In honor of their official launch in NYC, we’re excited to announce our investment in Wardrobe, a peer-to-peer fashion rental marketplace that gives purpose to underused apparel. We are thrilled to join Adarsh and the rest of the team in building Wardrobe into an iconic retail brand. We’re also excited to be working with an incredible group of co-investors including Cyan Banister, Ludlow Ventures, Shrug VC, and the founders of Airbnb, Coinbase, Opendoor, and HQ Trivia.
In today’s retail landscape, we’re seeing a monumental shift in the way traditional retailers and direct-to-consumer brands connect with Millennials and Gen Z’ers who have different expectations and values than previous generations of shoppers.
Today’s consumers connect with brands that offer creative and compelling stories, breathtaking design, and social impact. We purchase products that build social capital with our peers both online and offline, and value access over ownership, price, and convenience over all else. We expect shopping to be an experience that we can share with our friends, families, and colleagues, and will go above and beyond to evangelize companies that make us feel great about ourselves.
Wardrobe is a fashion marketplace that connects people who want to wear stunning high-end apparel, without paying the bank-breaking sticker price, with lenders who own incredible outfits that are untouched in their closets. Wardrobe’s renters pay between 5–10% of the item’s full retail value depending on the popularity of the item and length of the rental period and can book items in advance for nights out, vacations, weddings, work events, casual settings or anything in between.
Access to the world’s largest closet
While Wardrobe isn’t inventing the fashion rental market from scratch, they are reinventing the consumer experience. To do this, Wardrobe created “Hubs” where they partner with local dry cleaners who clean, store, and distribute rental items. By leveraging local dry cleaners, Wardrobe effectively created a micro-fulfillment network where users can access items across the city, have thousands of more items at their fingertips, and enjoy next day delivery. (*Order by 4PM, get it delivered by 10AM the following morning!)
Each Hub also bridges the digital experience with an in-person experience for customers to come with their friends, family, and colleagues to try on, rent, and return clothing to.
By partnering with local dry cleaners, Wardrobe cleverly eliminates the stigma of strangers wearing your clothing by ensuring that each item is cleaned to the trusted standard of professional dry cleaners. Beyond providing Wardrobe with fresh and clean inventory, dry cleaners give Wardrobe a unique edge towards becoming a major retailer without owning any inventory or physical retail locations.
They do this by leveraging their built-in infrastructure that is an iconic staple of every storefront. Behind the reception desk of each dry cleaner is a garment conveyor belt system, which stores thousands of items at any given moment. For Wardrobe, this conveyor belt allows them to dramatically increase the amount of items offered at their Hubs, thereby giving renters access to thousands more great outfits to choose from.
Building the right consumer experience
As we’ve written before, we strongly believe that the future of retail is omnichannel, on-demand, curated and experiential and Wardrobe’s vision is strongly aligned with that thesis.
- Omnichannel: As with traditional retail, consumers value both online and in-store shopping. To give customers the best experience, Wardrobe encourages users to visit their Hubs across the city, browse items, try them on, and rent on the spot. Wardrobe also offers an unparalleled delivery service— powered by the micro-fulfillment network that their citywide Hubs create—for online shoppers to receive their items at their doorstep by 10AM the next morning if ordered by 4PM.
- On-Demand: In need of something to wear for an event tonight? No problem! Stop by any of Wardrobe’s Hubs throughout NYC to pick up the perfect outfit. Drop it off at any Hub when you’re finished with it regardless of where you picked it up.
- Curated: When signing up for the Wardrobe app (download on iOS here), users are asked to input their dress size, height, and shoe size. This allows Wardrobe to surface clothing and shoes that are tailored to you without having to search, sort, and filter to find that perfect item.
- Experiential: Behind each item is a unique story that you can feel special about and share with your friends and family. To take this to the next level, Wardrobe enables users to rent items from the closets of their favorite celebrities, influencers, designers, and stylists. On the app, you can find notable personalities like Alysia Reiner (Orange Is The New Black), Heather Thomson (Real Housewives of New York), Jaymee Sire (former ESPN host), Nicole Lapin (CNBC, CNN, Bloomberg News anchor), Sophie Turner (plus-size model), Sydney Sadick (E! News, Insider Edition) and many more!
The golden buzzer
For any investor, the road to conviction is tough to replicate. Many veteran VCs explain their journey to conviction by asking themselves a series of questions including:
- Would I want to work at this company?
- Will passing on this opportunity keep me up at night?
- If everything goes right, will this be a billion dollar company?
When contemplating our investment in Wardrobe, the answer to all three questions above was a resounding YES.
Wardrobe is bringing a new model to the fashion rental market that will change the way we shop. It’s never easy to influence customer behavior to try something new, but with the right mix of inventory, logistics, marketing, and of course, team, we’re excited to partner with Adarsh and the team to bring Wardrobe to the world!
Ground Up Ventures is an early stage venture capital firm that invests in pre-seed and seed stage startups in the United States and Israel.