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HUMM wants to bring the sharing economy to your closet

Melbourne entrepreneur Mackenzie Casey wants to answer a simple question: “If I can rent out my car or my house or even my dog for the day, why can’t I rent out my wardrobe and monetise the beautiful clothes I have?”

The sharing economy has given rise to a slew of companies that bill themselves as the next Airbnb for accommodation, transportation, kitchen gadgets, household tools, fill in the blank. But until now, there have been few attempts to bring the peer-to-peer business model to fashion.

Casey aims to change that with the launch of HUMM, a platform that allows users to rent designer clothes from the people who own them. “I wanted to create something that would eliminate that moment when you’re uhming and ahing because the dress you love is over budget. Where you can feel fashionable and confident without having to use your savings to buy those luxury brands,” Casey told Internet Retailing.

Unlike existing dress rental companies like Rent the Runway, and its Australian counterpart, GlamCorner, HUMM doesn’t directly involve designers in the rental process. Instead, it is firmly situated in the peer-to-peer space.

Renters can search for clothes in the HUMM app by designer, colour, price and size. When they find an item they want for the dates they need, they can choose to meet up with the garment owner in person or have the item shipped. They also pay a $5 insurance policy on every transaction to cover damaged or lost clothing.

Meanwhile, lenders have control over who and when they rent to, and they can specify whether they want their clothes to be washed or dry cleaned before return.

HUMM itself receives a 20 per cent commission on each rental or purchase. (It is also a resale marketplace.) The platform supports in-app payments via Stripe and integrates shipping with Australia Post and United States Postal Service through Shippo.

After a soft launch in Melbourne and Sydney at the start of September, HUMM is set to expand to New York City in the next two months. Casey said she plans to make the app more broadly available in the US by the end of the year and is targeting further international growth in Europe in 2017.

Most of the clothing available through HUMM retails for $200 and up. “The platform is not just for the Guccis and Chanels but also amazing niche designers. There’s lots of beautiful Australian brands like Zimmermann that might not be considered extremely high end but are really sought after in the US,” Casey said.

Alongside the app, Casey has also started a blog, HUMM & Hustle, to feature content on fashion trends and interviews with stylish female entrepreneurs. In October, the blog will partner with Stephanie Smith to offer a handful of items from the Australian model and Instagram star’s own closet for rent.

“By utilising these high profile influencers we can get a large social awareness about the brand,” said Casey, whose expertise lies in marketing and branding. Casey has received funding and mentorship from Antonia Dunbar, founder of THINX underwear brand, who used a similar marketing strategy to great success.

As Casey sets her sights on becoming the first truly global player in peer-to-peer fashion rentals (Rentez Vous offers a similar service, but only in France and the UK), she says creating a seamless and secure user experience, not consumer demand, presents the biggest barrier to success.

“A lot of girls were already sharing their clothes, either trading for other pieces or charging money, on Facebook and Instagram. But the challenge [with HUMM] is creating something that hasn’t existed before and making women feel that they’re going via a very trusted platform.”

Features like HUMM’s insurance policy, in-app chat and end-to-end tracking are intended to ease any lingering concerns about security, although according to Casey, “Airbnb has overcome a lot of those trust issues around peer-to-peer.”

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