With dreams of bringing Haute Couture into the lives of Indians oblivious to high fashion, Shilpa Bhatia runs her venture called The Clothing Rental. Its USP is the unique facility of renting out clothes, rather than buying them outright. She is an entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience as a stylist, public relations, brand building and business development specialist.
Please tell us about you
I consider myself to be a fashion entrepreneur. I have studied every aspect of fashion in India, New York and Milan. That includes studying fashion in Parsons NY and doing an entrepreneurship in NYU. I have also studied design, forecasting, retail and the business side of fashion. I am currently exploring Social Media and its power of advertising / marketing for business.
How did you come with this idea?
People had expectations of a certain type of look, which replicated high fashion brands and looked very classy and stylish. But, they were not willing to pay dollar for the big brands and instead wanted customized clothing options from Indian sources. I was frustrated because of lack of decent budgets, and the Indian tailors and artisan’s unfamiliarity with high fashion brands and fashion style. The finished product would very often be substandard or look like a below average knock-off. So, I decided to sort out my requirements, which were usually for a few suits, cool jeans etc. I decided to start this off as a personal hobby to ease up my issues with sub-par clothing. I started getting clothes from big brands and renting them off to my own projects.
I wasn’t making money off the clothes but mainly on my styling projects. In most cases, I was renting out a 25k suit for about 1 – 2,000 people. I wasn’t thinking from a business aspect back then. 2-3 years later, I started getting competition and other people started renting out clothes. I realized that even if I lost out on styling projects, my clothes would still go out on her competitor’s projects. I started to realize that my little idea had major business potential.
What inspired you to work for the fashion industry?
I was good at drawing and enjoyed art since a young age. I was a smart kid who was good at studies, and sketching and designing were my hobbies. My mom’s a Doctor, and dad is an Engineer by profession. They wanted me to pursue a similar field of study. But in-spite of having great expectations from my 12th standard board exam results, my performances weren’t exactly up to the mark. Subsequently, I decided not to dwell in the past and enrolled in a design school.
Throw some light on the type of clientele that you have?
A lot of my clothes have featured in movies and ad shoots, and film stars and celebrities have worn my clothes rather frequently. A lot of movies have featured clothes sourced from the Clothing Rental. I also provide custom designed clothes for some premium clients based on their requirements and tastes. Apart from the clothes, I also handle styling duties for clients based on events and their requirements like pre-wedding shoots or parties / movies / ad-shoots.
Mainly, people from age 18 to 45 have come to get clothes from me. In terms of money, people from both ends of the spectrum, i.e. the super-rich and the moderately or not so well off have come to me for their clothing needs. Fashion – aware people who belong to a cosmopolitan setting and people without any inkling of fashion who come from humble backgrounds have also come to my store. People mainly come to know about my store through Google, services like Just Dial and word of mouth.
How do you source your clothes?
I have worked in the fashion industry long enough to have a vast network of contacts. I find out about their portfolio, and urge them to provide clothes that I like at reasonable discounts. I also follow brands from around the world, and source directly from them when required.
How do you keep tabs on fashion trends?
Due to my past experience and the nature of my work, I am extremely connected to people in the fashion and film industry. I regularly read about global fashion trends in France, London, Milan and New York. I am also in touch with top fashion brands of the world, and I also procure stuff from them directly time and again. I travel extensively to see fashion trends first-hand. I am also glued in to global fashion forecasts to understand what I need to buy and what trends are not in fashion. In my experience, India picks up on global trends a little slowly. I pick up clothes and sometimes wait for them to trend in India so that demand picks up.
What is the market size and opportunity for this type of business?
India is an immense market; it’s a diamond mine waiting to explode. There is a market for retail and then a secondary market for rental or resale. We are in talks with parties to expand into US, UK and China. However we are still in initial talks. I would say rental and shared economy is the future trend and the world is ours to conquer.