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24 Sep 2017


By Gracie Carroll

For Your Next Special Event, Why Not Rent A Dress Instead?

By Alexandra Donaldson

fitzroy rentals dress toronto

Inside The Fitzroy studio

There are many reasons to opt for renting a dress for your next big event—let’s say a friend’s wedding or a holiday soirée—instead of buying. You’ll likely pay a fraction of the cost to rent, versus buying, you’re not spending money on something (let’s be real) you might only wear once and you’re not contributing to impulse-purchasing and fast-fashion worship that often means we’re buying more things with poorer quality. Basically, you’re doing some good. And I haven’t even touched on how, when you rent an outfit in Toronto, you’re likely supporting a local business run by insightful and entrepreneurial women.

To learn a little more about the women behind the brands, we spoke to three of Toronto’s premier fashion-rental companies—The Fitzroy, Rent Frock Repeat, and Goldie. What we found was women who are not only dedicated to making you look and feel your best—at a fraction of the cost of what you’re used to—but also women who are thoughtful and considerate of what the fashion industry is doing to the planet. Read on for entrepreneurial advice, environmental considerations and what makes these companies stand out against the competition.

Lisa Owen of Rent Frock Repeat

Rent Frock Repeat Toronto dress rental company

Edit Seven: How prepared were you to start Rent Frock Repeat?

Lisa Owen: I have an English degree that required a lot of writing and reading so I am sure this has helped in many ways. I also worked in a corporate setting as VP of Sales leading teams of over 150 people with budgets in excess of $150M. Having no background in ecommerce, fashion, technology or media and PR should have dissuaded me from pursuing a start up like Rent Frock Repeat but it didn’t because I had a firm understanding of setting goals and communicating those goals to a team so that the goals could cascade through the business.

E7: How did you get the idea for the business? What inspired you?

LO: I was invited to a wedding one day and my business partner Kristy also received the invitation. We were both excited to attend as we were happy for our friend that was getting married but the excitement dampened a little when we remembered we’d have to buy another dress that would sit in our closet collecting dust. Yes, having a new dress is fun but we would have been happy to recirculate something previously worn had it been appropriate for the season or if it still fit. The challenge with anything in our closets is that our lives change, the seasons change and our bodies change. It wasn’t just about wanting something new—there was a practical reason for having to go out and buy a new dress. As we were lamenting about having to spend our hard earned money, we came across an article for a company that was renting dresses in the US. We thought it was brilliant and immediately jumped online to place our order but they didn’t ship to Canada. We looked at each other and knew this was something we needed to build for Canadian women (including ourselves).

E7: What sets you apart from similar companies?

LO: Our focus is on the customer. We’ve heard other companies describe themselves as a technology company, which we understand (we had to build all the technology ourselves), but we knew that if we didn’t understand the emotions a woman goes through when getting ready for a special event, that no amount of technology would make us stand out. We never delete any feedback that is shared publicly on our social feeds and we make the opportunity to post reviews front and center.

E7: Who is your ideal customer? What is she/he looking for?

LO: Our ideal customer has 5 or 6 special events to attend per year, she is open to trying something completely new and trusts her stylist enough to try on things she would have never looked at twice when shopping on her own. The one thing we always hear in the showroom or when someone across the country trusted her stylist to send her the right dress after a Skype consultation is, “I would have never in a hundred years picked that dress out and it turned out to be the best thing I have ever worn—I got compliments all night from complete strangers.”

E7: Why do you love what you do?

LO: For so many reasons. We have the most amazing team. That doesn’t mean we work in an environment where things are always perfect. But it does mean when things are challenging we support each other and tell each other the truth in a way that is respectful and uplifting. Also, we are pioneers in a very new space which means we are solving riddles all day. Solving problems is one of my favourite things to do. And finally, I have a business partner that after 7 years still wants to have sleepovers. We can spend hours working on really tough things and still laugh our heads off at the end of the day because we both recognize how fortunate we are to do this.

E7: What advice would you give to fellow entrepreneurs?

LO: The best advice I ever received was that we often ask ourselves the wrong question. It shouldn’t be: What are you passionate about? The question is: What do you love so much that you are willing to work through the hard days that make you feel like giving up

E7: Obviously, there’s a great economic and sustainability angle to the company—can you talk about why those two things are important to you or an important part of the business?

LO: There were days in my corporate career when I put my head down on the pillow at night after a very “successful” day and still didn’t feel satisfied. The accomplishment only made the company more money by selling people stuff. It is incredible to be doing something for a living that has a great impact on our customers and our planet. We built a company that saves women money and time, and makes them feel even more beautiful. At the same time we reduce our collective fashion carbon footprint. With fashion being the second biggest polluter in the world and knowing women sharing beautiful clothes goes a long way in reversing that—that is something that can give me a good night’s sleep!

