Booth Alum Launches Eco-Friendly Menswear Rental Business


According to a new survey by the The Associated Press Center-NORC for public affairs research and Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, about 6 in 10 Americans believe the rate of global warming is accelerating. However, carbon emissions from the fashion industry, which emits more than international flights and shipping combined according to the United Nations Environment Program, is often overlooked. Booth School of Business alumnus Anya Cheng hopes to tackle this challenge while keeping men stylish with her new menswear rental startup, Taelor.

Taelor allows men to rent clothes at 15-day intervals instead of buying them. For a monthly fee of $ 59.99, customers receive an assortment of four shirts curated by artificial intelligence and a designated stylist. The clothes are selected according to the preferences and sizes expressed by the customer. Taelor ships the clothes directly to the customer for 15 days. After this period, the customer will receive a new batch of clothes and can either purchase the previous clothes at 70% off the retail price or return them.

Since its launch last May, Taelor has won the Alumni New Venture Challenge, a competition for UCicago alumni to present their startups. Taelor competed against start-ups from six other regions of the world and won the prize of $ 100,000. The company has just sent its first 100 pilot boxes of clothing to customers across the country. After receiving the feedback from the pilot boxes, Cheng hopes to improve their products and start fundraising in earnest next year.

Cheng credits his UChicago education as an integral part of the bond building that guided his business during its early stages. She graduated from the Booth School of Business in 2014 as one of nine women in a class of 90. She is now a professor at the Medill School of Journalism and Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern.

“When we worked on our finances, we asked classmates who are now CFOs at other companies to review Taelor’s finances,” Cheng said. “Our first set of investors were classmates who have now built successful careers. Also, other entrepreneur classmates have asked me to be a board member of their company to help with marketing, and in turn, I see how they run their startups and I also learn from these experiences.

Cheng met Phoebe Tan, co-founder of Taelor, while studying at Booth. While Cheng is majoring in Marketing and Technology, Tan takes care of the finances and operations of the company. Their respective skills and professional experiences allow them to effectively manage their business and meet the challenges they face.

“Phoebe and I have totally different expertise, but thanks to our UChicago Booth education, we know enough to at least ask questions to help the other person avoid blind spots,” Cheng said. “This type of communication allows us to support each other and become great founders. “

Cheng designed Taelor’s business model after learning that about 85% of all textiles end up in landfills or are burned. As more than 60 percent of fabric textiles are made from polyester derived from fossil fuels, Greenpeace International, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of environmental issues through research, reports that these garments in Landfills can take hundreds of years to decompose and generate microplastics that pollute waterways.

“Taelor helps busy men look good without committing to buying clothes and while helping people save the environment,” Cheng said. Brown in an interview. “People only wear 20% of what they buy. So even if you like certain outfits, most of the items in your wardrobe that you never really wear end up in landfills.

Cheng’s startup follows the “fast fashion” explosion, the proliferation of cheap and trendy clothing based on celebrity culture. According to World Resources Institute, 2014 saw people buy 60% more clothes than in 2000, but they only kept the clothes half as long. In response, clothing manufacturers, in an effort to meet record demand, have more than doubled production since 2000 and generally don’t design their clothes to last.

Cheng believes that Taelor and other clothing rental companies have an advantage in fast fashion due to the fast two-week clothing turnaround time and associated consumer preference data.

“So if you think of fast fashion, the reason why these companies, which are not eco-friendly, are so successful is because they get very quick feedback in four months,” Cheng said. “But for our platform, people are renting clothes, and then in just two weeks we have real data coming back and we know if people like their clothes. The customer can judge if it’s fair to wear and if the quality is good, and everything is feeding our rich data.

Cheng was first inspired to start Taelor by her own difficulties in finding affordable but fashionable clothes with little hassle. While most of the existing clothing rental companies target women, Cheng saw adult men as a prime market for his business.

“Before starting this business, I was not a fashionable person, I was quite lazy, I hated shopping and I hated laundry,” said Cheng. “What I finally found is that a lot of people have the same problem as I do. And guess what, most of these people are men. They are between 25 and 40 years old, 60% are single, and they don’t care about fashion, but they do care about looking good in order to achieve some goals that they have set for themselves, and that is [how] Taelor was born.

The shift from pop-up fashion to clothing rental is reflected in the success of companies such as Rent the Runway. Rent the track began its IPO last Wednesday at a valuation of $ 1.7 billion, surprising analysts who expected a figure close to $ 1.3 billion.

“Circular fashion is the future of the garment industry, and that includes both resale and rental business models,” Cheng said. “With a clothing resale business, users go to a website and can buy clothes that have already been worn, or they can sell their own clothes to others. It’s great, but it can take hours to cycle through different products, and once you buy something you usually can’t return it, which doesn’t make sense to people who don’t have a lot. of time.

Since graduating from Booth, Cheng has led digital innovation, marketing, and artificial intelligence teams at companies including Facebook, eBay, Target, and Sears. This professional experience allowed her to hone her marketing, innovation and leadership skills and ultimately prepared her to become CEO of Taelor.

“I’m actually a new entrepreneur,” she said. “Over the past 15 years, I have always worked in the corporate field and specialize in building zero-to-one products. So on the one hand, I have a lot of zero-to-one product experience with building new businesses, new products, and new innovations. However, I have a lot of retail experience. So in retail businesses like Target, Sears, and eBay, I know how hard it is for brands to really know what people want.

Taelor currently offers a 30-day free trial for anyone who signs up for the monthly subscription and wears medium-sized shirts. Memberships can be canceled at any time.

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