Launched in 2016, DateTheRamp is a secretive fashion-sourcing service, for members only. DateTheRamp helps members enjoy authentic designer fashion in the same way celebrities do. To make things work, DateTheRamp has built a confluence of fashion, technology, retail and logistics. Currently present in 10 cities with 150+ designers and 6000+ fashion products – we catch up with the founder and CEO, Chinmoy Panda, to understand how the lockdown has changed their business model.

What was the idea/influence behind establishing DateTheRamp?
During a chance conversation in 2015, I learned about how people wanted real designer products but faced two barriers: high cost and low availability. They ultimately settled for replicas but there was the regret of compromise. It struck me that technology/internet combined with a new-age sharing model could reduce cost and increase availability of authentic designer products. This would make high fashion convenient and accessible to a greater number of people, bypassing ownership and enabling the experience.

How have you been managing operations during the lockdown?
We kept our retail stores shut for the longest time, avoiding risks to the health of our associates and members. When we reopened, we started Virtual Visits (one-to-one video calls) as a way for members to feel they were in store while sitting at home: the call begins with a discussion with our Fashion Consultants, who then goes around the store recommending suitable outfits over video. We have launched Home Trials in conjunction with Virtual Visits. So our members could shortlist a few items over video, and then come in personally or ask for the shortlisted items to be sent for a Home Trial. From shortlisting to trial, fitting and selection – the entire cycle can be done at home. Customer satisfaction has not seen any difference during this crisis. For us as a business, demand has gone down, but our members are going through a difficult time as we all are, so we have to accept it as a low period we have to pass through together. Members who had occasions have appreciated our responsiveness to make things work out for them.

How readily are clients opting for rental clothing services currently?
We have not seen clients hesitate currently, when they have a need. However, we focus on occasion wear and the number of occasions has reduced drastically. There are very few events as such and that means the core driver of occasion wear has reduced for now.

In which ways are you ensuring safety, hygiene and sanitization when it comes to the outfits?
The highest concern during pandemic is safety, hygiene and sanitization. Overall protection is by disinfection, temperature checks, sanitizer, masks, physical distancing, minimizing the number of people –these are applicable everywhere. We have also added separate steps to the three areas of our operations. At store level, physical presence of our own staff is minimized to the extent possible, and members may visit in groups of upto two only, by appointment. Trial is limited to three outfits, and post-trial steam disinfection as well as 24-hour quarantine is done for the clothes. At delivery level, delivery boxes are sanitized and wrapped in protective cling film. Delivery and payment are contactless. We allow members to take the delivery one day earlier with no extra charges, so that they can quarantine the box at home before opening. At laundry level, our procedures include high-temperature steaming and sanitization. Especially for the pandemic, we have now invested in new-age UV-C lights which are so effective that hospitals use them for sterilization. All our areas – stores, delivery and laundry – are our own people, equipment and materials. This enables us to train and implement changes very quickly and reliably.

How is the brand focusing on sustainability?
Fashion is already the second largest polluting industry in the world, after energy/oil. Overproduction, fast fashion, artificial fibers, water consumption, rising consumerism, social pressure and treating fashion as disposable – together these trends make for a very troubling future. Fashion has to turn sustainable urgently, for our own and future generations. Our service of new-age sharing takes any fashion and makes it sustainable. It takes a product that would’ve been worn once or a few times, and makes it usable by multiple people as new. Extending life and use means extracting more value out of something that was produced with much cost to the earth, thereby reducing environmental impact.