Isabella West, founder of pioneering fashion rental platform Hirestreet, is aiming to bring open up rental solutions to fashion brands and retailers across the market with her new platform Zoa.
West, an Oxford economics graduate, blazed a trail with Hirestreet when she launched it three years ago, by bringing affordable rental options to a fashion-conscious consumer to encourage them to share rather than buy fast fashion.
Now, she is taking her know-how and rental technology – with optional integrated warehousing, fulfilment and dry-cleaning – and offering it up to others who want to join the rental revolution.
West says that the pandemic afforded her the opportunity to think about her business model, and while Hirestreet will continue, she felt it was the ideal time to introduce a new business model and she was inspired to help others put excess stock amassed during this time to good use.
“We were starting to see retailers dark-rooming stock and we were hearing all of those conversations about rethinking the seasons,” she tells TheIndustry.fashion. “And one thing we kept hearing is that they were interested in doing more rental but they wanted to do it under their own brand; they wanted to own the customer.”
West believes that the key way for rental to gain traction and scale in the market is for more and more brands take it on themselves. “We’ve got this technology, we’ve spent three years building it and we thought ‘we could give this to other brands’,” she says.
Zoa enables brands to buy into the platform in a flexible way. They can either take the rental technology and embed it into their platform and handle all the logistics themselves or they can opt for a more full-service offer, including warehousing, fulfilment, dry cleaning and reporting.
West says Zoa is an ideal solution for small to medium-sized brands to begin the rental journey but that it is equally suited to larger chains. “A large chain might use Zoa to utilise excess stock or they might create a small rental collection, or utilise samples or returned stock,” West explains.
At present the Zoa solution would enable brands to offer a rental solution on a separate website (on an item’s page a rental option could be offered but when selected would take the customer to a different website, or the rental offer could be completely standalone), but West is working towards creating “headless” technology to enable seamless integration into a brand’s own e-commerce site, which will be available soon.
Zoa is in discussions with numerous online retailers and well-known brand names about adopting the model – many of whom are looking to monetise excess stock – even though it may compete with her own hire business, Hirestreet.
“Rental is a much more profitable route for excess stock which can end up just being sold off for weight. It’s heartwrenching to think of the potential waste. I know that in [launching Zoa] I might be cannibalising Hirestreet’s own sales but we need to change,” she said.
Brands offering their own rental services will also be able to target a ready-made customer base, as opposed to third-party rental sites who have to work hard to acquire new customers, says West. Rental also offers consumers a chance to try items that might be too expensive to buy or experience a new brand, at low risk, to test the style and fit. Renters can also be converted to purchasers of new product.
As stores begin to reopen and consumers begin to think of ways to refresh their wardrobes having spent a year in leisurewear, West believes now is a good time for brands to join the rental space and that Zoa could provide a speedy and proven route to market. “We wanted to create the Shopify of sharing,” she says.
Find out more at www.zoarental.com.