You no longer have to be actually able to afford a Patek Philippe wristwatch to be wearing one. Tapping into the “sharing economy” sentiment, Siratcha Patcharasopachai is doing great business with Runway Closet, a rental service offering high-end fashion items.
The unusual venture, which represents a Bt20-million-plus investment, has had “excellent” feedback from people, she said, especially younger clients.
Siratcha brings more than 10 years’ experience in brand-name merchandise to the leasing service, most notably as a co-founder of the Momoko Bag & Shoes Spa.
Runway Closet has around 1,000 posh items in circulation.
“Everyone knows they have high value, but what we’re doing is creating a different kind of value from them in a way no one has done before,” she says.
“I was using brand-name bags not long after I graduated but couldn’t figure out how to clean them when they got grimy. I asked people who make and import handbags and learned how to clean them myself. They looked brand new again and people kept asking how I did it. So, I had the initiative to start a business.
“I worked full-time to earn enough money and went to Italy to research the ‘spas’ they have there just for leather bags. Then I came back and opened the first Momoko branch. I was about 26 years old.”
Siratcha, who holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s in communication arts from Assumption University, was already running a business while still studying.
“Runway Closet is still dealing in brand-name items and now I have the experience to see which items can have added value created for them,” she says. “I see these products as a door to another dimension. If you just buy them for personal use, you gain an image of trustworthiness in society. But if you see them as a business, it can generate lots of revenue as well.
“My next business after Momoko involved creating value for old shoes. I realised it was mostly second-hand bags on the market, whereas old shoes were quite rare. So, I bought brand-name shoes, cleaned and sterilised them and resold them.
“Then customers asked about renting them for a day for a special event, so I had this idea for a rental service. Runway Closet has been going for about two years.”
As well as fancy bags, shoes and watches, Runway Closet has overcoats, sweaters, boots, scarves, swimwear and all sorts of accessories. The glittering logos include Chanel, Gucci, Hermes, Fendi, Dior, YSL, Jacquemus, Prada and Cartier.
“We select only popular items with functions suited to all types of lifestyles,” Siratcha says. “Everything is thoroughly cleaned before and after renting. You can rent them for a day or up to a month depending on the item category. Our lowest price is Bt390 per day for Gucci socks and the highest Bt4,590 for a Patek Philippe watch.”
Runway Closet currently has more than 5,000 customers and leases out 15 items a day on average. The figures add up to 200 per cent growth in its two years, and revenue this year, with business booming online, is expected to jump 100 per cent.
“Our strength is the diversity of the products,” Siratcha says. “We have sizes and styles to fit everyone perfectly and new in-trend items and handbags and shoes previously owned or worn by celebrities. There are also limited-edition pieces and items not normally available in Thailand, such as the Hermes Kelly 20 bag.”
“To get our brand recognised quickly, we’re using mainly online channels. People spend a lot of their time checking their phones and they see our posts on the social media with really beautiful images and clear content.
“We also make videos so people can see the products in full perspective. Our main channel is Instagram, whose users have the greatest purchasing power.”
That’s “runwaycloset_rc” on Instagram, or, if you want to check out the goods in person, Runway Closet is on the fourth floor of the ICHI Baby Centre on Thong Lor Soi 15, behind J Avenue.
The actual rental cost can reach Bt100,000 for some items, but that’s mainly your deposit guarantee of their safe return. Once you take the product back, all but the basic leasing fee is deducted.
“I don’t believe anything is impossible to achieve,” Siratcha says. “To succeed in business, you must first have the mindset that makes all ideas possible. I never turn away customers. Whatever they request, I will try my best until I succeed. With this mindset, whatever obstacles arise, we will make it, and not only in terms of business, but also in daily life.”