, far outstripping shipping and aviation. The pollution caused by the industry has brought to the fore new clothing rental apps for users who want to fight climate change in their own way.
The first of these was the US-based Rent The Runway in 2009, which led to the subsequent creation of the UK’s My Wardrobe HQ and Australia’s GlamCorner. However, problems in the Southeast Asian supply chain have – until now – been a barrier to creating a similar app in the region.
The pair launched a pilot, with a waiting list to make sure they had enough clothes to rent. Based on the data, they changed their approach, building stock by partnering with specific brands and clothing stores. Style Theory receives a share of the $95 monthly subscription fee to manage, ship and clean the clothes. It didn’t take long for the app to catch fire, attracting investors such as SoftBank, JWC Ventures and Paradise Group who have invested around $30 million in the company.
The start-up sector
This funding also marks the potential of the promising sector which in 2019 had a total valuation of $1.2 billion. By 2027, the valuation of the sector is expected to reach $2.8 billion .
Much of this growth is driven by the Southeast Asian market. According to Research Nester, the region will account for 22.14% of global consumption by 2027.
Style Theory saw an opportunity to change its approach in the midst of the pandemic through the resale of clothing. However, the sector was hit by fears over the ease of coronavirus transmission, and Halim reports that Style Theory has recovered to 75% of its total users compared to pre-pandemic levels.
The pair now plan to expand the app’s product range to include clothing for men and children and are preparing to launch the app in Hong Kong.
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