Did you know that fashion generates 4% of the world’s waste each year, 92 million tons, which is more than toxic e-waste? Even fascinating is that this problem can be defeated if only people changed their mindset about using rental clothes.
Sure, we all like to change our clothes on different occasions. But, buying a new one for another event is both time-consuming and costly. To add on that, they take up a lot of space on our wardrobe and arrange which is a total hassle.
The best solution for this is renting clothes or as Manish points out- Antidote. Offering designer dresses to rent for parties, Antidote helps the ladies to look their best without having to spend a lot on lehengas and saris that they never wear afterward. Limited to females, for now, Antidote Nepal is a promising company that has been using the best of its networks and social media to promote the idea of renting clothes in Nepal. Blincventures.com has the opportunity to talk to Manish Jung Thapa, the founder of Antidote Nepal and learn about his journey as an entrepreneur.
1. Tell me about your journey to starting your ventures? When did it start?
I had always been interested in the apparel fashion, mostly on the production side of the industry, basically a logistic part of this industry. I had observed that people, especially women were hesitant about repeating the same occasional clothes and buying new clothes for every occasion is not at all viable.
So, I started looking for alternatives but didn’t find a smart, affordable and convenient alternative to buying. That’s how Antidote Nepal came into being. We started in 2018 but it has only been around 5 to 6 months that we formally started giving our services.
2. What is the legal status of your company? And why the name Antidote?
We have registered as a company. We’ve met all the compliance and procedure set forth for by the Government of Nepal. Antidote Nepal is a convenience-based solution for people, which has a very powerful way to impact the fashion industry.
By this process, we are also saving one extra garment that goes into production So, I believe we are an Antidote to fashion and hence the name Antidote Nepal.
3. What is a social problem that you are trying to solve and how do you go on with the process?
With Antidote Nepal, we are trying to ensure optimum utilization of resources (in our context the outfits that are lying unused inside our closets). There are clothes that are used once or twice and eventually get stacked up in the cupboards. So our major idea is to make multiple uses of these clothing.
Did you know, according to reports from Oxfam and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), up to 6 kgs of carbon is emitted when manufacturing one single garment? We are working to change the mindset of people about renting out clothes, we are ensuring optimal utilization of resources and protecting the environment.
To fulfill our purpose we communicate and collaborate with individual lenders and fashion designers, that is how we source all our materials. We lease out clothes from them and rent it out and then split the revenue from the process.
Most of our transactions are online through our social media (Facebook: @antidotenepal and Instagram:@antidote.nepal).
Antidote Nepal started out as a market test since it is a new concept in Nepal we were not sure whether it would work out. Currently, I can say that yes Antidote Nepal is working out. Now we have started to expand our market, previously we were just confined to close relatives, family, and friends.
4. What challenges did you face while starting the company and what are the challenges you are facing right now?
There was this stigma around renting out clothes and we had a dilemma whether or not we should enter this particular area. Plus, our friends and families were also doubtful about the concept of renting out clothes. Initially, I was the only one involved in Antidote Nepal, so there were times when I was skeptical, all the challenges were within me. I have definitely been able to overcome them with time.
5. How did you deal with the stigma that we should be wearing someone else’s clothes? How receptive have people been?
Fashion Industry is slowly moving towards sustainability. In America you can see concepts of thrift shops, in the case of Nepal, we knew it was going to be a difficult journey, So we entered the field well-prepared, but when we started reaching out and talking to people, we found that people’s needs were much greater than the stigma.
People were buying dresses that cost around 20k that they were going to wear only once or twice. That didn’t make any sense to them. There was reluctance definitely, but by collaborating with dry cleaners who have around 35 years of experience, we have been able to add value and gain credibility and confidence of the clients.
Similarly, so much time goes into buying clothes, a typical customer has to say visit Ason market, buy fabrics, give it to tailors and at the end they end up wearing that dress once or twice.
