The closet in the cloud

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Cloud consumption has reached the fashion world. A new business model is seeing firms pop up to offer vintage and designer clothes rental, creating virtual wardrobes for shoppers. After wearing items, they send them back leaving the companies to take care of maintenance and cleaning with optional insurance against damage on the night.

The newest name on the scene is WishWantWear, currently running a limited online pilot service due for full launch this autumn. It follows in the footstep of pop singer Lily Allen’s London-based boutique Lucy in Disguise, which launched last September and rents out items from its store. Meanwhile, Girl Meets Dress, a website launched by Anna Bance in 2008, has been offering the cloud consumption service for several years.

Bance says consumers’ attitudes towards buying clothing have changed in recent times, driving them to seek more variety of outfits. Photos of what someone wore at any given party are likely to be online within hours.

“The proliferation of social media has a lot to do with an increasing social pressure, which has heightened the growing desire for people to make a statement with their fashion and for a woman’s inherent desire not to wear the same dress twice,” she explains.

With garments and accessories offered at up to one-third of the retail price, such cloud fashion seeks to attract repeat business from customers whenever an occasion calls for something slightly more special. For many customers, it stops them both wasting money and having to store racks of unused dresses.

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WishWantWear co-founder Suruchi Bhargava adds: “We encourage women to think of it as an extension of their wardrobe.”

It is not just the person on the street seeking these services. WishWantWear recently partnered with the Bafta TV Awards, for example, dressing attendees in designer gowns. According to Bance, aside from the benefits of celebrity exposure, there are significant marketing opportunities available to designer brands in letting consumers pick their clothes from the cloud.

“Women will typically only have tried a few high-end designer brands in their lifetime, if any. With rental, designer labels get to be introduced to potential customers on a regular basis – 98% of our customers try a new brand they have never worn previously in their life. That is a huge marketing opportunity for designers trying to reach new customers and the next generation on a mass scale.”

WishWantWear’s Bhargava claims there is also an appeal for seasoned wearers of designer couture. “We offer consumers who are already able to afford to buy a few dresses a year the chance to be more experimental and have a bit of fun with fashion, without having the price at the back of their minds.”

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