This week’s featured article
As sharing services like Airbnb and Uber set up shop in Japan, the fashion industry has begun following suit, offering people the option of renting clothes instead of buying them.
AirCloset is one such company, renting out everyday clothes for women for ¥9,800 a month.
“I want to offer people, especially busy women who don’t have spare time to buy clothes, more opportunities to encounter new clothes and apparel brands, and to enjoy fashion more,” said Satoshi Amanuma, CEO and founder of AirCloset.
The company rents out three articles of clothing that its fashion stylists have selected based on a customer’s registered preferences. Subscribers can hold onto the pieces as long as they wish or send back the styles they don’t want for an exchange. Users don’t have to wash the returned clothes because dry cleaning and delivery charges are included in the fee.
Fashion rentals used to be mainly for special events, such as wedding parties and graduation ceremonies. But in recent years, new services like AirCloset have popped up, changing people’s perception of daily wear — making it something to rent rather than own.
And they are steadily attracting customers.
AirCloset’s registered members now number about 120,000, up from 25,000 in January 2015, a month before the service’s official launch, according to Amanuma. Members are in their mid-30s on average.
As the customer base grew, Aircloset expanded its apparel brand range to 300 from 80 in 2015, he said.
Hundreds of returned clothes are inspected at its distribution center in Kanagawa Prefecture before they are dry-cleaned at seven factories located nearby. The cleaned clothes are then rechecked before being stored, and made available to be rented out again.
Each item is tagged with a barcode to track how long and how many times it had been rented. The information is used for pricing if customers wish to buy their favorite rental pieces.
Toshihiro Nagahama, a chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute Inc., said the domestic fashion-sharing market has huge potential to expand along with other sharing services.
During Japan’s bubble economy in the 1980s, luxury brand apparel was seen as a status symbol for the rich, Nagahama said. But that mindset has changed in past decades as people grow less inclined to spend money to own not only luxury brands but also other products, including cars, he said.
“Fashion rental makes sense for such people. If you don’t have a desire to own things, it’s cheaper and more efficient to rent a wardrobe to update your fashion,” Nagahama said. “The fashion rental market will grow.”
Such expansion of new rental services, however, could deal a heavy blow to already ailing traditional retailers, Nagahama said. Apparel retailers need to think of ways to adjust their business to the changing industry landscape, he said.
First published in The Japan Times on Aug. 18.
One-minute chat about fashion.
Collect words related to sharing services, e.g., SNS, room, car.
1) subscriber: a person who has assented to a service, e.g., “I’m a subscriber to The Japan Times.”
2) perception: awareness or understanding of something, e.g., “Our perception of color is different. I see blue, he sees green.”
3) incline: to tend to, e.g., “He is inclined to look at things negatively.”
Guess the headline
Japan’s budding fashion r_ _ _ _ _ services proving popular with working w_ _ _ _ and moms
1) Is fashion rental itself new in Japan?
2) Who is the main target for the fashion rental service according to this article?
3) How has the trend for consuming fashion changed in the past few decades in Japan?
Let’s discuss the article
1) Are you fashion-conscious?
2) Are you interested in fashion share-rental services?
3) What are your views on the current trend of sharing services?
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