HireStreet’s Zoa: making rental vogue

WeWhoDo sat down with Emily Wade, Chief Marketing Officer at Hirestreet, to discuss how they’ve developed a platform that is set to revolutionize the fashion industry.

Emily joined Hirestreet fresh out of university: having met Isabella West, founder and CEO, at a networking event, she fell in love with the concept and vision of Hirestreet. 

Hirestreet aims to the make the fashion rental market mainstream by offering well-known brands at accessible price points. They stood apart from competitors, who mainly focused on high-end, designer pieces, and paved the way for their own style of platform.

As with any start up, Emily’s role wasn’t just focused on marketing, and in the very beginning, their processes were super lean. For instance, because they didn’t have a fulfilment centre, this meant all items were shipped to Isabella’s house, washed and sent back out in true, all hands-on deck, start-up fashion!

Whilst this sounds like a logistical nightmare for most, this period was “crucial learning” for Hirestreet as it allowed them to experiment with what worked and what didn’t. The next hire was then a CTO who could make this offering a scalable one.

Now Hirestreet operates in a much more fluid way. Not only have they built over 100 partnerships with brands, buying their clothes directly from wholesalers, but they also work with ACS: Europe’s leading dry cleaning service (thankfully for Isabella’s washing machine!). 

They have also recognised the power that the rental market has in sustainability. They are building a community of empowered individuals, with inclusivity, creativity and care for the planet at the forefront of everything they do.

Tide turning 

When Hirestreet first came together in 2018, rental platforms were still novel in the UK. Unlike Australia and the US, established British brands were hesitant to offer rental with the worry that it may cannibalise their traditional sales revenues. And although not all brands are there yet, there has been a major shift in retailers’ perception of rental.

As with most businesses, 2020 impacted Hirestreet heavily due to their stock base being mostly occasion-wear. To adapt, they launched community focussed offers such as their “Try On Service”, where people could rent and try-on five fun outfits. Hirestreet also offered brides free dresses in an effort to boost morale for those who had lost out on enjoying their Big Day in 2020.

However, last year also led to a shift in mindset: 

“I think last year made brands start to change their minds about renting and were more open minded to it. I understand that brands are protective over their products: not wanting to dilute it with a rental service. But, I think we’ve come up with a solution for that with Zoa” 

Introducing Zoa 

Taking what they’d built for Hirestreet and white labelling it for other companies, Zoa has the power to revolutionize the fashion industry altogether. It essentially gives brands the technological infrastructure, and operations, to embed renting into their business models. 

With its soft launch last month, the Hirestreet team has a pipeline of exciting brands that will launch their rental offerings from Q2 as part of Zoa’s pilot phase. By taking a pilot approach and working closely with select brands across categories, their aim is to tailor their offering and scale the tech accordingly. 

“We believe that rental is a huge part of how brands can be more sustainable. And although we know there are still categories where rental may not be the solution (e.g. underwear or swimwear, for instance), we aim to empower many of the brands looking to enter the circular economy.”, Emily explains. 

In order to achieve global sustainability targets it is imperative that we move away from a throwaway culture and there are huge opportunities in the fashion industry to cut down waste via rental. A prime example of this is with returned goods. A lot of returned goods struggle ever to be resold and this poses a major problem for brands. By using Zoa, brands will be able to utilise products that will otherwise go to waste. We are therefore enabling revenue streams, but also opportunities for sustainable growth.”

Bigger picture 

As Emily points outs, for countries to meet the 2030 emissions targets, 20% of fashion garments need to be traded through a circular system: meaning reselling and renting needs to be commonplace.

This is why Zoa is so intuitive and is facilitating a trend that is already inevitable. Describing Zoa as a “Shopify for renting”, this tech platform may be the key to resolving some of the troubles that lurk behind the fashion industry. 

*** 

A theme that has come up time and time again from leaders in The Sustainable Series is the shared expertise needed in sustainable development, and Hirestreet are no different. As Emily emphasises: 

“A key part of sustainable development is sharing knowledge and sharing solutions… and we believe that Zoa unlocks a potential that is currently untapped. Making rental easy and widely accepted”

We are super excited to see how Hirestreet and Zoa continue to grow in 2021!

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