Renclo: Make Money, and Fight Fast Fashion

 

Edited by: Lasya Adiraj

 

"We're trying to make sustainable fashion more accessible," says Atisha Mahajan as she recalls one of the incidents that drove her to found Renclo, a college-based start-up facilitating a peer to peer clothing rental service. On a quest to pivot towards a more sustainable lifestyle, Mahajan decided to replace her H&M and Zara clothes—some of the most notorious fast fashion brands—with more environment-friendly options, only to realise that she can't rationalise the purchase of such expensive clothing: “I saw a tunic, a very plain tunic, that costs fifteen thousand. And I thought to myself, ‘How on earth do I afford something like this?’” The inaccessibility of mainstream sustainable fashion is one of the issues that Renclo attempts to tackle through its sharing economy business model. The company's name speaks for its identity and purpose—Ren(t)Clo(thes)—as a platform that attempts to revolutionize clothing consumption patterns. 

"I didn't know where to start; I've never heard of anything like this before." Although the ideation of Renclo had started kicking in during her high school years, it wasn't until she talked about sustainable fashion with her college friend and co-founder Noor Khatra did Mahajan scale her conception of the company. Mahajan and Khatra entered the HULT prize: an annual, year-long competition that crowd-sources ideas from MBA and college students after challenging them to solve a pressing social issue with their pitch. "We didn't win, but we got a lot of useful feedback," reminisces Mahajan. However, their loss was counterproductive, and they were encouraged to make Renclo a reality, independently, over their 2019 college winter break. Mahajan and Khatra envisioned Renclo as a computer application, but as two undergraduate students, they weren't ready to make a substantial investment, and finally decided to launch the company on their university campus through Instagram. "That's the story behind Renclo," laughs Mahajan. 

With Renclo, sustainable fashion becomes more approachable: "For most of us, sustainable fashion is out of reach. It's there, but it's not a plausible option for a lot of people,” says Mahajan, identifying this distance as one of the problems the company intends to change. If consumers capitalise on products already in circulation, they help increase the utility of the product, and in Renclo's case, battle fast fashion production. "Everybody had some spare clothes in their closet. It's so much wasted asset," acknowledges Mahajan. She established her company upon realising that consumers—like herself and her peers—purchase new products without utilising what is already in their possession. What’s a better example than your own wardrobe? "Instead of buying a new dress, you can borrow it from somebody, and increase the utility of that product,” and Renclo is the platform that facilitates this.                                                                                

"Plus, we're trying to help students earn money," adds Mahajan. But how does Renclo do that? "You click a picture of the clothes you want to rent, and we put them up on Instagram,” she answers. When Renclo first launched, they facilitated roughly 25 transactions, “Some renters’ clothes were repeatedly borrowed, and they earned around 500 bucks on the side.” RenClo rents clothes for 5% of its MRP, and takes 25% of the cut. “I, myself, made 100 rupees!” says Mahajan as she talks about her experience as a renter. As is the case with most novel ideas, Renclo had juxtaposed responses following its launch: “One was, ‘Oh this is genius, I’m definitely going to partake in this endeavour’ and the other reaction was, ‘Ew, rented clothes? You can’t afford new ones?’” However, the response was primarily positive, and enthusiastic customers ensured that the company put up at least one piece of clothing for rent every single day. 

Although their pilot team is small—consisting of five female employees and three men—Mahajan and Khatra are looking to project RenClo as a primarily female-driven business. As the company puts it, their objective is to convert a primarily linear consumption pattern to a circular one, battling fast fashion amidst the process.