The Style Review – A Personal Experience
“I have too many clothes”, said no female ever. Unfortunately, limited closet space is a real issue for most females, and this is where Style Theory aims to fill the gap.
Style Theory operates a subscription based clothing rental service for women, catering to women between the ages of 25 to 40 years old. It offers members access to designer labels such as Adriana Papell (New York), Alice McCall (Australia) and Ted Baker (London), for a flat monthly subscription fee of S$129. Apart from clothes Style Theory also has a small collection of accessories such as bags, sunglasses and jewellery available for rent.
The company has a presence in Singapore and Jakarta, with thousands of subscribers in Singapore.
Style Theory was founded in 2016 by Chris Halim and Raena Lim, both of whom are turning 30 this year, and were previously from the management consulting and finance industries respectively.
The Company currently has an inventory of more than 20,000 pieces of clothing, and continues to expand its collection on a weekly basis, as it works with global designers from all over the world (whether New York or Paris) to procure the latest collections. The merchandising team tends to purchase more pieces in popular “Small” and “Medium” sizes, and adopts a data-driven approach in studying utilisation patterns to analyse popular designs and items (this is presumably collected through the comments members are required to provide in order for a return to be scheduled). One of the challenges that the company faces is building an inventory comprising a variety of styles which cater to women of different body shapes and sizes. The company considers itself to be the biggest designer clothes rental subscription platform in Southeast Asia.
The Style Theory App
Style Theory operates through the Style Theory app, which members are required to download in order to access the service. The account registration process is straightforward and easily completed in a few clicks, with the provision of requisite standard account information such as the member’s address, mobile number and credit card information. The platform is relatively easy to use, and keeps data such as the member’s body measurements, which allows the app to filter items available in a relevant size and provide a “score” on how well the item would fit.
Selecting the Items
Style Theory provides a few pictures of each item available for rent, a brief description, members’ reviews of the clothing, as well as the sizes available and measurements of said sizes. However, I noted that not all items had pictures of models modelling the clothing.
Under the standard subscription plan, members are allowed to select up to three items per box. The process of selecting items is similar to online shopping, save that items which are added to “cart” (or in this case, “box”) are actually kept “on hold” for the member. I tested this, and items which I had saved in my box without checking out, were still available for rent two days later. This was also confirmed by one of the customer service personnel. This was an aspect which really appealed to me as it made selection of the clothing a less stressful process (i.e. I did not feel particularly time-barred or pressurised to “checkout” my box immediately).
Delivery and Returns
Members select a preferred delivery timeframe at the point of checkout. All orders submitted before midnight are processed the next working day. This means that an order submitted at 10pm on Monday night would be processed on Tuesday, and the earliest day the member would receive the box by courier would be on Wednesday.
Assuming the member wears all three items in the box from Thursday to Saturday, the earliest the member can arrange for a pick-up of the box would be on Monday, as Style Theory does not operate on Sundays. The member would only be able to add the next three items to her box after the box has been returned and processed by Style Theory on Tuesday evening.
Realistically speaking, it takes about a week for a cycle to be completed, if a member chooses to have the box delivered and picked-up by courier. However, if the member is able to personally deliver and pick-up the box from the warehouse, this would reduce the delay time by about two working days as members can pick-up the box the next working day, and are able to select their next three items upon drop-off of the box.
There is also an alternative option of dropping-off the box at a PopStation for return to Style Theory – I tested this option but deemed the courier service to be a more convenient and reliable method as the tracking function for PopStation deliveries is not real-time.
All items returned to Style Theory undergo inspection and dry cleaning, before they are put back on the App for rental. Dry cleaning takes about two days, and members are generally not charged for any “damages” which can be fixed (as opposed to irreparable “damages” such as burns from a cigarette butt).
Style Theory does carry a wide variety of different styles of clothing, from workwear to casual clothing and occasion outfits. The measurements of the sizes for each designer label are not consistent, even within the designer label itself, and there are generally at least three to four sizes available for each item. I think that this service would be extremely useful for women who are undergoing pregnancy, or are particularly susceptible to body weight gain or loss. Style Theory was very helpful in providing clothing options for occasions such as weddings.
I found the whole process quite novel, and enjoyed the experience of “receiving boxes” of new clothing to try. The service also provided me with the opportunity to try new styles of clothing that I ordinarily would not purchase. The items in the boxes arrived aesthetically packed, clean, and ready to be worn. I also received a complimentary mini-measuring tape in my first box, which was a nice touch.
