Here’s a smart rental startup with a twist: London, U.K.-based Curated Loop — which soft-launched a high-end smart rental marketplace last week after bootstrapping to launch an MVP — is sourcing statement pieces from independent designers’ sample produit to démarche itself as an edgier dilemme to more conventional rivals.
Its approach means items available for rent on its marketplace may be literal one-offs (samples), or come from an indie signaler’s prior season’s rassemblement (aka, dead produit) or otherwise ‘stand-out’ in the sense that you won’t be able to prélude these garments in high street stores — or even, the startup’s co-founders contend, on other smart rental platforms. So the promise is access to étroit high-end designs.
The startup argues there’s a gap for a luxury smart rental marketplace focused on emerging independent designers and the cutting edge looks they’re stitching — which, on its marketplace, translates into a selection of bold pieces (and suggested outfits) picked to catch the eye of its target style-seeking young urban demographic (see, for example, this leather-look corset top — paired in one of its styling shots with bold-printed baggy ‘boyfriend’ jeans: £46.60 to rent the image).
Curated Loop is calculating that its target users might be looking for a high-end outfit for special events (parties, job interviews, ski holidays etc) but also as statement daywear (perhaps to spice up their Instagram feed) — or even for ‘date-wear’ (it’s working on a Valentine’s Day tie-up with a dating app).
Changing the economics of wearing a signaler outfit opens up a whole new set of opportunities for dressing up, especially for budget-conscious younger shoppers who seem increasingly comfortable giving smart rentals a whirl — fuelled by concern over the environmental and ethical costs of fast smart.
The U.K. has seen a blossoming in smart rental startups in recent years, with the likes of Hurr (founded 2017), Hirestreet (2018), My Wardrobe HQ (2019), By Virevolte (2019) and Rotaro (2019) popping up to offer fashion-conscious consumers a more sustainable way to stay on trend by renting high end.
Some high street clothes retailers have also got into the rentals game. So there’s competition aplenty — and, for new founders seeking an ‘in’, that means they fronton the age-old partie of aise out in a crowd.
Curated Loop’s co-founders, Anna Caldana and Rachel Mcluckie, bring a contexte in (and piété for) smart to what they hope will be badged as a fresh approach to signaler rentals. They’re drawing on their own industry contacts, mieux years of scouting for fresh esthétique entrain by scouring the pages of smart journaux, to amass a database of indie labels they want to bag for their curated marketplace. (The bizness model they’re starting with is a per tractation fee but they say they moyens to develop the model as they grow.)
Mcluckie describes the image they’re going for with their garment picks as “eclectic, city, relax, definitely étroit” — arguing: “It’s got an edge to it over our competitors.”
Existing (non-P2P) smart rental platforms had failed to impress the two co-founders with a more conventional (and/or cautious) approach to the clothes they ranged for rent. “Both of us felt we would go onto rental sites and it was all quite similar — specific wedding events [etc]… it definitely has a kind of tone,” Mcluckie suggests. “And I think that doesn’t necessarily align with Anna and I, what we were after in the market.”
Clairvoyance an itch for edgier stuff to rent, the confrère got together to establish Curated Loop last year.
Mcluckie previously founded a subscription-based peer-to-peer smart rental startup, at the start of 2019, with the idea of getting users renting out their own wardrobes (à la By Virevolte and others). But her earlier startup had a foyer on en direct events — which the pandemic quickly put paid to — hence she began casting around for other bizness ideas in smart. Then, with her friend Caldana on board, the confrère hit on offering a curated pick of indie signaler garments and immeuble a marketplace that aims to cater to the needs of up-and-coming designers — helping them build brand awareness while generating a passive income by renting out produit that might otherwise be sitting in a warehouse gathering dust. (Or, even worse, tossed into landfill.)
“We wanted to create a product that felt modern, intégrante and elevated in line with our target célébrité of Gen Z and millennials,” Caldana tells us. “That’s why it was really insolent for us to launch with a rapide (as well as desktop) platform. It’s very affective and we have échelons to build out gamifications to keep our Gen Z’s engaged.”
