Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The ECA Interview: Isabella West, Founder, Hirestreet

Glynn Davis, our regular columnist and founder of Retail Insider sits down with Isabella West, founder, Hirestreet.

Can you tell us a little about Hirestreet and how it works?

Hirestreet is a fashion rental platform with over two million site users. We partner with leading retailers like M&S, Whistles and Nobody’s Child to give customers the opportunity to rent their items.

The platform is designed to offer a sustainable, affordable alternative to buying fast fashion and wearing it once. As a customer you can browse through thousands of outfits, once you find the perfect look for your event, you choose your size, your delivery and return date. Rental prices start from £10 for a four-day period.

What were the key drivers for creating the company?

The combined rise of fast-fashion and Instagram created the era of “wear it once” fashion. Five years ago, I knew I was consuming wastefully, but I didn’t want to compromise on having a new outfit for every event – over time I realised this was both environmentally and financially unsustainable.

Hirestreet was built as a solution to my own consumption behaviour, it started small – I just wanted to see whether others would be interested in renting the outfits that I had bought and hardly worn, and it has grown from there.

 What challenges have you faced and what elements have you had to adapt?

We are operating in a high-growth market, awareness and demand for rental is massively increasing and as a consequence we are always learning and evolving our offer.

As consumer demand has started to boom post-Covid-19, retailers have become increasingly interested in white-label rental – which is what drove us to launch our Zoa product last year. We have to be constantly forward looking, our new feature releases shape the UK rental market.

Where does the competition come from?

Our customers tell us that they typically spend £40-£50 a month, on an outfit they will only wear once or twice – and that they purchase most frequently from ASOS and Zara. We are competing to change this behaviour – for customers to see rental as the go-to when they have a special event or occasion coming up, so instead of buying an outfit and then having it sit in their wardrobe for years to come, they hire it and send it back after four days, for the next person to wear it the following weekend.

What brands have you attracted to your platform?

We have over 50 brand partners on the platform.  We have some of the UK’s leading retailers like M&S, we have huge upcoming, sustainability-first brands like Nobody’s Child, leading maternity labels like Tiffany Rose and cult international brands like Keepsake The Label.

You have provided the white label platform for Marks & Spencer to rent out its clothing, is this the first of other such deals or is the main focus on your own site?

M&S partnered with Hirestreet so it is not a white-label offer. White-label rental is something we do offer through our Zoa brand, but many retailers want to test the market first by working with a third-party like Hirestreet to gather data and insight on rental. As a business we offer Rental-as-a-service, retailers can choose to partner with Hirestreet or to use our Zoa brand to launch.

What type of customers do you attract?

Our typical customer is a 25-35-year-old female, working professional, living in a big city – with an active social calendar, trying to be more financially and environmentally sustainable where possible!

Do you see an opportunity to open physical shops?

It’s not something we are looking at for this year, but we do see the potential in the long-run of having an omni-channel offering that could facilitate easy returns or try-ons for customers. But as a digital-first platform, we will trial solving these challenges with high-growth solutions like LiveShopping to start.

What is the greatest opportunity for the business?

We have recently launched a bundle feature, which lets customers rent three items for 30 days for £50. It has been incredibly popular and we have started to see customers shift from hiring just for special occasions to getting outfits for every-day use like work-wear.