After playing around with the App, I found that the most efficient way of finding an item I might like was through the App’s style recommendation algorithm. While the App did try to categorise clothing into separate labels, I noted that not all clothing in the inventory was filtered into those specific categories. Further, it was apparent that categorisation of what could be considered “workwear” is quite subjective, depending on how conservative one’s workplace is.
One of the main issues I faced and continue to face is sizing. Although measurements of each clothing were provided, and members were guided by other members’ reviews on the fit, I frequently did not experience a “good fit” with most of the items ordered. This was despite “advice” provided by the App’s size recommendation algorithm. I attributed this to the following reasons: (a) I am below the average height for females; (b) most of the clothes are western labels and thus may better suit women of a certain body type; and (c) a piece of clothing modelled by a Caucasian model is not going to look anything similar on my Asian skin and frame. This issue did get a little better over time as I learnt to better spot clothing which may or may not fit or suit. I later learnt that Style Theory is aware of the “Asian fit” issue, and tries to customise the clothing to better fit the body proportions of Asians. The company has a team of seamstresses who hem the length of some clothing, and sew on “poppers” for low cut items (I did spot this modification on one of the items I had returned).
The second issue I faced was the availability of the few clothing designs I liked, and which may fit. Many of the items were often unavailable as they were mostly out for dry cleaning, or rented. Perhaps I just did not have the luck of a coinciding cycle. However, I was extremely pleased with the few clothing that fit well, such as the dresses below, which I had worn to a wedding, to work, and to a party.
Another aspect I noticed was that it was not uncommon for me to cross paths with women who were wearing the same clothing I had previously rented, or had spotted on the App in the Raffles Place vicinity. This was something I was a little surprised by, as this did not occur as frequently with the clothing I had purchased from blogshops.
I have been a member of Style Theory for at least two months, and the company appears to be quite responsive to feedback from members. For example, there used to be two courier options but I noticed that this had changed to a single courier option in the past month. I spoke with the Associate Manager of Product and Business Development, who had informed me that Style Theory frequently received complaints on the reliability of its logistics partners who were unable to deliver the boxes within the specific timeframe or missed the delivery altogether. This resulted in Style Theory building its own logistics platform for greater visibility and control over the delivery process. I had personally experienced this issue as my first box which was scheduled to be delivered before 10pm was eventually delivered at about 11.30pm, without any notice or apology from the courier. I have not faced any issues since the change in logistics partners to their in-house courier service, and would receive a mobile text alert prior to delivery and collection of the box.
Communication with customer service personnel is conducted via a “chat” function within the app. The customer service personnel generally respond to queries within a few hours, although there were occasions where I received a response within two working days, after following up on my query. The customer service staff are quite helpful and do try their best to accommodate and arrange for the box to be delivered on time, especially where members highlight that the items are required for an occasion.
Apart from the rental of designer clothing, Style Theory also offers members the option of purchasing the clothing at a reduced price after having rented the item.
Style Theory has a loyalty programme called “Style Stars”. Members earn Style Stars through their monthly subscription and through the purchase of items, and can redeem such Style Stars for activities such as an extra item in the box. I am given to understand that Style Theory is still working on their loyalty programme to make it more attractive for members.
The subscription service is flexible as it is offered on a monthly basis, with cancellation only being a “click” away. Members are also allowed to temporarily suspend their subscription for a certain number of days (depending on the length of subscription), without having to provide any reasons. This is particularly useful where members are travelling for a prolonged period, and may not be able to utilise the service.
Overall, I really enjoyed the experience and would recommend anyone who has not tried such a subscription based clothing rental service to give it a try. I am currently undecided as to whether I will be continuing with Style Theory in the long term, but probably would be in less of a dilemma, were it not for the sizing and availability issues I face. I am, however, acquainted with members who have been long-time subscribers of Style Theory (since it was founded), and who seem to be very happy with the service as they find it affordable and convenient.
All views expressed in this Article are the Author’s as at September 2018. Although representatives of Style Theory had provided some of the information above, it should be noted that this article has not been reviewed or confirmed by Style Theory.
Style Theory is offering Law Society members $30 off their first 3 months of subscription (SGD99 instead of SGD129)*. Offer closes 31 December 2018 and applies only by clicking here: https://sg.styletheory.co/lawsociety
* Terms and conditions apply. Please refer to https://www.lawsociety.org.sg/For-Lawyers/Services-for-Members/Membership-Benefits/Lifestyle-Benefits/Style-Theory for details.