A newly coined term “Clothing as a Service (CaaS)” refers to a clothing distribution model where clothes are no longer possessed, but rented as a form of service.
Rental services on clothes are not particular to the general public. Expensive apparels ranging from dresses to gowns have long been rented. However, CaaS is different in that they lease clothes for daily use.
Due to such characteristics, well known CaaS services such as Caastle of US and Closet Share of Korea utilize a subscription model. The subscription model is a payment method where users pay for a service periodically. In the case of CaaS services, users rent a limited number of items in return of the payment.
Ewha Voice interviewed Seong Ju-hee, the CEO of The Closet Company, who manages Closet Share, in order to understand how the system works.
“Closet Share is a platform that resolves the everyday routine of having to shop, do the laundry, and coordinate clothes for daily uses,” Seong said.
The platform actively uses accumulated user data to make the service possible. The data scientists who worked with Closet Share from the very beginning, constructed a system to categorize each product by material, size, and many other characteristics. Then, their algorithm recommends its users a combination of appropriate clothes.
The clothes customers used are thoroughly cleaned for the next usage by the company. This lessens the customer’s burden of managing and taking care of the laundry process.
CaaS is expected to flourish in the near futureaccording to Vogue for Business, which is in accordance with the characteristic of millennials where they care less about possessing and pursue more about the experience of products. However, not all platforms were a success.
For example, Sharehub, a Seoul Metropolitan Government managed platform made to facilitate sharing economy, published an article explaining the closure of Project Anne. Project Anne was a clothes streaming service by SK Planet which rented clothes to its subscribers like most CaaS models. The project stopped its service in less than two years because it could not satisfy the need of its users who had to wait too long to get a turn for their desired products.
Companies resolved such problems by contracting with major apparel companies. Closet Share has also signed with more than 40 brands. However, there are also other solutions as well.
First, they utilize an algorithm to recommend users products that have not been rented out already. Second, they attract a group of customers different to users, named sharers. Sharers are those who share their personal possessions to be rented out via Closet Share.
“We provide sharers the environment to earn profit out of their own closets,” Seong said. “For example, we’d give all from item management to user attraction.”
Seong’s effort to attract many sharers is in evident progress. Popular YouTubers or celebrities such as fashion stylist Han Hye-yeon are sharing their closets on the platform. Closet Share’s number of curated items increased from 300 to 30,000 in four years. Seong said the upward tendency is on-going.
CaaS is a word derived from the as-a-service model. Professor Yang Hee-dong from Ewha School of Business explained its definition.
“As-a-service model describes a distribution model where users take services for free and the third entity pays for the service,” Yang said. “Usually the third party would be a corporation who in turn gets to expose its own commerce via the service.”
Yang added that since CaaS service providers require the users to pay, it is slightly different from traditional as-a-service model.
Seong, as a CEO added why CaaS cannot entirely be supported from a third entity like the traditional as-a-service model.
“Fashion services like ours intervene with almost the entire process of the transaction,” Seong began. “We are in charge of many independent processes such as item care to overall management.”
Lastly, Song noted many customers of Closet Share commented the service have improved their lifestyle.
“Some customers even sent food to express gratitude,” Seong said. “The moments when I feel our service improves the welfare of people are very delightful. I think that is also what keeps our business going.”