Style Theory: Reimagining sustainability in the fashion industry

Chris Halim and Raena Lim. (PHOTO: Style Theory)
Chris Halim and Raena Lim. (PHOTO: Style Theory)

Singaporean fashion rental platform Style Theory, which was established in 2016, is one of Southeast Asia's largest circular fashion platforms on a mission to reshape women's relationships with fashion. When Yahoo Life SEA met husband-and-wife Chris Halim and Raena Lim, the force behind the brand at their new showroom, Lim shared, "Personally, I think I'm very motivated to build a better fashion future. I think sustainability is a very big thing for our business, and that's also something that resonates a lot with me."

The husband-and-wife team also let on that starting the business was stressful when they first began, even though they were used to each others' working styles before Style Theory was born. "We have quite clear boundaries at work and for personal life, so that's helpful," Lim said.

However, the transition from employee to business owners was a huge leap. "What's stressful is that before this, we used to be an employee in a company. Saturdays and Sundays are your own time; after-work hours, it's like your own time. But once we became entrepreneurs, both of us couldn't take leave together, so it became a bit of an issue. We had no vacation for the first two-plus years," the co-founders shared.

Chris Halim and Raena Lim. (PHOTO: Style Theory)
Chris Halim and Raena Lim. (PHOTO: Style Theory)

As an apparel and designer bags rental platform, the brand offers ladies curated pieces from their inventory on a monthly membership basis.

Like what Style Theory's website stated, renting from the circular fashion platform for your next outfit means you no longer need to suffer from "only-wore-this-once remorse or the environmental guilt".

For most business owners, expanding during the COVID-19 pandemic is something not many are keen on. For Style Theory, however, the brand had expanded the program to Hong Kong over the last year and seen great success amongst their customer base there. So, to appease our curiosity, we asked Halim why they picked Hong Kong for the latest expansion?

"For us, we've seen that Singapore has been a great success. It's the first market for our rental business, and when we think about the next market, we try to find similar and potentially even better markets than Singapore. When we look at Hong Kong, in some sense, it's a market that's very similar. People live in small homes, love fashion, and embrace sustainability. These are great traits to have in our business. On top of that, for our kind of business, in a country or a city where I'll say a majority of women work, I think that's normally a great fit for us too," Halim shared.

In 2022, Style Theory looks to expand into Hong Kong with their apparel rental business and build a warehouse there to facilitate and enhance the customer service experience for the brand.

Comparing Style Theory's targeted markets, Lim shared that Hong Kong customers are more trendy while Singapore's clients prefer casual looks, and their Indonesian customers are more conservative in their styles. "So when we source for collections and stuff from even within the same designer, we might pick different things just for different markets."

For designer bags, Lim noted that high-end brands such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton still command a strong following while customers are more inclined to try indie brands when it comes to apparel. Sourcing from over 20 countries, Lim shared that they received enquiries from their members on specific indie brands such as N12H, which are "really interesting moments that we see how people's perception of what they choose between apparel and bags are quite different."

Backed by investors such as Softbank, Style Theory's business model in both their rental and resale businesses allowed the brand to excel not just in execution but also from a financial standpoint. "All of our inventory are all consigned by customers, so in that sense, for our business, we are significantly capital-like as a business. That will enable us to operate in a very, very lean and agile manner as well," Lim added.

If you are looking to Marie Kondo your wardrobe for the new year, and reduce your shopping intent, Style Theory might be the answer for you this 2022.