De-commoditising fashion through alternative revenue streams

For many fashion businesses, revenue — and success — is measured purely by the quantitative sale of stock. However, as an independent designer, your individual craft is your most valuable asset, and you can leverage this in ways beyond the most obvious stream of business-to-customer sales. By considering these alternative streams of revenue, you can improve your business’ relevance, customer engagement, and financial security within the fashion market.

Rental platforms

Many of us live by subscriptions such as streaming services or gym memberships. Meanwhile, in the fashion world, renting has only become normalised for occasion-wear, for the reason that its cost-per-wear is seen as too high to purchase outright. Yet, with men and women spending an average of almost £35,000 and £95,000, respectively, on clothing over the course of their lifetimes, and with the average item worn only seven times, our fast-fashion culture treats even casual clothing as occasional.       

This over-spending and under-wearing can be recalibrated by clothing rental platforms. For example, By Rotation, the UK’s leading fashion rental app, was founded by Eshita Kabra in 2019 to transform our fashion-consumption habits. The peer-to-peer digital platform allows customers and designers from across the UK to exchange clothing on a short-term basis.   

Engaging with a rental platform such as By Rotation can enhance various factors of your business, for example, 

For your ecological impact,

  • The fashion industry accounts for a significant 20% of waste water and 10% of carbon emissions, yet clothing rental could environmentally revolutionise our fast-fashion culture if widely adopted. The rental of clothing actively slows down the production-to-destruction cycle of fashion. For example, Over the last 10 months, By Rotation has celebrated a saving of 1,500 metres of fabric. 

  • With the ability to advertise and lease items on an individual basis, rental platforms enable you to make use of samples, extra stock, or irregular items that would not be appropriate for mainstream sale and could otherwise go to waste.  

For your business financially,

  • Whereas conventionally, designers aim to sell their stock of items as quickly and successfully as possible, exhausting their supply, rental platforms allow you to make an ongoing profit from one item     

  • Since platforms such as By Rotation only take a very small percentage of the money earned from each rental, the rest of this income is yours.

For your brand’s customer engagement,

  • By displaying your designs alongside high-end names, rental platforms will elevate your brand. For example, By Rotation features pieces by rising individual designers such as SABINNA alongside Ganni and Fendi. This showcasing will substantiate your designs. 

  • Rotating your items through an app infrastructure encourages a casual, on-the-go engagement akin to Instagram and Depop. With the opportunity to establish a professional profile on the app, your brand can be showcased to represent your individual vision.

  • Many rental platforms encourage the exchange of items in-person, meaning that, in non-COVID times, you can personally engage with your client base to establish local pockets of customers. Equally, with By Rotation offering an on-demand postal service, your designs can be seamlessly transported across the UK.

Overall, clothing rental has the ability to revolutionise the fashion world. With statement and designer clothing more accessible than ever through these platforms — costing only a few pounds per day — we could see an appetite for bolder, statement clothing more widely and a new fashion dynamic.

Your customers

As a designer, you have a competitive advantage against larger companies to make your brand an exclusive and intimate space. By doing so, you can cultivate a loyal client base. For example, 

Set up a membership programme:

Many designers will already have a mailing list sign-up form on their website, and you could leverage these contacts to develop a structured subscription package. 

  • For a small membership fee, you could offer customers early access to new collections, specific discounts, and tailored styling advice using your designs.   

  • Akin to rental streams, a monthly or quarterly membership fee produces a consistent, passive revenue for your business.

  • Developing this sense of exclusivity around your brand can cultivate a loyal and engaged following, which is exactly what you need as a growing brand.  

Sell your vision:

The concept of ‘intellectual property’ might instigate fear for you as a designer. Indeed, your intellectual property is your brand’s identity, and something that Rockett Fashion can help you to protect. Equally, it is something you can celebrate and use as a revenue stream.   

  • Using your individual eye for design, you could offer styling consultation sessions for specific clients. This will allow you to engage with clients and promote your designs within personalised outfits.

  • You could offer fashion consultation on a wider scale by holding group webinars or online courses, teaching your clients how to define their own style just as you have developed yours.

  • You could also extend this consultation to sell downloadable products such as virtual outfit-planning templates, producing virtual commodities that offer a sustainable alternative to physical merchandise.

Go Virtual 

Particularly in these socially-distanced times, you should make your brand as virtually approachable as possible, with a strong online presence that defines your aesthetic.

  • You can then use social media platforms for direct sales. For example, Instagram’s ‘swipe up’ feature can navigate your followers to your e-shop, and similarly the ‘shop’ function can showcase every item you are currently selling.

  • You can leverage this virtual presence to collaborate with brands that complement yours. For example, if you run an ecological fashion brand, you could collaborate with a zero-waste skincare company.

  • This can elevate your online exposure but also offer a further revenue stream: many companies will pay for social media advertisements and affiliate links, which you can pepper into your own content.

These streams of revenue offer innovative alternatives to business-to-customer sales, which, as a designer, you can use to actively slow down fast-fashion. Whether through rental, styling advice, or a virtual presence this is an opportunity to de-commoditise fashion and remain relevant as a designer.

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