Research shows that the average person today buys 60% more items of clothing than they did 15 years ago.

But consumers are only keeping that clothing for half as long as they used to.

This is a statistic Hannon Comazzetto wants to change, via the launch of her second-hand luxury fashion marketplace AirRobe.

The platform offers a curated range of gently-used luxury clothing and accessories on a peer-to-peer system that enables customers to rent or purchase directly from other users.

AirRobe launches at a time when the global apparel resale market is exploding, with reports from GlobalData showing that the secondhand economy is projected to grow to nearly 1.5 times the size of fast fashion within the next 10 years, hitting a global value of $64 billion USD (approximately $95 billion AUD).

According to a report released by McKinsey earlier in 2019, the shift to new ownership models is driven by growing consumer desire for variety, sustainability and affordability.

Comazzetto, a participant of the current Startmate accelerator program, conceived of AirRobe as a way of directly responding to the rampant pace of the fashion industry by facilitating a longer lifespan for quality garments.

She is also hoping to emulate the processes she saw in her experience in the blockchain industry.

“We’re living through a moment when consumers are increasingly aware of how their buying behaviour affects the environment.

"Research shows that the average person today buys 60% more items of clothing than they did 15 years ago, but we are only keeping that clothing for half as long as we used to. If we extend the lifespan of a garment by just 6 months, it reduces its carbon impact by 20%,” she said.

“We recently conducted a survey of over 250 people, and 50% of respondents considered themselves conscious that fashion is the 2nd-most polluting industry on earth, and said it affects their shopping patterns.".

Functioning as a shared marketplace, AirRobe enables individuals to monetise their wardrobes, while existing second-hand luxury fashion retailers can operate their own digital shop-in-shop by using the platform’s software service for $100 per month.

AirRobe itself holds no stock, instead curating its user-generated offering to ensure consistency and quality are maintained, while taking a commission from transactions.

It’s a unique approach and one that stands AirRobe apart from other rental and resale platforms, Comazzetto claimed.

“I wanted to help curb our use-and-discard attitude towards fashion by offering a really well-curated mix of garments.

"To maintain a high calibre of inventory, we set conditions around the quality and provenance of the products that are listed, generally looking to support the brands that operate on a season-by-season basis.

"This is to ensure our customers can always find something beautiful and well-made through AirRobe. And whether these pieces are rented or resold, we are redirecting them back into the system - it’s an important step in closing the loop."

In the brief period since AirRobe began operating, garments from brands including Gucci, Chloe, Celine, Bassike, Camilla & Marc, Zimmermann and Helmut Lang have been listed.

“When I first started developing AirRobe, it became clear that there was a contingent of women who are sitting on a wealth of virtually untouched accessories, bags and garments," Comazzetto said.

"Equally, there’s a cohort of the fashion market who are priced out of the luxury fashion sector. These two groups have something important, and powerful, in common: they are all looking for ways to be more sustainable in their choices without compromising on style or quality.

“We’ve also found a lot of enthusiasm from second-hand retailers who have not managed to establish an online presence wanting to use the AirRobe software to reach a new group of customers. It’s exciting to be simplifying the exchange between these groups and providing a tool to create longevity for all this product."

AirRobe’s marketplace model reflects the broader consumer shift towards shared economies, with an intention to follow in the footsteps of market paradigm-shifting companies such as Uber and AirBnb.

This streamlined approach led Startmate - a start-up incubator backed by Blackbird Ventures - to invest in AirRobe.

“I’m thrilled to be given the support of Startmate, who have been instrumental in opening up other investment opportunities, too,” Comazzetto said.

“As we continue to move away from traditional ownership models, the benefits when it comes to the fashion industry are really only just starting to be tapped. In the future, AirRobe will be looking for methods of closing the loop completely on the life-cycle of apparel and accessories. For now, we’re focused on providing fashion consumers with a more sustainable and equitable model."

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