Asian Start-Up Enters Clothing Rental Market, Chosen as One of Top 7 Start-Ups in Global Contest

World Journal | May 05, 2021

Click here to read the full article in Chinese.

After four months of divisional knockouts, the final round competition of The Alumni New Venture Challenge held by University of Chicago will be held on May 6th. The newly appointed Northwestern University professor Anya Cheng will lead the AI clothing rental company Taelor to compete against start-ups from six other regions of the world in the final competition.

Founder and CEO Anya Cheng has been on the executive team in many famous technology companies. Cheng said Taelor’s goal is “to provide individuals with stylish, everyday menswear. We believe that every day is an opportunity to look good and feel confident ... and also help the environment, too, instead of purchasing clothes that will eventually end up in a landfill.”

For a flat, monthly fee, customers receive two boxes per month, with four shirts per box as well as complimentary personalized styling, dry cleaning, and shipping both ways — making the process of renting and returning clothing easy and effortless.

Cheng said she originally got the idea to start a clothing rental subscription service for men after becoming a huge fan of other clothing rental subscription services herself. She used to live near a Rent the Runway store and visited it daily to pick out a new outfit to wear the next day. “I became such a fan of renting clothes that I haven’t purchased any clothes for myself except for underwear for the past five years,” Cheng said. “But I realized that none of the clothing rental services really served menswear nor focused on helping people to achieve career or personal goals in their everyday life, and I thought, men should be able to enjoy this service too so they can feel ready and confident for their day.”

According to research, people only regularly wear about 20% of what they buy. The remaining 80% of people’s clothes are usually worn fewer than three times. And just 1% of clothing is recycled back into clothing; 73% goes into a landfill.

Plus, according to a whitepaper co-authored by the British Fashion Council, there is up to 10% reduction in a garment’s carbon, water, and waste footprint when you extend its lifetime by just three months. 

The popularity of sustainability practices, minimalism, and no-ownership trends have caused the clothing rental business model to explode in recent years, with some analysts projecting that the Circular Fashion industry, which includes rental and resale, could earn as much as $66 billion by 2024 in the U.S. alone.

Taelor will be competing against start-ups from five other regions of the world in the final competition on May 6, which will be held from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. CDT. People can watch the competition live at polsky.uchicago.edu/livestreams.