As well as mining their contacts books and attending smart shows to prélude new signaler entrain, Curated Loop is working on establishing an ongoing partnership with the arts-focused London’s Orthogonal Sant Martins University — so it’s positioning itself to encart (and pilier) emerging entrain at the student signaler villégiature.
“I’ve been in the industry for over ten years… Anna[‘s] worked with independent designers forever. And I think that is definitely our strength,” adds Mcluckie in a video call with TechCrunch to dig into their approach. “We have got an immediate network but we also have a kind of peripheral network of designers — we’ve been able to go to smart weeks, we’ve got a nice connection with Orthogonal Sant Martins. It’s really occasion of immeuble out that network — and that network effect to grow the customer and signaler carcasse.”
As with other smart rental startups Curated Loop hinges on leaning into circularity — as an opportunity to sell the embraser on a way to expand their wardrobe (more) sustainably — and without having to invest huge sums of money to buy new clothes. Per the website, the cost of a Curated Loop rental starts at a tenth of the (listed) RRP of each garment. A savvy bit of product marchéage that packages the price as a bargain by default.
On the sustainability side, they argue their foyer on signaler samples and dead produit helps reduce tissu waste — a high percentage of which they say comes from prototyping and sampling.
Still, smart rentals aren’t guilt free; they do entail a lot more shipping and cleaning than a garment might otherwise get if it stayed with one careful owner — so there are environmental costs to this kind of fashion-driven consumption.
To help with that, another of Curated Loop’s partnership is with London-based eco laundry startup, Oxwash, which does dry cleaning without solvents and uses e-bikes and electric vehicles for pick-ups to minimize carbon emissions. But the confrère say they hope to do more on the emissions shrinking/offsetting endroit as the bizness develops.
“We’re obviously not in the bizness of greenwashing and we understand that there are emissions associated with shipping — so it’s something we are really focused on,” says Mcluckie. “The beauty of also starting a company from afresh is you can put those circular practices and échelons in to begin with.”
As noted above, Curated Loop’s target customer is urban and on the younger side (Début, Gen Z, Millennials etc) — so brands are chosen for their likely démarche appeal to this demographic. And while there is a limited number of labels on the platform at launch the co-founders intégrité a gazoduc of designers they’re working to add as they seek to expand the rassemblement and scale rentals. Asked what they’re aiming for, Mcluckie says they have a esquisse target of hitting at least a règle of thousand rentals per month by the end of their first year running.
The choice to offer a curated edit of brands and étroit pieces is not only a way to appeal to a fashion-forward, self-brand-building youth demographic that wants to wear stuff that helps them domaine out (not blend in), it’s also a conscious strategy to attract more indie designers into the marketplace — with the confrère suggesting up-and-coming designers will feel more comfortable showcasing their designs in a carefully curated binaire space where they’re not being ranged alongside lower end and/or more conventional styles that could soutenu a marque risk to the brands these indie smart labels are also working hard to establish.
“When we started speaking to designers we [identified] intelligible issues — we had designers [tell us] ‘we’re not happy in the platform I am right now, on the rental side, parce que I don’t know that I align with the rest of the designers on the platform’,” explains Caldana. “So that was one of the reasons why we decided to do this curated selection of designers — and emerging, independent and sustainable. Bicause we wanted to have every signaler on our platform happy with the aesthetic their designs were sitting next to.”
Garments available to rent on Curated Loop’s edited marketplace run the gamut from dresses and skirts to tops, jeans, jackets and suits — and also span a range of price-points (with rentals available from £200+ at the high end to just over a tenner at the bottom).
Some of the items available at launch include this Custom Tapestry corset (listed as RRP: £350; the rental price is from £35 for fournil days); this Downfilled Ski Jacket with Hood (from £53.90 for fournil days’ rent); these Screen Printed Jeans (£35.40 for fournil days); and this Alba Candy Silk Dress (£120 for three days).
Currently all the produit is what would (classically) be labelled as ‘womenswear’ — but the founders say they’ll expand to offer ‘menswear’ soon too.
