In 2016, Smith and her friend Violet Gross began brainstorming fashion ideas and decided on closet-sharing for the peer-to-peer economy. That same year they hired developers to bring Tulerie to life. The app also has a messenger feature that allows women to connect with each other over specific items, such as how they wear it and what they use to accessorize the look.
According to Smith, “I’m a huge fan of Rent the Runway. My problem wasn’t getting access to brands. It was difficult for me to find brands that I love. I love the clothes that I borrow from my friends. It’s how I extend my wardrobe. So if I’m going to a Chanel event, I’ll ask a friend, ‘Can I borrow your Chanel coat?'” The Tulerie difference is that it takes that same idea, but expands it beyond a woman’s friends.
Gross said the two quickly fell into learning about the fashion industry, how people use their apparel and closets, and began looking at the sustainability side. “We learned about fashion and what is its impact on the economy and the environment, and we began thinking about what to do with what is happening in the world,” she said. Gross explained that 80 percent of items donated to Goodwill end up in landfills, so the company partnered with RewearAble, which collects textiles and pulls the fabrics apart for recycling or reuse as apparel or rags. She also found that apparel is meant to be worn up to 200 times, but the average user only wears the item fewer than five times.
“Tulerie helps to get more wear out of quality pieces, rather than be part of the throwaway culture and end up in a landfill. Forty percent of purchases are impulse buys. The real goal is to get people to eliminate impulse purchases,” Gross said.
Tulerie has been in beta-testing mode and is now available as an invite-only platform, with users getting vetted before they can join the community. According to Gross, “There’s no membership fee. The only fee in the platform is when you actually borrow something from someone…We found in beta testing that women are more willing to loan their priced pieces to other members [who have gone through] the interview process and will take care of the products they borrow.”
So far there are options to borrow for four, 10 or 20 days. Rentals are scaled based on a percentage of the retail price depending on which time option the borrow chooses. The company takes a 17.5 percent commission, and the owner gets the rest. The owner can also charge a cleaning fee for each apparel item. The app also allows for rentals of handbags and footwear.
The company has one seed investor from an angel round, and is currently considered fully funded.
According to Smith, “We value the sharing community. We’re not rushing to scale to 100,000 users. We are catering to a group of like-minded users. Tulerie is not meant to be exclusive, but we are bringing fashion to people who will take care of the goods…This is providing a solution for 70 percent of the average woman’s closet that goes unworn. People don’t want to part with their things yet, and lending them out will give them some money for it.”