TECHNOLOGY

CSA Q&A: FashionPass subscribes to viability of rental economy, influencers

BY Dan Berthiaume

Online clothing rental start-up FashionPass is targeting young, Instagram-loving women with a mix of hands-on personalization, back-end automation and fun fashions from hip brands. It’s a favorite of young influencers — and those that aspire to the role.

Chain Store Age recently spoke with Brittany Johnson, founder of Los Angeles-based FashionPass. The interview occurred before FashionPass filed a lawsuit against rival — and much larger — fashion rental company Rent the Runway, accusing it of “anti-competitive and monopolistic” practices.

Launched in 2016, FashionPass has a monthly membership subscription plan that lets members rent unlimited apparel and accessories, starting at $79 a month (for two clothing items and one accessory at a time) and topping out at $139 a month (for four clothing items and three accessories at a time). Items can be swapped out for new ones as many times a month as the member wants, but only after her previous order has been returned. Many of the featured fashions have a young, free-spirited vibe, with such brands as Free People and Blue Life on the menu.

Johnson, herself an online millennial influencer, founded the company out of her desire that many young women share: She wanted to diversify her wardrobe, and keep changing it up with new outfits.

What is your fashion background and why did you decide to launch FashionPass?
I did some styling and worked at a number of boutiques throughout college but ultimately decided to pursue a career in tech because I was so passionate about startups. I always struggled with this feeling of ‘I have nothing to wear,’ and I knew there was a way to solve that problem in a way that other businesses weren’t. Specifically, none of the clothes other rental services offered really appealed to me, being in my 20s. I wanted to be able to rent clothes for brunch, music festivals, and going out, rather than renting purely for a gala or work.

What technology do you use to connect customers to online designer collections?
We’ve built a proprietary software that allows us to showcase all of the amazing brands and styles we carry. Our software seamlessly tracks inventory and virtually anything you would need or want to know about any given item. We’re also working on some really exciting things to start showcasing our brands in an even more personalized way.”

How do you handle order fulfillment?
The technology behind our order fulfillment process allows us to completely automate and streamline order assembly for high order volume. When processing orders, we automate where we should and manually handle the detail work. Our automated conveyor systems are huge for us, but beyond that, we truly have the best operations team out there.

“Our team, which is 99% women, is not only efficient when it comes to order processing, but they are incredibly meticulous. Each and every garment is inspected several times before it is actually received by a customer, and when it comes to renting clothes, that’s really where we’re able to build trust with our members.

How do you manage reverse logistics?
Once we receive a customer’s return, each item is inspected and sorted to go through a lengthy cleaning process. We do all hand wash, dry cleaning, and repairs in-house.

What are the benefits for a subscription service for consumers?
Because we have so many different touchpoints with our members, it allows us to get to know them, and for them to get to know us, in a way that you can’t with a traditional one-off sale. Once that relationship has been established, there is a lot of loyalty and support that comes from it. A lot of our customers have become brand ambassadors on their own and it stems from a strong relationship that we build with the customer from the day they signed up.

Before our service, our customers spent hundreds of dollars each month on new outfits they would only wear a few times at best. With FashionPass, consumers are able to select from an endless closet of their favorite brands and receive thousands of dollars’ worth of items each month for one low monthly price.

Another benefit that our customers have really enjoyed is the ability to purchase any items that they fall in love with for a discounted price. Members love it because there are some items they just can’t part ways with. As a rental business, it’s great for us because we are able to offload inventory and bring in fresh styles from the newest season.”

What about brands, how do they benefit?
Brands really benefit from our subscription model because they get a ton of exposure to new customers. We’ve seen so many of our members fall absolutely in love with brands they would have otherwise never even considered trying or may not have even heard of prior to seeing them on our site. Every brand we carry gets constant exposure to thousands of new customers, and it’s really great to see our members explore styles and brands they’d normally be too hesitant to buy.

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