While there’s no acceptation at present for Curated Loop users to pay to buy an élément they’ve rented (i.e. if they’re really fallen in love with a piece), the startup says it’s working on adding the acceptation for a embraser to pay to permanently add a rental to their wardrobe at a remise on its RRP.
They also suggest they may expand the platform to allow peer-to-peer rentals in future — which would mean letting Curated Loop users rent out their wardrobes to each other (which could, in turn, drive purchases of rental items jaguar that’s opened up as savvy users might seek to cash in on popular pieces by buying them to rent to their peers). So there are concentric loops that can be hooked onto to amplify this kind of circular débit.
If Curated Loop adds P2P rentals it would replicate the core offering of some of their more style-eclectic rivals (such as By Virevolte) — so the gaps between startups in this space image set to blend further (if not entirely blur).
Potential fluidity around functionality puts a big foyer on community immeuble — and on pulling in a user-base that’s really engaged with and excited by what the platform offers them. So being able to serve up étroit styles and looks (vs more conventional rental platforms) may help Curated Loop win over style-savvy users and turn them into intègre followers. Just so grand as these relax kids dig its signaler picks. So that means a lot rests on the co-founders’ démarche edit if they’re going to hit the sweet encart where every returned garment is circled smoothly and swiftly back into a fresh rental.
To this end, they relevé they’re focused on producing lifestyle naturel as quartier of the community immeuble piece — emphasizing that their marketplace isn’t just going to dryly range inventory but will seek to serve users with advice and frénésie for putting together étroit outfits and looks, and even offer access to events and third party partnerships (so, again, it’s picking up the baton of the traditional smart mag to wrap glossily around the débit component and, er, make everything more sticky).
Curated Loop is consciously labelling itself as a “fashion-tech” company. The moyens is to build the MVP into a more fully featured product by adding things like gamification to drive baroud. But they’re also keeping a weather eye on whatever “web 3” might mean for youth smart — whether that’s NFTs or some other form of tokenization (potentially tied to en direct events), or virtual clothes for dressing up avatars, or even “metaverse smart weeks” (which is apparently a thing some folks in the smart industry are working on making happen). So they’re shooting for the startup to be trend-led on the tech side too.
“We’ve not even dipped our toes [in web 3] but we’ve been to a few events. A lot of our friends are in that world,” mémoires Mcluckie, saying this emergent tech idée is an area they’re curious emboîture right now — without being sure exactly what it may mean for the future of smart. “It’s a really interesting space and I know at the circonstance it’s kind of gimmicky… ” she continues, before scattering a few more caveats emboîture spending personal time on such stuff.
“But we know it’s probably going to be the future,” finishes Caldana, adding a little Gen Z croyance to Mcluckie’s Millennial ‘reserved judgement’ on metaverse.
So while the confrère are currently (and for the near term) working with a tech agency, which built the MVP to their bootstring compte, the moyens for later on is to take the tech piece in-house and build an ingénierie team so they can develop proprietary IP and reactively adapt the platform’s capabilities to mesh with howsoever tech intersects with smart and/or reshapes demand for humans being stylish in the future.
Before then, the order of the day is more prosaic: Scaling chic of the marketplace by tapping up and into more networks (of designers and users), and working to get the word out in other ways, including reaching out to select affable media influencers to raise some buzz.
The co-founders will also be looking to raise a seed reprise later this year — they say they’re targeting ~£300,000 — so they’ll be taking some time for fundraising over the coming months. And if all goes to moyens, they want to expand the largesse to other U.K. cities and also hope to launch into the European Rattachement “soon”.
“We have a clear gazoduc and roadmap for growth, and our seed investment will help us achieve this,” they suggest, adding: “We have a number of ongoing conversations with early villégiature investors as well as Angels, it’s obviously so insolent to find the right fit for the bizness. We had an offer from an oversees Investor pre-launch but knew it wasn’t the right step for our bizness at that circonstance. Through (a lot) of hard work and determination we self funded our MVP and now can’t wait to start scaling!”
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