E7: What do you hope for the clothing industry in general?

LO: That we recognize we can reverse all the bad stuff fashion has created in the world and get back to doing what it was intended to do: Giving us access to beautiful items that amazing designers are creating so that we can take on the day feeling beautiful. We all know what putting on a great outfit does to our psyche.

E7: Any predictions about the future of the biz?

LO: We are in the throws of putting together a subscription program together. When we first started, people didn’t think women would rent a dress and now they want to rent EVERYTHING!  We are happy to oblige.

E7: What do you hope for your business specifically?

LO: That it is an amazing place for employees to grow professionally and personally. That it always offers our customer what they need and enhances their lives. That it always takes into account the impact it has on everything it touches. That it constantly challenges me to stretch myself and try something new.

Click HERE to shop our #TeamE7 Pick!

Francesca Abony of Goldie

i love goldie dress rentals toronto

Edit Seven: How prepared were you to start Goldie?

Francesca Abony: I have no formal education in business or fashion. I followed my passion from an early age—I started working on the retail floor at 15 and eventually worked my way up to buying. My last job in the retail industry was as an assistant buyer for The Room at Hudson’s Bay.

E7: How did you get the idea for the business? What inspired you?

FA: I have so many inspirations, but mostly Eva Kruse and her work around sustainability in the fashion industry. I’d been aching to come up with a solution to our ever-growing consumption issue. Most evening wear is only worn once or twice. Goldie is my offering and an opportunity to create a community of change and change-makers.

E7: What sets you apart from similar companies?

FA: My selection. You can’t find the brands I’m carrying in most places (especially not Canada), let alone available for rent. Think Orseund & Iris, Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, Zimmerman and the list goes on. I’m also curating our collection to include some truly fantastic vintage and designer Haute Couture. I’m also down to earth, and my business reflects that—I work with a no frills, no fuss attitude.

E7: Who is your ideal customer? What is she/he looking for?

FA: I love each and every one of my clients but my favourites would have to be the ones that understand and support my vision. They believe in our power to create real change in the fashion industry by and supporting sustainable initiatives like Goldie.

E7: Why do you love what you do?

FA: I get to genuinely help people. As superficial as fashion may be, it’s still a part of our everyday lives and still something we spend a great deal of our time and income on. I get to help clients save their hard-earned dollars while helping them feel amazing in their outfits. It’s the best styling gig ever!

E7: What advice would you give to fellow entrepreneurs?

FA: Work hard and don’t stop. Don’t get discouraged and always listen to your gut.

E7: Obviously, there’s a great economic and sustainability angle to the company—can you talk about why those two things are important to you or an important part of the business?

FA: We live in a time where sustainability must be at the forefront of what we do. For instance, approximately 7,000 litres of water are needed to produce one pair of jeans (the amount of water one individual drinks in 5-6 years) and it begs the question, is this really necessary? How many jeans are being produced globally and how many of them are ending up in landfills, never even being worn? Having grown up obsessed with fashion, I began to truly despise the industry I loved so much. It came to a point where I simply couldn’t do my job because I couldn’t sell and oversell my clients on fashion that is literally wreaking havoc on our planet. From that point on, I started to ask myself, what can I do? What can I offer? And how can I fix this problem? After studying Eva Kruse, I felt very strongly that each and every one of us have a duty to create change, or at the very least stop contributing to the problem. The ability to work on something that can help us consume less is what motivates me, day in day out.

E7: What do you hope for the clothing industry in general? Any predictions about the future of the biz?

FA: I can’t comment on the industry at large but I have noticed that brands are beginning to implement sustainable initiatives into the supply chain and I hope to see more of that! As for Goldie, I plan to do everything in my power to negate waste and pollution. We don’t expect everyone to jump on the rental bandwagon, but we do plan to make it as accessible and attractive as possible by carrying more and more of the brands you love and offering them for rent. Fashion is truly a powerful tool when utilized and I want to see people value themselves and how they dress. Fast fashion doesn’t offer us much of anything and it actually only wreaks havoc on our body and our planet. Regarding upcoming plans for Goldie, we definitely look forward to expanding our offering with the addition of junior and plus size wear.

Click HERE to shop our #TeamE7 Pick!

Julie Buczkowski and Angela Pastor of The Fitzroy

the fitzroy dress rentals toronto

The Fitzroy images by Jen Squires

E7: How prepared were you to start The Fitzroy?

