MILAN – In Milan, a new rental service was presented with a clear formula that looks to international competition, including Rent the Runway, but aims to become an accessible source of high-end fashion and to build a community around itself.
Hesse was launched this month by a pool of fashion professionals and entrepreneurs with diverse skills and backgrounds, ranging from fashion technology to marketing and communication, art direction and product development.
Among these Marcello Gamberale Paoletti; Giorgio Racagni; Alice Volonté; Mattia Scaltrini; Nicolò Zambello and Manuel Turchetti. Everyone has invested in the start-up, now in the bootstrapping phase, with the support of banking institutions.
Based on a three-tier subscription model – priced at 49, 99 and 149 euros – the app provides fashion and accessories from 98 brands offered for rental.
Unlike other similar services that provide several items as part of a subscription package, Hesse only offers one piece per month. Customers subscribe to the service, rent the fashion garment and can then decide to exchange it for something else of the same level after 30 days or keep it by renewing the subscription.
An additional service called “rental to own” allows customers to redeem the property after a certain “redemption time” based on the purchase value of the products and other variables, such as whether it is off-season or off-season fashion or that have already been rented several times. In fact, he compares the service to payment by installments platforms.
“This type of service was lacking in Milan and Italy, which are key destinations for high fashion,” said co-founder Gamberale Paoletti. “Our ambition is to challenge the perception that fashionistas cannot be aware of sustainable principles … [Hesse’s] the business model offers the opportunity to overturn this idea, “he said.
According to Racagni, the app takes an inclusive approach to luxury shopping, allowing fashion aficionados to embrace high-end items they would hardly afford at retail prices and opening the market to a wider audience, fighting fashion elitism. .
A mix of historical brands, including Bottega Veneta, Prada, Balenciaga and Loewe, mix with emerging names, such as Botter, Staud and Casablanca.
“The first goal was to have a varied assortment,” said Gamberale Paoletti. He explained that the supply comes from Maltempi, an Italian multi-brand retailer, as well as from showrooms and wholesalers.
The goal is to forge more ties in the future, including with luxury brands.
“Before we connect to the brands, we need to get bigger volumes,” said the entrepreneur. “We are clearly convinced that this business model is very necessary and complementary with the fashion industry, so we believe that, as Italy’s first mover, we could push brands to embrace it,” he said, explaining that Hesse could in time debt to sell their technology expertise to third parties who aim to launch rental programs.
According to Racagni, the fashion business is still skeptical about renting and anchored to a traditional model whereby, according to current policies, not even unsold inventory can be paid for and put into circulation through a service like Hesse.
“When we have broad shoulders, we will knock on the doors of the brands,” he said. “Hesse was also a solution for unsold stocks.”
Being a start-up with a still limited inventory (each item is available in one piece per size) and currently only available in Milan, the growth and scalability of the business are still difficult to predict. The most immediate goal is to gather 50 active users by the end of the year and 1,000 users by the end of 2023.
“Our growth must align with the offer,” said Gamberale Paoletti. “The goal is to keep our customers engaged, which is why product redemption is associated with subscription renewal, for example. It’s about evaluating them as recurring customers rather than one-offs,” she said.
For the same reason, Gamberale Paoletti plans to add a “date to date” rental option to the existing service in the future.
Promoting its green business, Hesse partnered with Blink Last Mile, an Italian start-up dedicated to same-day delivery with a time-window service that uses only cargo bicycles and electric vehicles for its operations. The company also connected with Mama Clean to do laundry and disinfect returned items.