Taelor Poised to Expand With Recent Round of Pre-seed Funding
With the continuing rise of thrifting and secondhand clothing, the apparel-rental market has seen growth as more consumers look for innovative ways to shop sustainable and reduce the amount of clothing produced. With the market flooded with various options for women’s apparel, the San Francisco–based Taelor found its niche by using AI technology to provide men with good-looking products seamlessly and effortlessly through a subscription-box clothing-rental service.
Taelor was founded by Anya Cheng and Phoebe Tan, who originally met in Chicago as classmates getting their MBAs and first launched the subscription-box apparel-rental service for men in 2021. Both had previously used subscription boxes before but didn’t like having to scroll through what seemed like endless options or having to purchase something from every box.
“I’ve tried Stitch Fix and I’ve used Rent the Runway for years, but I feel like both services were designed for people who are into fashion, not people like me who just want to get ready for the day and be successful. We started interviewing people to see who might have similar concerns—they just want to look good but effortlessly—and we found a lot of them were young men between 25 and 35, so Gen Z and Millennials. They are ambitious, busy and aspirational, and they want to look good but don’t want to spend a lot of time chasing after clothes. And that’s how Taelor started,” said Cheng, CEO and co-founder.
For a flat fee of $88 a month, customers are shipped up to two boxes of clothes per month, which features four items per box including dress shirts, jackets, polo shirts, Henley tees and more. Customers are able to rent the clothes for a period of time and return them or have the option of purchasing the items at up to 70 percent off the retail price. Dry cleaning and shipping are included for free to make the process as effortless as possible.
The rental model allows Taelor to receive unique data from its customers, with users providing feedback based on the items that are received in a box, information that is then turned into data and sent to the clothing brands, allowing them to test their products before selling them to the general public. As a customer provides feedback on what is liked and preferred, the company builds the boxes based on previous comments, akin to a Netflix user giving a “thumbs up” and having the service cater to the customer’s preferences. Taelor also employs personal stylists to give a final check as they believe an important part of fashion is still the human touch.
Taelor offers products from over 100 brands, from mainstream labels to independent designers, that align with the company’s sustainability values. It has exclusive partnerships with brands Western Rise, Landway, R2 Amsterdam, TRANZEND, Koup, Reese DeLuca, TAGS, Sons+Fathers, Modern Liberation, and Barque New York among others.
Koup is a sustainable performance-wear brand that uses materials made from recycled plastic bottles as well as cinnamon to create anti-odor and antimicrobial products that are environmentally friendly and circular. Koup and Taelor first met through the Taiwan Tech Arena, a platform to boost tech startups in Taiwan, where both companies learned they shared similar values in being eco- conscious and wanting to help make the apparel industry more sustainable.
“Koup’s brand ethos is based around the three Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle,” said Brian Chuang, co-founder of Koup. “We aim to reduce the amount consumed by our customers. We hope our users can reuse our products over a longer period, and we use recycled materials and design with a single material to make our products recyclable. Taelor’s rental model aligns with our brand ethos in that it reduces the amount of unnecessary buys so people can rent before they buy and the apparel can be re-rented to extend the life span of the garment.”
Taelor recently raised $2.3 million in an over-subscribed pre-seed funding round led by Bling Capital, a venture capital firm founded by Ben Ling that has previously invested in more than 10 unicorn companies including Lyft, Instacart, Square, Airtable, Indiegogo and Everlane. Taelor also received investments from Samantha Chien and her husband, Kai Huang, the founder of Guitar Hero; Sean Chao, a former managing director at Morgan Stanley Taiwan; Chicago Early, an angel group that focuses on startups with Chicago ties, including many founded by Northwestern University and University of Chicago alumni; and the co-founder of the Silicon Valley chapter of Golden Seeds, an investment firm focused on high-potential female-led companies.
With the latest funding round, Taelor plans to open the service to more customers on the waitlist as well as diversify its offerings as the products are currently only available in small and medium sizes. It also plans to expand into bottoms and eventually shoes and other accessories to help men put together whole outfits. Taelor also hopes to test different marketing channels with its service, such as expanding its corporate giftings or even partnerships with dating apps.