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Euromonitor International is pleased to present an interview with Chris Hasek-Watt, founder and CEO of soon-to-be-launched luxury streetwear rental service, Rotarity. A fashion enthusiast, Mr. Hasek-Watt has worked with and lead a number of personal care and fashion companies throughout his wide-ranging career. In his conversation with Euromonitor, he discussed the details of the upcoming launch of his company and shared his insights on the future of rental services and the streetwear category as a whole. Below is an excerpt from our interview.
Q: What is Rotarity?
Rotarity is a luxury streetwear rental service that will be launched in the contiguous United States in early Q1 of 2019. Our platform allows members to rent and rotate through unique, curated collections of top streetwear items from designer brands. Ultimately, the end goal is to provide a dynamic wardrobe that synchronizes to our members’ preferences while improving accessibility to their favorite brands and reducing the cost of ownership for them.
In terms of the larger circular economy in which Rotarity will play, do you feel as though consumers are already comfortable sharing clothes?
In short, the answer is yes, absolutely. The reason being is that “new” to Millennials and Gen Z doesn’t necessarily mean new off the rack, but rather new to them. It’s new in that it’s the first time they get to wear something. There are a number of examples of this. Pointing to companies like The Real Real, thredUP, Grailed, and StockX, all of these other popular companies and marketplaces are already selling used items. It’s just not an issue anymore for these types of consumers.
Additionally, for many consumers, due to the high prices and limited availability of many popular items and brands, sharing clothes is the only way they can dress in the way they want to dress, without having a closet full of money that’s just collecting dust.
What role do you believe rental services will play in the future of the fashion industry?
I think they will play a massive role. People will continue to own their basics, but for statement pieces or items for special occasions, rental will play an increasingly important role and will bring a huge shift in consumer consumption habits. Across industries, you see hotels and taxis being disrupted by Airbnb and Uber, respectively, and I see fashion as the next industry poised for disruption by such a model. Rent the Runway got the game started, and women were ready for it first with dresses as early as eight years ago when the company started. Now both men as consumers and streetwear as a category have both evolved to be ready for it as well.
What is streetwear and how is it changing the fashion industry?
Streetwear is hard to define. It creates a new type of dialogue with the customer and it’s more of a culture than anything. It’s more than just materials and design, so it’s hard to fit into a single basket. I think of streetwear as Fashion with a capital F. It’s kind of raising the middle finger to traditions and norms. It’s putting individualistic spins on how we perceive design. It’s difficult to define it as one thing because it’s not specific and it doesn’t just appeal to one specific kind of customer. There are a wide range of people who are into streetwear.
Obviously, Millennials and Gen Z who are into fashion and are intrigued by the subcultures that these brands create are into it. But they also have to have the resources, or they have to be willing to dig deep into their pockets to be part of that culture. So, it’s hard for a lot of people, even those that are into the brands and the category, to take part in it because of the expense associated with it.
I see streetwear not only changing in and of itself, but also massively changing the fashion industry. The industry has typically been quite seasonal, where buying happens far in advance alongside runway shoes. Streetwear has effectively flipped that seasonality on its head by constantly dropping new releases, doing pop-up shows, and how the brands go about that goes hand in hand with their designs in rebelling against tradition.
What do you see for the future of the category?
Although it’s tough to define, I will tell you that the category isn’t going anywhere. It started as a trend, but has since solidified itself as a category, similarly to what happened with athleisure. When Chip Wilson founded Lululemon, he created an entirely new category almost as rap did for the music industry. So streetwear, however you want to define it, isn’t going anywhere. You can especially see that in the hybridization going on now between streetwear brands and traditional luxury brands. These brands are planning for the future, and they know that Millennials are going to be 45% of the luxury market by 2025. Millennials don’t want to buy traditional luxury anymore, so brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton are planning for the future by hiring new designers and taking cues from streetwear’s business models. They see streetwear as a long-lasting category.