Through Antidote Nepal, they don’t have to go through all this hassle. So this has definitely helped in mitigating or at least minimize the stigma that prevails in Nepal.
6. What standard procedure do you apply when leasing out the clothes?
In the beginning, we didn’t really think about what to lease and what not to. However, with passing time, we realized that we were actually holding inventories rather than renting them out. This indeed taught us a lesson, now we have a fashion consultant who helps us to sort dresses that are in trend at the moment. We ask our individual lenders to send pictures of the dresses that they want to lease out to us and after checking whether those particular dresses are on-demand and fit the trend of the fashion industry, we decide to lease the dresses.
Additionally, we also make sure that the dresses that have been leased out to us are in good shape, in trend, of the highest quality and are still in mint condition.
7. What if the fabrics of dresses are damaged? Do you reuse them?
To the date we haven’t done that, we simply don’t accept dresses that are damaged. Primarily we are focusing on this renting out model. So, we first want to get this right and in the future, we may think about that.
8. How long does one lease out the dresses to you?
We have a contract of 3 months’ period, so we hold the dresses for 3 months, however, if the people leasing out the dresses find it lucrative, they renew the contract. In addition to that, if they want to wear the dress within the period, they can do so simply by letting us a week prior to the event.
9. What is your current staff strength? How many customers do you have on a monthly basis?
We have a team of three- a founder, an operational head and a stylist/designer. We have around 15 to 20 customers per month however, it largely depends on the season. The customer inflow is higher during the wedding seasons.
10. What do you have to say about the competition with all the designers’ stores and other clothing stores in the market?
At the end of the day, every business is about creating value for the customers. We have been able to deliver that value. Further, we are also in conversations with top boutiques and designers such as Muku, Kasa and Sabah with hopes to help them tap the untapped market who are still hesitant to buy into their outfits due to high upfront cost. With our rental model, those customers can easily wear our designers’ outfits at a fraction of the price, benefiting both the party during the process.
Similarly, as the market expands our Nepali designers/boutiques will have access to a larger customer base and resulting in high brand value.
So, it is a win-win situation for all.
11. What is the future plan for your company?
“There is buying and then there’s Antidote”. That’s the kind of imprint we want to create in the coming 5 years. We ultimately want to be an alternative for buying clothes and reinvent the way we consume fashion.
Likewise, we are currently only focused on occasional clothes. So, in the future, we may also focus on shoes and accessories that will complement our dresses.
12. Do you consider Antidote Nepal a social enterprise?
We are strictly a for-profit organization. There is this notion that all the good works should be carried out by NGOs, INGOs, and social enterprises but given the resources and mindset, for-profit business and a social cause can go hand in hand. So, I would say we are proud of for-profit business by choice with a meaningful vision.
13. How has your experience been with entrepreneurship so far and any other information you’d like to share with us?
The biggest thing that I learned in this journey is patience, it is the most important quality that you need to have. Talent, one’s ability and capacity I believe are temporary whereas patience is something that you will always need.
Apart from this, I am really enjoying this journey in spite of all the hardship. I can bet that I will always choose this path over the 9 to 5 job and 50k pay per month. In a span of 2 years, I have got an opportunity to learn a lot which no coursebook or a stable job could ever teach.
Moreover, we plan to offset 1000kg of carbon emission in one year(We have already managed to offset 660 kg of emission). For this, we will require a lot of strong Nepali women to subscribe to our service (either by pledging to rent an outfit or pledging to lease out a dress to us). Albeit, it would be greenwashing if I told that renting is the only solution. I request all of the readers to make conscious buying decisions, we as consumers hold an immense power with the purchase we make. Buying local counts, curbing impulse buying counts, reusing the same outfit counts, renting and buying pre-used counts. The choices you make counts. If fashion helps to express who we are as an individual, then the clothing choice we make matters. Let’s strive for a sustainable and meaningful fashion.
For more information about Antidote Nepal, connect with Manish at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out their Facebook page here.