New Delhi-based couple Abhinav Anand and Srishti Arora Anand wanted to get clothes on rent for their wedding back in November 2014 but couldn’t find a rental clothing service. Srishti, who has had her share of corporate learnings, was quick to sniff the market opportunity and launched a small rental shop in New Delhi’s Rajouri Garden in 2015. There was no looking back; the duo ditched their cushy corporate jobs to become hands-on entrepreneurs. “We wanted to get clothes on rent for our wedding because we knew that we would be wearing them only once. So why block your money and storage space at home with these heavy clothes? When we couldn’t find any rental offerings, we realised that there’s demand but no supply,” says Anand.

Today, the duo’s rental business Wedding Bells is a flourishing one. From a single outlet in 2015, the business has expanded to three stores in New Delhi already and plans are afoot to foray into other cities. “People are no more ashamed of renting clothes for weddings. They proudly tag us on social media,” says Aanchal Saini, CEO at fashion rental company Flyrobe.

Indian weddings are still very much big and fat but with young millennials taking over the generational baton, weddings are perhaps also being sprinkled with a sense of rationality and economical convenience. “Our TG (target group) is shifting from people who used to take wedding clothes on rent solely due to financial constraints to millennials doing it for convenience now. Young people today want to spend money on experiences rather than ownership,” says Saini. “When you can get a wedding couture at one-fourth of the market price and don’t have to tackle the problem of storing such heavy pieces of clothing, why won’t people rent?” says Neeraj Wadhera, founder at Wrapd.

With people more than willing to get wedding-ready with rental clothes, the rental wedding fashion market is growing into a bustling business. Markets in New Delhi’s Rohini, Rajouri Garden and Lajpat Nagar, for instance, are home to an array of rental clothing shops. And not just the brides and grooms, their entire families are quite receptive to the concept of renting clothes. “We often get family bookings,” says Anand. The cost of renting is cheap; people can get to flaunt a Sabyasachi or a Manish Malhotra at the fraction of the actual retail price. “People can rent a Sabyasachi costing say ₹5 lakh at ₹50,000. The rent of a product typically depends on the quality of the product and its MRP,” says Saini.

Flyrobe has a marketplace model wherein consumers can offer their clothes on rent.

Every time a dress is taken on rent, the owner of the product gets a certain percentage of the total rent charged by the company. The bridal rents for Flyrobe range from ₹10,000 to ₹1 lakh for a period of four days. For non-bridals, the pricing starts from as low as ₹1,500. Prospective grooms can get sherwanis on rent for as little as ₹6,000. “All the very expensive designer labels come to us through consumers. In India, earlier, people did not have ways to monetise a second-hand piece of ethnic clothing,” says Saini.

Flyrobe also curates its own in-house labels. Wedding Bells and Wrapd have adopted an inventory model wherein the firms get the products manufactured and designed through their network of vendors.

Wadhera who launched Wrapd thirteen years ago, nudged by her own frustrations at the lack of storage space for heavy pieces of clothes, initially intended to offer only non-bridal clothing on rent but market demand encouraged her to expand the services to cover bridal wear. “In the case of non-bridal wear, people will hardly need to spend beyond ₹10,000. In the next 10 years, rental fashion will be the thing. Somebody is definitely going to be the Abhinav Mishra or Sabyasachi of renting,” says Wadhera. Wrapd is currently present in New Delhi, Jaipur and Hyderabad. “Rentals for our bridal lehengas start from ₹5,000 and can go up to ₹50,000. We primarily cater to people who can afford but do not want to buy,” says Anand.

Covid has been a constraint for some of the rental businesses but with wedding celebrations back with vigour this season, things are looking up. “Demand peaked in November and the business touched pre-Covid levels,” says Saini. The future seems promising. “Rental is going to be big. In Europe, the tuxedo rental market is already bigger than the tuxedo buying market,” says Saini.

Wadhera expects specialised rental shops to take shape in the future. For instance, there could be some shops offering only bridal wear on rent while some others could be catering only to prospective grooms. “There will be a segregation,” says Wadhera.

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