Marchesa is taking ‘going out tops’ and the fashion sharing economy next level


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The “going out” top, you know, the sparkly, strappy number that you bought to jazz up your bootcut jeans for Friday drinks with the girls (a new pair of dangly Sportsgirl earrings mandatory also), has been enjoying a renaissance this year. The likes of Saint Laurent and Rosie Assoulin have been batting up glorious, sexy and unusual going out tops (a difference, it must be said, from the highly flammable tops we all wore in the early oughts).

Just this week It girl Gigi Hadid was snapped out and about in a gold, lacy top (basically, a perfect going out top) by Australian brand Manning Cartell.

So it’s interesting that Marchesa, the showstopping red carpet ready label designed by Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig are venturing into this exact category as part of a capsule collection for Rent the Runway.

Note the collaborative partner – an enterprise, created by two Harvard Business School grads, both called Jennifer, focused on renting party/red carpet/fancy-do-of-any-genre outfits. 

The partnership came about when Rent the Runway presented Marchesa with data showing that there was a customer demand for blouses. According to DigiDay, Rent the Runway have increased inventory in the tops category by 400 per cent to meet demand.

That is a lot of people hiring a swish top for a night. And it makes sense when you consider how labels like Gucci have us wanting to clash prints and textures (easier to do with separates), and the likes of Prabal Gurung and Tome have us positively aching to sport a Flashdance-inspired one-shoulder. 

But it also speaks to a shift in how we think about fashion – both meeting customer demand, how people want to shop and how, more than ever, fashion companies need to be savvy about technology.

As Marc C. Close writes in Business of Fashion, shortcomings in fashion’s supply chain (it’s not especially, and excuse the buzzword, “agile”, meaning that it’s slow and it’s hard to customise and personalise due to the scale of it).

Shortcomings, he says, that will be alleviated by technology including artificial intelligence and really utilising the data available to fashion brands – from the high street through to the luxury end.

His advice to fashion companies? 

“[S]tart collecting and analysing all the data that you have, such as point-of-sale data, e-commerce analytics and metrics about your customers. Whatever you have, collect it. Your biggest competitive advantage is locked away in the data that flows through your business, day in day out. Build infrastructure around your data to analyse and take action on the findings. Your business’ survival depends on it.”

Something that Marchesa are taking into account with their newest experiment.

As Sarah Tam from Rent the Runway told Digiday of what they can offer luxury brands, “Our feedback is more immediate. We have high feedback from our customers posting reviews, and we see immediately what they’re liking. Brands can adjust to the feedback on items they’re working on, on the spot. Say we’re reporting some fit problems with a top. They can adjust it immediately.”

This allows brands to experiment a little. For Marchesa this means the opportunity to test out a new area for them (tops) without straying far from the aesthetic that they’re known for (lace, frou frou, glamour) in an environment that wants what they’re doing. The pieces can be rented for $US50 to $US70 and purchased from $US345 to $US425. The collection is currently only available on Rent the Runway but could expand, if the data proves especially insightful.

That a luxury brand would design a collection intended to be rented says something about the fleetingness of shopper loyalty too, especially, it must be said, when it comes to that slippery bunch of millennials. Owning stuff is not, perhaps, as important to them as experiencing it.

In a GQ piece that looks at how luxury watch rentals are “disrupting” (urgh, another buzz word) the industry, Cam Wolf examined how designer thread rentals are changing our behaviour and attitudes to not just fancy threads, but the concept of ownership, sentimentality and also that great art of faking it.

Here’s a question though, renting a designer dress or a luxury watch may help us to live a lifestyle previously unavailable to us, but is that a necessarily a positive? Especially when we keep thinking that millennials value authenticity above all else. 

As Ravi Dhar, the director of the Centre for Customer Insights at Yale, told Wolf, “millennials” living in the sharing economy don’t necessary need ownership.

“Whether it was built by all the options in the market with the sharing economy, or that they grew up in the financial crisis, possessions became less important.”

Or as Wolf puts it, we want the watch (or the killer one-of-a-kind for one-night-only) top but we also want everything else: travel, experiences, cool stuff to post on Instagram

So is it a wonder that there’s a huge demand for going out tops? We want the top and we want to dance in it. Preferably somewhere with an excellent and bragworthy geolocation tag. 

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