What if you could have access to an entire range of Designer clothes and accessories without having to buy a single one? What if there was a one stop-shop where Designer Wear would be available for hire, and you would no longer have to worry about spending a fortune for something you want to wear just once?!This is exactly what Secret Wardrobe is all about ... India's first online rental service for Designer Wear. In conversation with Abhilasha Dafria for Yourstory, founder Jessica Nagpal, tells us more about how she helps her customers experience the joy and luxury of wearing gorgeous garments designed by some of India's most famous designers at a fraction of the cost and flaunt a new look on every occasion!
Jessica, please introduce yourself and Secret Wardrobe to our readers.
I am a graduate of Film & Video Communication from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad and have worked on various documentaries, corporate films and television shows over the years. My films have been telecast on various television channels including the National Geographic Channel Network etc.
Secret Wardrobe is India’s first online rental service for Designer Wear, where designer outfits and accessories are available on a rental basis at a fraction of the actual retail price. Be it a wedding or a pre-wedding function, a glitterati party or a cocktail evening, a corporate do or a beach party, an ad film shoot or a photo shoot … there’s something for everyone at Secret Wardrobe - available at an incredible price! And not just this, there is also a Secret Wardrobe Hall of Fame, where viewers can see what their favourite celebs are wearing and rent the same outfits!
So how did you come up with this idea?
This venture was conceptualized while I was making a documentary film on Indian handlooms, which involved interaction with several designers. The basic idea is that many people find it unaffordable to invest in purchasing high fashion items on a regular basis. Also, no woman likes to repeat an outfit more than once. Secret Wardrobe offers a practical solution to all these problems.
Tell us more about your products and services.
We currently offer Indian garments as well as Western. These include sarees, lehenga cholis, shervanis, wedding gowns, western dresses, salwar suits and anarkalis. We have recently launched our bridal collection, and we also offer bridal jewellery for hire. Apart from rentals, we have recently started an in-house design department. If a client doesn’t find what they are looking for, we offer to design it for them. This includes evening gowns, bridal wear and much more!
Which designers are on board already?
Our current collection includes some of India's leading designer labels like Satya Paul, Wendell Rodricks, Sabyasachi, Ranna Gill, Kavita Bhartia, Rahul Mishra, Sabbah Sharma, Maheka Mirpuri, Abraham and Thakore and Malini Ramani amongst others.
What are the typical challenges you face in this line of rental clothing? How do you handle the damage to goods, warranty, etc?
We face many challenges in this line. One of the major challenges is dealing with sizing issues. We do alter the pieces according to the customer’s size, but sometimes for certain garments (like wedding gowns) we have to turn down a client who is of an XL or larger size if the alteration is not possible. We keep a security deposit (between Rs.5000-Rs.10,000) from our customers each time an item gets rented. In case there is any damage, the appropriate amount is deducted from the security deposit. We don’t charge them for normal wear and tear (such as missing sequins, stuck zippers etc.). These repairs are done and the piece is dry-cleaned by us before it reaches the next customer.
What is your market size like? Who is your typical customer? Any interesting trends about the market you are trying to capture?Out of Mumbai’s population of 20.8 million (approx.), the SEC (Socio Economic Classification) A&B population (graduates/ post-graduates /diploma holders & upper most segment of the consumer class) above the age of 20 years equals 11 million (approx.). Both men and women are the target audience of Secret Wardrobe, however currently 80% of the inventory caters to a female audience.
The bridal sector is the most promising for us, and a majority of our clientele consists of prospective brides and bridegrooms, along with their family members who rent outfits to wear at the wedding and pre-wedding functions. They usually come from the middle and upper middle class income groups.
Our clients also include models getting their portfolios clicked, film costume stylists, people attending high end parties etc. We would like to capture a larger chunk of this segment.
How does the revenue model work with the designers you are tied up with?
We have different tie ups with different designers, but basically we purchase the outfits at a discounted cost and then rent them out. We also offer the opportunity for people to convert their outfits into assets which fetch them returns. If you have an amazing outfit which is still in good condition, you can bring it to Secret Wardrobe. If we feel it fits into our collection, we will keep it with us and give you 40% of the rental each time it gets rented.
What are the typical margins you make?
Margins are variable depending on how much we purchased a particular garment for.
How has the response been so far?
We launched Secret Wardrobe in June 2011, and it has been an incredible journey and learning experience since then. In less than six months, we have built up a steady stream of clientele, with bookings done right through till March. We have also begun our own design department in this short time span.
How big is your team? Are you looking at hiring?
The team is currently very small. Apart from myself (Managing Director), there is a Styling Executive, Bhavi Agathiya who is a trained fashion designer. We also have in house tailors etc. At the moment we are not hiring.
Where are you based?
We are currently based in Andheri West, Mumbai. We will soon be shifting to a new boutique and announcing the launch of the same.
How much percentage of revenue comes from your e-commerce store?
At the moment most of our revenue comes from people who visit our boutique. Renting itself is a new concept in India, and people always want to try on the outfit before hiring. They often have concerns about the fitting, condition of the garments etc. which get answered only once they try the actual piece. The website helps us showcase our products and attract customers.
Are you looking at getting funded now?
We hadn’t done any serious fund-raising in the initial phase, but now that the model has proved to be successful, we would be open to begin the process of fund-raising.
Are there other players in the market doing similar things? What is your USP?
There are some players in Delhi and Kolkata who run similar rental services, though I don’t know much about them. Our USP is that we also keep high end designer labels and are accessible on an online platform.
Could you tell us how it is to start an e-commerce venture in this field? Any vital tips for budding entrepreneurs?
E-commerce is an emerging and fast growing sector in India, but is still not as mature a market here as it is in countries like the US and UK. In the clothing sector, one needs to be very sure that all possible parameters of sizing, material, fitting etc. are clear on the website so that there are no unanswered questions in the customer’s mind, and he/she is confidently able to place the order.
Anything else that you’d want us to mention?
We look forward to meeting the requirements of all fashion connoisseurs out there and invite you to book an appointment with us by calling at 09821178804 / 022-65293067 anytime!
For more information do check out Secret Wardrobe and donot forget to share your thoughts by dropping a comment here!
- Abhilasha Dafria