A team of four Paragon International University sophomores has developed a platform to rent dresses, suits, and traditional outfits for the lower-income group to access a variety of fashion.
Heng Bunnavin, 19, and 20-year-olds Rithy Pichchornay, So Samphors and Sim Lymeng form the team behind STYLE. The digital platform will soon integrate tailor shops in Cambodia to its website and app which is under development, to provide fashion options and facilitate online clothing rental.
Pichchornay said: “One day, a friend in our group complained that she didn’t have anything to wear to a party.”
With an affordable evening gown costing from $50 to a few hundred dollars, men’s suits going for $100 and traditional outfits at no less than $100 in Cambodia, lower-income people can hardly afford tailoring services for such attire.
“It’s expensive and it is such a waste to spend that amount of money for a dress that you only wear a few times at the most,” said Pichchornay who is a Management Information Systems major.
Pichchornay and her fellow co-founders felt that a lot of people faced the same problem. Hence, the team of STYLE conducted surveys and the feedback for clothing rental services outweighed the idea of buying tailor-made outfits.
“From our own experiences, we found inspiration to create a platform to facilitate the process of renting expensive clothing,” she said.
The STYLE platform rents out evening gowns, party dresses, wedding outfits and traditional Khmer dresses for $15 to $30.
Pichchornay is in charge of updating the catalogue in the app and website once they are ready, and its Facebook postings, whereas Bunnavin who is a banking and finance major is responsible for customer relations.
Samphors goes from shop to shop to enlist more partners, while Lymeng manages tech matters involving the website and app.
The start-up aims to rent out clothing of a wide fashion range for customers, deliver service with less cost, save time for customers and maximise customer’s satisfaction every time they use the platform.
They believe their dress rental platform is most likely to be the first of its kind in Cambodia. This is because the team was placed in the top five of SmartStart Cycle 3’s final pitch during the annual SmartStart Young Innovator Program in June.
“We hope to get new ideas from the two mentors in the incubation programme. Through this, we can improve our business model and tech solutions.”
Pichchornay said her team was selected as the top five out of 48 teams in the SmartStart Cycle 3 competition and won $5,000.
They have since improved their business model and online platform for another round of competition in February 2020, where the winner gets a 15-day trip to the likes of Google, Microsoft, Facebook and LinkedIn in Singapore.
Pichchornay and her fellow team members hope that in time, their platform can be improved to near perfection. They started running STYLE Cambodia since April through its Facebook page.
“We act as the middleman and charge a 10 per cent commission on each attire we rent. We started with about 10 clothing shops as our partners and hope to expand our network of suppliers.
“We build a catalogue for customers along with the price and details, so they can easily browse and decide what is best for them,” Pichchornay said.
Once customers confirm a rental, STYLE will inform them of the location to pick up the clothing. The clothing shop will then alter the item according to the customer’s requirement.
Customers can choose to pay a rental fee and leave their ID card at the shop or make a deposit equivalent to the full price of the clothing.
For now, STYLE operates from its Facebook page. The co-founders plan to launch the platform’s website next month.
As for the app, the start-up will soon be testing its functions. It might take about three months before it is available for download on the Google Play Store and App Store.
STYLE’s clothing rental platform has received a few criticisms so far. The main concern is pricing. Some customers complained that the rental fee is high.
“This is one of the main challenges we are trying to overcome. The trick is to negotiate well and cooperate with our clothing shop partners,” said Pichchornay.
The team had to travel around Phnom Penh and talk with shop owners to convince them to be STYLE’s partner. Some of them are very open to the idea of being placed on a digital clothing rental platform, but others just ignore the opportunity.
Pichchornay said STYLE is also trying to include other clothing shops which are located in the outskirts of the city to lower the rental fee.
She is optimistic that shops in the outskirts are highly likely to offer them a better deal. With more reasonable prices, STYLE can continuously grow its customers, she said.
STYLE Cambodia has an office located about 100m behind Phsar Depo. Working hours are from 7am to 10pm. Visit its Facebook page (@STYLEkhrenting) or contact 010 244 452 for enquiries.