The founders of Vivrelle beg to differ. Launched in September 2018, the company is emerging from the pandemic, and says it has seen triple-digit growth with an expanding waiting list of those eager to borrow bling for a monthly membership fee. The three tiers range from $99-$279, with products available including $4,000 Stephanie Gottlieb diamond earrings and a $1,790 Cartier bracelet. The company says it has been profitable since its sixth month of operation, and in April this year, Vivrelle raised $26 million in series A funding led by Origin Ventures, with participation from Chapford Capital Group.
Previously, there was a negative connotation around luxury rental, says Wayne Geffen. He describes Vivrelle’s membership offer as “Bergdorf meets Soho House” and points out that the company avoids the word “rent” in its marketing and social media. “We decided to create a real elevated opulence in a market that has already shifted towards younger consumers who want an on-demand experience, where they aren’t tied down,” he says.
Hard luxury and the search for value
The rental market could see long-term momentum. Important post-pandemic trends include greater concern about sustainability and a search for value, says Sarah Willersdorf, global head of luxury at Boston Consulting Group. “This has prompted consumers to think more about access versus ownership and given rise to new business models,” she says.
Boston Consulting Group’s last edition of its annual survey, True-Luxury Global Consumer Insights, found that even during the pandemic, 21 per cent of Gen Z and millennials rented products. “From a category perspective, hard luxury (watches and jewellery) will drive growth for the rental market, as the high-ticket price lends itself to the sharing economy,” Willersdorf says.
The rental market for jewellery and accessories at all price points has been heating up for months. At the lower end, Signet, which owns Zales and Kay Jewellers, acquired jewellery subscription platform Rocksbox in April. Rental pioneer Rent the Runway, an e-commerce platform launched in 2009, which was valued at $1 billion in March 2019, raised more funding on the back of a $750 million valuation during the first wave of the pandemic in May 2020. After cutting costs, redundancies and closing physical stores, in May 2021 the company reported a comeback, with active subscribers up by 92 per cent and an eye on a future IPO (it has raised an estimated $400 million in funding overall).