Style Theory is tapping into a growing appetite for sustainable clothing , or circular fashion, offering young women in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia more options for their wardrobe without having to buy new garments. The Singaporean start-up, which has received around US$30 million from investors including Softbank Ventures Asia and Alpha JWC Ventures since its inception in 2016, allows its community of over 400,000 users in the city state, Indonesia and Hong Kong to rent, sell, and buy designer clothing and handbags on its platform. Chris Halim and Raena Lim, the husband-and-wife duo who founded the platform, believe sustainable fashion is the future of the industry . The idea to start their circular fashion platform grew out of a personal issue of “having nothing to wear” despite having an abundance of clothing, according to Lim, who is the chief operating officer. “My husband Chris actually asked me one day how it was possible that I had so many clothes, but was often complaining that I had nothing to wear,” said Lim in an emailed interview. “The environmental impact of fashion was starting to be discussed more, and together, we felt that there was something we could do to help the issue in Southeast Asia.” Lim described Style Theory as “a circular fashion platform that enables women to access an infinite wardrobe in the cloud”. “This helps to solve the problem that many have of constantly purchasing new clothes but still feel like they have nothing to wear,” she added. The fashion industry is a major contributor to climate change and pollution. It produces nearly 20 per cent of global waste water and emits about 10 per cent of carbon emissions, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. Younger consumers are likely to shift away from cheap, fast fashion towards clothing rental services and second-hand clothing channels, said Eugene Klerk, Credit Suisse’s head of global ESG (environmental, social and governance) and thematic research, at the launch of a report called “the young consumer and a path to sustainability” in February. Almost 60 per cent of the 10,000 consumers aged between 16 and 40 from 10 countries surveyed said they would swap to sustainable fashion alternatives, while around a quarter said they intended not to buy unsustainable fashion items at all in future. “The business of fashion has been unsustainable for a really long time, and with increasing demand from users for more sustainable and responsible fashion, this industry will have to evolve,” said the Style Theory founders in an email. “We are glad to be piloting the movement in this region and this is only the beginning.” Style Theory targets women aged between 25 to 40 years old. Their main business model is a subscription service for designer clothing and bags where users can browse through a catalogue on their website or through a mobile application. For the clothing rental subscription, starting from HK$599 a month for six pieces of clothing, users can choose from over 4,000 items from designers such as Victoria Beckham, Alexander McQueen, Sandro and local Hong Kong brand PI’A. The designer bag subscription starts from HK$899 month, and users can choose from more than 2,000 bags from brands such as Gucci and Balenciaga. Since taking their business to Hong Kong in 2020, it has seen “very strong growth” and currently has over 10,000 users in the city. Covid-19 has been one of the biggest challenges the start-up has faced, leading to an easing of demand for the rental service. But interest in the platform’s resale and consignment business has expanded rapidly. “This growth is very heartening, and it shows that resale is a great, accessible way for our customers to take part in the sustainability movement even if they haven’t found a way to fit rental into their lifestyles,” the founders said. Style Theory aims to become profitable in the next couple of years. The global online clothing rental market was valued at US$1.19 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach US$2.29 billion by 2028, according to a report by Verified Market Research.