Armarium, the service that lets women borrow current, luxury ready-to-wear and accessories, has gained momentum in fashion’s shared economy. The business started as an invite-only app last April, and has expanded its full functionality to its web site that is open to all users.
Trisha Gregory, cofounder and chief executive officer of Armarium, said the company is reporting a 30 percent repeat customer rate and showing around 75 percent customer growth month over month. The sweet spot for rental gowns is between $4,000 and $5,000 retail, which would be a $450 average rental price point.
“For that, it’s really hard to get something in the market, even at a contemporary price point,” she said. She noted that when they launched last year, it was with a lot more formalwear, black-tie options and heavy gown and cocktail looks. “What we saw last summer — which was our first summer of being open for business — is we got a lot of requests for people who wanted to match their wardrobe to the destination for their trip, and they wanted to wear something great in the Hamptons to entertain at a barbecue they were hosting.”
For spring, she and Alexandra Lind Rose, cofounder, tailored their buy to become, not necessarily more casual, but more diverse. For example, she said, if a client is going to a wedding in Santa Barbara, they might want to wear something with a more bohemian vibe. She said they just rented some really cool pieces from Pucci and Missoni’s runways for a wedding in Rosewood Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
“People are really having fun with the product. Certainly you’re not going to wear a Marchesa ballgown at Rosewood Mayakoba. Our customer is just wanting to experiment and have a little more fun with fashion. We’ve just rounded out the assortment. We’re still obviously going to be the go-to source for black-tie galas and weddings,” she said.
Armarium works with 55 brands directly in a wholesale capacity and consignment capacity.
According to Gregory, some of the hottest brands right now are Christopher Kane, which they launched for resort, Naeem Khan, “which is a great performer for us,” and Rochas has been really popular for resort. “Anything with a lot of print, color, embellishment, fringe does really well. Those dresses are hard to re-wear, they’re so noticeable,” she said. She said other trends that do well are red, anything with sequins on it, or a bold print.
She said they’re doing well with Roberto Cavalli bohemian knife-pleat tiered pieces, styles that are midcalf, not quite to the floor, and for black tie, they are renting a mix of long and short. “We do really well with short, embellished Naeem Khan pieces and short pieces from Marchesa,” she said.
Asked if she would consider a permanent tie-in with a retailer, similar to what Rent the Runway is doing with Neiman Marcus, Gregory said, “Yes, absolutely. We’re having conversations.”
Armarium has several interesting collaborations coming up to build business around the country. The company is being hosted by Capitol in Charlotte on April 4 for a “Bought/Borrowed” trunk show, where the company’s cocktail dresses and gowns to rent will be offered alongside the Capitol assortment to buy to “complete the look.” They are also doing a two-day trunk show at luxury boutique, 20twelve in Memphis, in anticipation of the “Cotton Carnival,” the Memphis society ball circuit held in early June.
Armarium is collaborating with Carolina Herrera in Nashville on the Swan Ball, where Herrera is the 2017 Swan Award recipient. Armarium will host a kick-off cocktail on April 20 at a private residence, which will begin a two-day trunk show highlighting Herrera gowns to rent.
Gregory said given a chance, customers would like to try the gown on if it’s in their city or region. “We’re also introducing a new customer to the shared economy in fashion,” she said. Once they see the product and the quality of the brands,” Armarium can make them feel comfortable, they can download the app and “then we can clientele from afar,” she said.
Right now, 50 percent of its business is conducted online and 50 percent offline. The web site became transactional in September, when they launched their Net-a-porter partnership. They also have a partnership with FarFetch.
“We don’t have every category. Maybe you want to rent that Missoni fringe jacket, but what trouser do you want to put with it to own, what shoe or the statement day bag? Armarium has their style brigade complete the look through Net-a-porter and FarFetch. We become an affiliate partner to those sites,” said Gregory. Customers can rent for four days, but it may be extended throughout the summer for travel purposes. Armarium offers their customers a live chat, where they intercept every order to help with sizing. They also allow customers to do alterations (without cutting the fabric), and Armarium will do alterations as well.
Gregory has found the average age of her customer is 38. “She’s older than the Rent the Runway customer. She’s busy in her career, she’s a young mom. Our customer is coming to us for a lot of convenience and education,” she said.
As far as the business breakdown, 65 percent is evening, and 35 percent is daytime looks.
Armarium will host two end-of-the-season sales a year. It just held its fall-winter sale, giving people who rented a particular look first option to buy.