Whether before a cocktail dinner, milestone birthday or masquerade ball, the question, ‘What should I wear?’ has flashed urgently across every girl and woman’s mind. But for most, the thought of shining in a frock straight from the catwalk is nothing but a dizzy daydream. That’s where Girl Meets Dress, an eCommerce startup which allows women to browse and rent designer dresses online, comes in.
Hi, Anna! Tell us a little bit about how Girl Meets Dress works. How did you get so many designers on board initially?
Girl Meets Dress is a disruptive eCommerce business with a mission to democratise luxury— believing that everybody deserves a Cinderella experience. We provide millions of women the ability to rent designer dresses and accessories for a fraction of the retail price, allowing them to look and feel beautiful for all of their special occasions.
Girl Meets Dress is very attractive to designers because many women will typically only have tried a few high end designer brands in their lifetime; if any. With rental, designer labels get to be introduced to potential customers on a regular basis. 98% of our customers try a new brand they have never worn previously in their life. That is a huge marketing opportunity for designers trying to reach both new customers and the next generation on a mass scale.
Where did the initial idea behind Girl Meets Dress come from?
The Girl Meets Dress story began in 2009, when I was working as UK PR Manager for French Luxury brand Hermes, and like my previous roles in the fashion industry, it involved lending the collection of dresses and accessories out on a daily basis to fashion magazines, shoots, celebrities and journalists. I thought to myself, ‘Wouldn't it be amazing if we could all borrow dresses for just one event, and wear a different designer for every event in our calendar?’
When my co-founder Xavier and I looked into the market we saw that no one was doing it. We were the first company to rent luxury fashion online and it is wonderful that Girl Meets Dress is now pioneering the way for rental as a new and exciting ecommerce category of its own.
What would you say was the first practical step in making your idea happen?
Very simply: putting a basic website live, and confirming demand for your product. Once you know the market potential exists and that your customers are excited, you can build on that and expand further. The early days are all about testing.
What would you say was the most challenging thing in getting your idea off the ground?
When we started, ensuring we have a full team in place while bootstrapping was no easy feat. We were lucky to find so many hardworking and ambitious staff to stick with us and the vision.
Becoming knowledgeable in so many different areas is challenging, but it definitely helps to have two co-founders with complimentary and different skill sets.
Is there a particular dress, or a particular style of dress that has been the most popular?
My current favourites for versatile party dresses to wear in the day, and then straight out at night are ‘Alice + Olivia’ and ‘Rachel Zoe’.
How do you work to stay on top of what’s in? Do designers approach you with their latest designs, or do you keep an eye on the catwalk and make up a hit-list of what you want?
I attend Fashion Week, and set up meetings with designers to view their latest collections. From there, I work with my buying team to determine what we will purchase for next season.
How often do you add new dresses to your site?
Every week. We have a great buying team who constantly deliver fantastic new dresses that get our customers really excited. We have just had some new dresses in from Lanvin, Valentino and McQueen.
Do you eventually take dresses off the site, and if so, what happens to them?
As with any multi brand retailer, the clothes are bought from the designers at the start of the season, and then sold (or in our case, rented) until the following season. At the end of the season we sell the remaining dresses, or decide to keep the best performing dresses for an extra season, depending on customer demand. Then the new season’s dresses are bought and the cycle repeats.
How would you describe the start-up scene in London?
Where better to build and scale an e-commerce business than in the Silicon Valley of Europe? Startups are built by teams and networks of the smartest people in your field, and London is just that.
Why do you think Girl Meets Dress has been so successful?
We all have those pieces at the back of the wardrobe, bought for yet another wedding/party/job interview but then not worn more than once! Hiring a dress allows you to very easily wear more trend led, time sensitive fashions, whilst continuing to invest only in those classic pieces which will stand the test of time. There is no doubt that launching when we did was perfect timing for the concept, and it enabled us to provide a timely and innovative fashion solution during the recession. Our customers have a love for high-end fashion and have turned GMD into a guiltless addiction!
Is there a single piece of prolific advice you would give to budding entrepreneurs?
Don’t over think it. There will never be a perfect time to leave your secure job, risk your salary decrease, take a chance on an idea which might not work – but what’s the worst that can happen? You’ll go back to your previous role until you come up with the next idea!
Are there any new projects on the horizon for Girl Meets Dress?
Without giving anything away, Girl Meets Dress is proving the potential to be huge! We have ambitious and exciting plans for the year ahead. We want to continue to grow the collection of stock, the team, and to innovate within the wider fashion space. We will continue our leadership of this emerging space, and be in a position to ‘wow’ our customers in every way possible, and to forge a brand and quality of service which women will wonder how they managed without. We’re giving women access to the biggest closet in the world!
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