Photo: Rent frock Repeat
Recently we wrote about startup Getaround, a company that allows you rent a car from an owner in your area. But if your challenge isn’t related to transportation but rather sartorial in nature, then new dress-rental startup Rent frock Repeat might be of more help. It’s designed for women who want to wear a trendy, designer-label dress to a special event but don’t want to deal with the attached price tag. Similar to its American competitor Rent the Runway, the Canadian company allows users to rent a designer dress for a fraction of the price, and provides insurance and dry cleaning for the item in case of any event mishaps.Founders Kristy Wieber and Lisa Delorme got the idea for RfR after getting a wedding invite and lamenting the cost associated with the often one-time-wear required attire. They found Rent the Runway online but the company didn’t offer delivery north of the border, which is when they decided to launch a competitor for Canadian consumers. They started working on the project in August 2010 and launched recently with a party populated with the site’s dress offerings.
The pair worked together before launching the company, and always knew they would start a company. “We always knew we wanted to open something up, we just didn’t know what we wanted it to be,” Delorme says. She says they were the go-to girls for their circle of friends in terms of fashion advice, so it was a natural step to launch a fashion-focused startup. While the inspiration for RfR came directly from Rent the Runway, Delorme and Wieber say they’ve put their own spin on the process. “We didn’t know a lot about what their internal processes were, so that’s where we sat down and said how can we make this a really amazing customer experience,” Delorme says. They chose to work with Canada Post rather than a courier service to make it more convenient for customers to return their dresses, and worked to incorporate different style notes with each dress to help users understand fit and potential accessories.
While they say the launch has been logistically smooth (apart from a Canada Post strike that threatened to delay deliveries), it was difficult at first to get partners and service providers up to speed with their e-commerce standards. “Getting other people to think in an e-commerce perspective,” Delorme says of the early challenges. “As Canadians we’re a little more reserved – we don’t have the mentality of ‘let’s get this done yesterday.'” But one area where their expectations have been exceeded is the response from the media. “It’s completely surpassed our expectations which is exciting,” Wieber says. “It’s exciting that people are getting as excited as Lisa and I were when we started this.”
During this initial launch phase the founders are intent on getting as much feedback from customers as possible, which means calling every single one of their early customers to hear about their experiences. They say they want to ensure that customers are happy so they’ll spread the word to friends, family members and social networking audiences. “PR is great, but when you hear it from a friend it’s so much better,” Delorme says. They’re also focused on making sure there is enough inventory to satisfy customers’ tastes and demand. Rent the Runway already has 95 designers on board, so for Delorme and Wieber the challenge is to keep adding designers while making sure the inventory stands out. “We’ll look at every season but we’re definitely focused on the ‘wow’ dress,” Delorme says. “We’ve noticed the special dresses, that seems to be the focus for the people who are renting.”
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