Zeroing down on fashion rental — Why and How?
This is “dressrs — part 1”
Let me walk you through the last ~2 years of my life — from when I first thought of starting dressrs. It would take more than just one article, but I’ve got time.
I have been playing around with ideas in the fashion & lifestyle space for a while now — ever since I was working on marketing strategies at Myntra, back in 2012. The last product I was trying to build was about understanding a customer and suggesting him/her at most 20 items from various e-commerce websites — with the guarantee that she would probably not need to click that small, hidden in plain sight “show me more options” link at the bottom. We ran it for a few months in beta, in Singapore, before a company got interested in it, and bought me off. I had not even gotten a chance to register the company yet.
So, when I started thinking of dressrs, the idea was very simple. To deliver fashion and style to the consumers, and not clothes. But, aren’t they one and the same, you ask. No, they are not. Fashion, style — these are primarily emotions, feelings. Clothes => they are physical products, that take physical space in your wardrobe and cost real money. The prevalent way of styling yourself up has remained the same for decades (if not centuries) now. You want to change the way you look? Shop more! Now, it doesn’t matter if you are buying things off on a sale, it is still costing you money. And more importantly, it is costing you that precious real estate in your wardrobe — a resource you keep on running low on, with every passing day and every added garment.
When I cleared out my apartment in 2013, I found out at least 5 dresses of my ex that still had the price tags on them, maybe more than a dozen that looked like they had been worn just once. I couldn’t obviously wear any of that, so I threw it all out. But why would she keep on buying more stuff when she had not even gone through the ones she had. Because,
a. when it comes to fashion, what you wear is decided (and it reflects) how you are feeling inside. And how one feels inside is quite a fickle thing.
b. no number of clothes is ever enough. (Can I get a Hell Yeah from all the girls out there?)
A wardrobe full of clothes, yet nothing to wear was not a problem that was unique to her. I have found girls everywhere suffering from the same (weirdly enough, exact same) problem. You do a quick google search, and the number of images and memes around this theme is confounding. So the problem was there, and we had a chance to try solving it.
The whole idea of dressrs originated from the business of Rent The Runway. We cherrypicked their operating model and then we started chipping and chiseling at it here and there. Till it started making sense.
Now, I am a firm believer in being wrong. So I needed to experiment. Easiest way?
- My co-conspirator, Ankita, opened up Myntra and other apps, chose some 100 garments that she thought were stylish
- We ordered and waited for them to get delivered
- I got the first delivery box made [We have experimented quite a lot with your packaging design, always trying to make it better, cooler. More on that some other time. The concept design of this particular box came from a fast food delivery service]
- We set out to test out our hypothesis by parking our asses for a few weeks in two college campuses — one in Bangalore (4 weeks), one in Hyderabad (2 weeks)
What were the hypothesis we were trying to validate?
- Style trumps brand — We had come to this conclusion after talking to a lot of consumers. If you asked them what matters more to them — the brand of a dress or how they think it would look on them, the majority of the responses were in favor of the perceived image. But it was still a decent breakup. The next thing we did was to show consumers images of various dresses. The pages had product pics, price, sizes, and the brand name/logo was placed in such a way that it wasn’t in your face, and for some — not even noticeable. We looked at heatmaps, tracked their interests. So, we had arrived at a hypothesis. Style trumps brand name. But now, we needed to test it out with real live audience who would be shelling out real money for a real service, and not just sitting on their computer screens.
Note: We are, in no way, even trying to say that brand doesn’t matter to consumers. Of course it does. Brands, in many cases, are aspirational. The big realisation was — it doesn’t matter as much to the consumers as you and I would have expected.
- We should go wider than cater to occasion specific needs — It made sense to cater to occasions and special events — weddings, date nights, weekend outings etc. These would be high ticket sized carts, margins would be higher, and it would be much easier to convince a customer. But we thought this can be done mainstream. We can be a solution to the everyday struggle a woman has with her wardrobe.
So, we offered our services — at flat rates of Rs.150 and Rs.200 — one garment, one day. The response was amazing. By the end of the month, we had validated our hypotheses, and we had run into a massive problem.
It was simply impossible to scale this business up!
Tomorrow, the big reveal — the first challenge dressrs faced. The first of many, to be honest.
I know. I am watching too many tv series. Leaving a story on a cliffhanger.