Rent the Runway and Farfetch are two of the most groundbreaking fashion e-commerce concepts to emerge in the past decade -- not least because their business models actually work. One allows women to rent designer dresses for special events at a fraction of the retail cost, while the other gives customers the opportunity to shop hard-to-find luxury items from small boutiques around the world. Now, a new startup called Chic by Choice is aiming to marry these objectives.
Based in Lisbon, Portugal, Chic by Choice was founded by Filipa Neto and Lara Vidreiro, who launched a beta site last week at Decoded Fashion London with a $700,000 seed round of funding by Portugal-based Faber Ventures.
Like Rent the Runway, Chic by Choice is a marketplace for designer dress rentals. However, instead of buying a large range of dresses at wholesale that may or not be rented, Chic by Choice showcases dresses from boutiques and department stores all over the world, a la Farfetch. If a customer selects a dress to rent, Chic by Choice will buy it from the store (at a discount) and keep it available on its site for others to rent.
In addition to mitigating inventory risk, the model also allows Chic by Choice to offer a variety of high-end European brands -- including Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Lanvin, Etro and Peter Pilotto-- without establishing wholesale relationships with those brands.
At present, Chic by Choice offers 100 dress styles, with plans to grow that number to 600 in the next six months. Rentals typically cost 15 percent of a dress's retail price and can be shipped to 15 European countries. Customers will be sent two size options as availability allows, and need to place their orders about five days in advance. They can choose between renting for four or eight days and receive pre-paid packages for returning dresses, though customers do have to pay for shipping to receive the items initially.
Neto says the company's primary goal at the moment is "getting people to know that we exist." In four weeks, the team will be launching a mobile site that "feels like an app." After that, they'll focus on increasing conversion. The company employs six people full-time, including a former Vogue editor and Deloitte developer. In due time, accessories, beauty and new markets like South America, Russia and (someday, hopefully, please?) the U.S. are on the horizon.