Home Sustainability This Founder Wants to Build Fashion’s Airbnb

This Founder Wants to Build Fashion’s Airbnb

Cloudset's Amina Musaiva wants to make fashion more environmentally-conscious.

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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We speak to Amina Musaeva, CEO of Cloudset, about sustainable fashion, luxury brands, and the difference between greenwashing and sustainable solutions. Musaeva launched the tech-advanced fashion-sharing product on the market first in Russia, then relocated to Dubai, where her brand is growing.

“I adore walking this tight line between fashion's exclusivity and scarcity for many individuals,” the founder tells Inc. Arabia. 

An edited transcript of our conversation follows

Inc. Arabia: What is Cloudset? 

Amina Musaeva: Cloudset is a Net-a-Porter or Farfetch-like fashion e-commerce store that offers short- and long-term rentals and quick buyouts. Our supply partners include private merchants, individual clients, brands, and stores. We have the technology that enables us to develop an Airbnb-like fashion experience with built-in capabilities that will allow us to scale quickly and leverage our toolbox and solutions for industry incumbents.

IA: What inspired you to focus on fashion sustainability?

AM: I noticed that most capital-intensive businesses, like real estate and automobiles, have established alternate ownership economies. These sharing economy aspects have been legitimized, scaled out, and institutionalized. For example, you have Airbnb for apartment rentals. Fashion retail is likewise a huge industry that is capital-intensive.

So I recognized the gap and challenge in the fashion industry, which is by default not only ownership-based but also resistant to innovation. 

IA: How do you define sustainable fashion?

AM: Sustainable fashion isn't just about CO2 because the CO2 greenhouse effect can occur even in inefficient industries.

However, sustainability for me is when production, consumption, and commercialization are balanced. I characterize fashion unsustainability as the result of overproduction and supply gluts, which are part of the industry's rationale. Current industrial overproduction is incorporated into the stock price of the largest retail holdings and corporations worldwide.

IA: How does sustainable fashion affect the industry's future?

AM: I believe it is hard to maintain growth intensity and scale without sector optimization. Current fashion business models require overproduction, large-scale businesses, and even energy and oil and gas sectors, as seen at COP28. They recognize the ecological footprint. Fashion retail has been addressing this issue superficially, without fundamentally improving production or sector logic. I think it is time that traditional fashion brands stop avoiding the elephant in the room.

Bain & Company did a fascinating study about sustainable fashion and they found that, by 2030, alternative consumption such as rental and resale will account for 40% of fashion store profit margins. 

The industry will have to handle this head-on. The gap between what is said and what is done is widening. Thus, pressure to find a workable solution will increase.

Sustainability--not the greenwashing, not the marketing component, but the economies of scale model--is inescapable. 

IA: Can you share examples of how the industry has had to recognize and work toward sustainable solutions?

AM: Many brands are committing to new materials and supply chain transparency. For example, Stella McCartney works with alternate leathers and furs like playful fungus. So far, the industry has been reluctant to adopt the recurring monetization model. Recurring monetization--resale, rental, and circular consumption--hasn't addressed excess inventory and overproduction. Since 2021 and 2022, incumbents and traditional industry participants have partnered on resale solutions, revolutionizing this.

Selfridges internalized and used the rental strategy of monetization in 2021. They rent directly from their website. They rent directly to D2C customers from their offline mall. Likewise, UK retailer Harrods partners with renting platform My Wardrobe HQ.

Many brands, like Balenciaga and Harvey Nichols, have started to integrate white-label turnkey solutions for resale and officially endorse resale channels and circular monetization.

IA: What are your biggest challenges in designing and promoting sustainable fashion?

AM: Luxury consumption has been motivated by traditional motivations that are conservative. Status-related consumption opposes democratization and multiple uses, which modern business models promote. As a result, brands and luxury holdings have to walk a fine line. 

There are also hygiene challenges and stigmas related to sharing clothes with strangers that need to be overcome.

IA: How do you address these challenges? 

AM: Our messaging includes lines like "nothing personal" and "not mine." The goal is to misrepresent statements that are shameful, uncomfortable, or something you'd rather ignore. We reverse this logic by saying that this is an important statement of the new mindset and that proclaiming something as not mine or nothing personal shows that you are open-minded and value the freedom to engage with fashion on your terms. Changing habits is a long-term process.

Many brands are working on new alternative consumption patterns and must prepare for this because a culture shift is not statistically measurable. But it's happening and it is in our favor that the demographic transition and new generation—Depop and Rewear—are present. They are more likely to adopt new mindsets.

Culture is a huge issue, cost of goods and financial model are issues too. These are things that the industry hasn't mastered.

IA: What are your expansion plans?

AM: Our long-term goal is to expand into an enterprise and establish a Shopify-like toolkit for all alternative distribution methods so brands can incorporate a white-label SDK toolkit to rent and resell directly to customers without third parties. We favor investing in offline, omnichannel, M&AS, brand acquisition, and third-party brand acquisition. We wish to expand through SaaS and our unique software skills.

Instead of creating branches in new markets in the UAE and GCC, we may integrate our platform solutions.

All of the rent hotel-like capabilities, booking calendar, automatic rental period expansion, analytics, reverse warehouse management, and reverse logistics management may be integrated as a proprietary and white-label solution for brands.

We will focus on our core skills, our tech, and our unique knowledge of the operational externalities connected to this dynamic monetization strategy.

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