Fitzroy Boutique: Julie went to Western for business and worked in travel, PR and media industries. Angela went to the University of Toronto and worked in television and media industries and lived abroad in London, UK & New Zealand. Nothing really prepares you for owning a small business but certainly having backgrounds in PR, travel and media helped in certain elements. Our biggest experience however was building Fitzroy Boutique (back when we were a pop-up retail business for over five years). It’s where we figured out the ropes, built the business, recognition and client base and it let us test out the rental concept with a few racks of dresses to start before fully shifting to a permanent dress rental studio.

E7: How did you get the idea for the business? What inspired you?

FB: We got the idea from feedback from our clients when we were a retail business. Hearing them say things like “I love this but I’d only wear it once,” and at the same time we had a lot of requests from media and bloggers who wanted to borrow pieces for their events. It made us realize we should just rent our pieces. It makes so much sense on so many levels—it offers variety to your wardrobe, it’s more affordable then buying and having it sit in your closet, it’s better for the environment, it’s a way to try a new look or wear something you wouldn’t buy… the list goes on. Hearing the feedback from our clients about how they’ll never buy another dress again and how much they love our service and our selection is what inspires us every day.

E7: What sets you apart from similar companies?

FB: We try to select really fun, special pieces from lines that are highly coveted (and have price tags that are often too high to make sense to buy). We offer a shopping experience and really wanted to create a place where women have fun playing dress up. Our space is a dress dreamland where they can relax and feel like their stylish best friend is helping them find something to wear. That’s the atmosphere we strive to create. Our team of stylists really helps provide options and figure out what would work best and how to style each dress or what lipstick to wear, etc. We take the stress out of looking for a dress. It’s often for a special event that you’re looking to rent so clients can often already be anxious to find something perfect to wear so we help solve that problem. We cater to both last-minute, same-day rentals all the way up to rentals months in advance with no appointment needed. We just try to make the process as easy, and as enjoyable as possible. Hence our tagline: Dress rental magic. We feel it really speaks to our service, our selection and how it makes you feel once you find and wear that killer dress.

E7: Who is your ideal customer? What is she/he looking for?

FB: Our ideal customer is really someone who likes to have fun with clothes, and expresses themselves through what they’re wearing. She knows what works for her and knows her style. She’s a young professional with a full calendar of events or a stay-at-home mom who wants to look amazing for her friend’s wedding. Customers are just hoping to look and feel great. When we have that moment that a girl comes out of the change room doing a little dance because she feels beautiful and confident in what she’s wearing that’s the magic right there.

E7: Why do you love what you do?

FB: We love what we do because our customers give us such incredible feedback. Our growth has been largely word-of-mouth and tagging/sharing on social media, and the feedback we receive just motivates us so much. Things like “that was such an amazing experience,” or “I’m never buying a dress again,” and “I wish I knew about you guys sooner, this is brilliant,” are constant, daily comments we receive and it just fills our hearts. Plus we love the buying—finding fun pieces to bring in the store gets us so excited.

E7: What advice would you give to fellow entrepreneurs?

FB: We would say, just do it. If you think you have a great idea or you see a gap in your industry or a pivot you can take with your business to improve, then just go ahead and try it out. If it’s just a test at first, at least start with that and see where it takes you, it’s the only way you’ll know if it’s viable.

E7: Obviously, there’s a great economic angle and a sustainability angle to the company—can you talk about why those two things are important to you or an important part of the business?

FB: It’s extremely important because the textile industry is one of the largest polluters in the world. We really felt that we weren’t part of the solution back when we were a retail store. We were selling lines that were most likely factory made (even though we tried our best to source more sustainable lines). When we shifted gears to rentals, part of the motivation and excitement behind it was that we would really be making a difference by re-using the clothing. We have dresses that are still in great condition from when we first started as a rental business over two years ago. Each dress now gets a much longer life span—it’s such a glamorous life our dresses have! Sometimes we’re jealous!

E7: What do you hope for the clothing industry in general? Any predictions about the future of the biz?

FB: We hope the rental revolution as we call it really takes hold. It just makes sense to rent. You don’t need these kind of one-wear dresses sitting in your closest, never to be worn again. We really feel this is the next big thing for clothing and will become more the norm to rent—we hope we’ll be at the forefront of that in Canada.

E7: Any plans in the works for anything new?

FB: We hope to continue to expand our collection and size range. We hope to grow to several locations in Canada. We have so many ideas in the pipeline that we’re buzzing. It’s an exciting time.

Click HERE to shop our #TeamE7 Pick!



(Story by Contributing Editor, Alexandra Donaldson)

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