As technology continues to enable new breakthroughs, the shared economy is a strong contender for growth – rising from a US$15 billion industry in 2014 to a projected US$335 billion in 2025 according to Forbes. Defined as “an economic system where assets or services are shared between peers or businesses for free or for a fee”, lodging services like Airbnb, ride-hailing services like Uber or co-working spaces like WeWork are some of the biggest names in the industry.
However, the global coronavirus epidemic has caused significant repercussions for such enterprises – with fears of travel, social distancing and work from home policies slashing Airbnb occupancy, leaving WeWork’s hot desks and offices vacant and the suspension of carpooling services for Uber and Lyft. Despite the economic challenges of social distancing, one aspect of the shared economy is still standing strong: designer fashion – most notably, Hong Kong’s Style Carousel.
High-end fashion, apart from being criticised for being elite-exclusive products, falls out of fashion quickly – resulting in disposal after being worn only several times. “Our service gives women access to their favourite designer brands while eliminating the battle between looking good and being sustainable,” explains Style Carousel’s Founder and CEO Evelyn Cahill. Given Hong Kong’s geographical advantages and abundance of fashion-forward consumers, she adds that the city provides the perfect conditions to nurture a fashion sharing start-up.
Supporting both consumers and designers
From an economic and logical standpoint, such a business model makes sense. Imagine being invited to a fancy cocktail reception and you bought a dazzling lattice gown just for it – due to social stigmas around wearing the same outfit, you worry that wearing the same dress again to another occasion might draw raised eyebrows from your peers. Having the option to rent a trendy dress makes much more sense than buying one for a single occasion!
Style Carousel collaborates with fashion brands to list their pieces on the platform. Through direct interaction with designers, brand owners, bridal shops and global multi-brand boutiques, product authenticity and greater quality control can be achieved. “This is a big driver of business to our platform and gives us an edge in Asian markets,” said Ms. Cahill. “Brand partners can tap into new buyers and build brand loyalty with this market… and leverages their underutilised inventory while earning an incremental revenue stream.”
With most people attempting to sit out the virus by staying at home, Style Carousel is launching feel-good content designed to engage and uplift their clientele. Even though social gatherings are suspended for the moment, wearing a seductive sequin dress to a virtual cocktail party with your friends is a great way to socialise and show off your fashion tastes. Through giveaways and promotions offered on their social media pages, Style Carousel hopes to support brand partners and small businesses that have been impacted by the coronavirus epidemic.
Although the epidemic has most consumers feeling trapped and fashion retailers worried, fashion sharing provides a new way for both parties to hopefully ride out the storm.