Reduce, Re-use, Recycle … Your Wardrobe?

Quick show of hands – How many of you have lovely Indian saris and outfits moldering in your closet, worn once and never to be worn again? Or worse, those lehngas that your aunt sent that don’t fit you, or the sari received as a gift at a wedding that just isn’t your style?

I do, and Dina Patel of Didi’s Wardrobe is betting you do too.

After 10 years in the finance world, putting in 100 hours a week, Patel was ready to try something different. Noticing how didis wardrobe 1she always ended up exchanging clothes with her friends when she needed party outfits, and how many of her own clothes were worn so infrequently, she set up Didi’s Wardrobe, a place for buyers and sellers of gently used clothes to come together.

“I looked at the rental concept first,” says Patel, “but there are just so many players in that area.” (see Borrow it Bindass). “Plus, they have a significant inventory investment, and I wasn’t ready to do that based on my market research.”

Didi’s sellers operate in two ways. For the enterprising ones who want to use Didi’s as a consignment store, Patel offers an easy way to get the clothing details up on the site. She does expect the seller to be good with measurements and to put up pictures of the clothes offered. Also, to protect the buyer, payment is not made to the seller till confirmation of receipt of goods is received from the buyer. For this kind of seller, Didi’s Wardrobe keeps 18% of the sale proceeds.

For the more typical seller, who has a bunch of clothes but can’t be bothered to sort them out, Didi’s Wardrobe has a much more convenient option. Just bundle up the  clothes and ship them and DW will sort them, measure them, put a price on them, and display them effectively on the site. In this case, DW keeps 50% of the sale price.

“Customers are quite happy with this option and the prices we set on their clothes,” reports Patel. And buyers can clearly see if the clothes are from DW’s inventory or directly from the seller. Best of all, the clothes are rated on their condition.

Based in the Midwest, Patel has been setting up drop-off days in the area this summer, and says she has met with tremendous response from sellers who have, on occasion, brought garbage bags full of clothes to the location.

Supply doesn’t seem to be a problem, but how comfortable are people wearing used clothes?

Indian Saree 1155aNot surprisingly, 50% of DW’s buyers are non-Indian. I guess DW is a great way to try out Indian clothes at a low entry price. “But I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the profile of my Indian clients,” says Patel. They’ve been fairly high net worth customers, and DW has been able to meet their discerning standards.

I tried DW’s system a couple of months ago and purchased an olive silk sari with a blouse that claimed to be my size. I received my purchase in short order, and found the sari as lovely as it looked in the picture. I did have to make adjustments to the blouse, but a local seamstress was able to do that with no trouble and I ended up with a printed silk sari and blouse for $60, which, frankly, I thought was a steal.

DW has been growing slowly and some of it has been by design. “I was very concerned about getting the mechanics of it right,” says Patel, and her site has been growing organically, with minimal marketing. And she has resisted efforts to make it a mall kind of experience, where many sellers of new clothes can congregate.  “Our aim is to be environment friendly, and selling new clothes defeats that purpose. The idea is to reuse clothes and recycle our wardrobes,” says Patel.

Didi’s Wardrobe has been getting good traction over this summer and quite a few repeat buys. “The biggest challenge is to overcome inertia,” says Patel. “We all have beautiful clothes in our closet that we would be happy to sell, but it is making the effort to send us the stuff that daunts people.” Still, the drop-off days have been very successful and Patel plans to expand the area covered for the drop-offs.

Other expansion plans include a bridal section. “We haven’t really pushed this segment, but we are growing slowly,” says Patel.

Go check out Didi’s Wardrobe to help you prune your closet. And if you are looking for pretty outfits you don’t have to pay a fortune for, Didi’s Wardrobe is a great place to find those bargains. Best of all, you’ll end up spending less, having more, and knowing that your lovely clothes will be cherished and worn by people who appreciate them as much as you once did.

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