For anyone who has ever needed an outfit for a fancy event, you know the pain of shelling out hundreds of dollars for an outfit you’ll probably only wear once.
And if you’re a consumer of high-end fashion, you’re not shelling out hundreds — you’re shelling out thousands. This is where Armarium hopes to step in.
The startup is young — it only just launched out of beta on June 1st — but it’s targeting a very specific demographic: women who wear expensive clothes and follow fashion, but either have trouble finding designer fashion — runway styles are rarely sold in stores and are typically not accessible to average consumers — or just don’t have the time or closet space to buy the pieces they want.
If you’re thinking this sounds pretty similar to Rent the Runway, you’re not alone. But Armarium has some key differences besides the luxury price point that founders Trisha Gregory and Alexandra Lind Rose think will help it attract a following.
“Our price point is a little higher than Rent the Runway — although we can rent a dress for $200 from a luxury brand,” Gregory told Business Insider. “We’re definitely hitting a different audience as well. She’s a little bit older than the Rent the Runway customer, she’s very sophisticated, she’s very socially active, she’s travelling a lot. She wants various statement pieces to complement her schedule.”
Both Gregory and Lind Rose have a background in fashion: Gregory oversaw public relations for Salvatore Ferragamo for nearly 10 years and Lind Rose is a former fashion designer who has worked in the industry for more than two decades. The pair had been friends before becoming business partners, but say they both came up with the idea separately, only later deciding to join forces.
I got try out Armarium from start to finish. Here’s what I thought.
There are a few ways to access Armarium clothes -- one way is by logging onto the website or scrolling through the app.
For those outside New York City, the website or app is your best bet. Here, you can scroll through clothes, bags, jewellery, and accessories. Aramarium only ships domestically at the moment, but shipping is free and the company sends a return label and packaging. Armarium also handles dry cleaning.
I was greeted with mannequins dressed in couture, racks full of clothes and jewellery -- and the offer of a free mimosa. My stylist, Dani Stahl, who's also style director at Nylon Magazine, met me soon after and asked me a few questions to get us started: what colours and styles I like to wear, if I have any favourite designers, and whether I had any big events coming up.
If you choose the in-person route, you can browse through your options and pull out a couple things you'd like to try on.
Armarium prides itself on having the latest, fresh-off-the-runway styles. When it comes to looking for pieces to add to the site, the team has a couple criteria.
'Trend, first and foremost,' said cofounder Alexandra Lind Rose. 'We want it to be very current and relevant at that moment. And construction is a big factor; it has to be really well-constructed and flattering on many different body types and body styles.'
Once my stylist and I chose a few things we liked, I tried them on. One downside of Armarium: the sizes are pretty limited.
The largest size I was able to find on Armarium's site and at the pop-up store was a size 10. That's pretty standard for couture, but the average U.S. woman wears between a size 12 and 14.
These clothes also came with a pretty hefty price tag. On the site, I could only find 18 dresses that rented for less than $250. For a 24-year-old journalist, these clothes weren't exactly in my price range -- but, like Gregory said, I'm not in the company's target demographic. Armarium is targeting a slightly older, more sophisticated shopper.
There's also designer jewellery and handbags to choose from, because Armarium wants women who use the service to be able to rent a head-to-toe look.
The bags and accessories rent for significantly less money than the clothes. There's a huge assortment of jewellery for less than $75 and some reasonably priced handbag rentals.
Beyond a different price point and demographic, Armarium offers one key difference to Rent the Runway: the experienced stylist.
'They definitely need to have at least five years of experience in working with luxury brands,' Gregory said. 'We have stylists that range from wedding specialists to TV specialists, to people that have worked with major A-list celebrities on the red carpet, to downtown magazine like Nylon with Dani (Stahl), to more national glossies like Vogue.'
helped me pick out this Nina Ricci dress, even suggesting which shoes and bag to pair with it.
While I could never spend nearly $7,000 on a dress, the rental is a fraction of the cost (but even then, I would have to give up groceries, riding the subway for a month and paying my internet bill in order to afford a $700 rented dress).
The dress is also only available in a handful of sizes, with the largest size available equating to a U.S. size 12.
The team packaged up my dress while I created my account on the website and signed the rental agreement.
Further proof that I'm likely not in Armarium's target demographic: I was so paranoid about carrying around a $7,000 dress that I Ubered home instead of taking the subway. Plus, the bag alone takes up nearly the entire width of my hallway.
The team also included a note to thank me for my rental and showed me how to return it after the four-day rental period is up.
I can return my dress to the Armarium showroom at 1 East 52nd St., but those who shop online just have to mail it back at the end of their rental period.
Armarium calls its clients the 'Armi' and has cultivated a group of men and women called the Armi 400 -- a group of tastemakers and influencers from across the U.S. who get first access to new products and discounts on rentals. Gregory and Lind Rose rely on the Armi 400 to tell them about new styles and trends they see and to suggest new designers to include on the app.
Armarium plans to continue its pop-up series in the Hamptons this summer, and Chicago, San Francisco, and Greenwich in September and October. The company hopes to expand its service to clients worldwide.
For now, Gregory and Lind Rose say they just want to get Armarium in front of more people and combine traditional shopping with the e-commerce experience. And for high-end consumers, this service makes sense: clients can save on money and closet space, have access to the latest styles as soon as they're available, and take advantage of a personal stylist who will pick out looks they know their customers will like and keep a diary of what clients have worn in the past.
For lower-end consumers, Armarium might isn't the most frugal choice, unless you're planning for a once-in-a-lifetime event. The service is straightforward, user-friendly and expertly curated, but it prices out the majority of women in their early 20s.
For now, my biggest issue is where to wear my $7,000 dress this weekend.
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