Digital retail is crowded with competitors big and small but Armoire is betting its unique clothing rental model will become a trendsetter.
The Seattle startup offers a $150 monthly subscription that allows women to rent high-end clothing and accessories. Armoire curates 10 to 15 items, based on a customer’s clothing preferences. She selects four items from the virtual closet to rent at once. They can be rented indefinitely and swapped out for new items at any time. If she falls in love with an item, she can purchase it for a discount.
“Retail is an incredibly large industry and for us to make a significant dent in a portion of consumers lives, I think the room is very much still there,” said Armoire CEO and founder Ambika Singh. “We imagine that in 10 years, there will be many, many more rental companies that will come behind us, each serving a different kind of niche.”
“The reason we think of the whole apparel market as our competitive set is because a lot of our customers have never rented clothes before so we’re asking her to make a real minimalist lifestyle shift away from purchasing all of her clothes to this more sustainable model,” Singh said.
There are a handful of other clothing rental companies on the market: Rent the Runway offers outfits for special events and Gwynnie Bee focuses on plus-sized customers. But Singh believes Armoire has the opportunity stand out by serving busy working women who may not have time to shop or feel frustrated by the age-old question, “what should I wear today?”
Singh and her co-founder Ali Driesman came up for the idea of Armoire at MIT and developed it at the university’s startup accelerator. They relocated to Seattle and are based out of The Riveter, a new co-working space for women. The startup is currently raising a pre-seed round of funding.
When an Armoire customer wants to return an item and get something new, she’s required to provide feedback. Singh acknowledges the requirement is a risky move, but knows how valuable that data is to Armoire and its suppliers.
“It’s always scary for e-commerce companies to put any kind of hurdles in front of the user but we’re doing this so that we understand before you return it, how did things go,” she said.
On the supplier side, Armoire gets advantageous pricing by offering brands insights into women’s clothing preferences and by exposing them to new customers.
Armoire covers the shipping, dry cleaning, and minor repairs for all apparel items. Singh believe that by offering variety over clutter, the company can carve out a niche in the digital retail market.
“The simplicity that people get from the service is not just about the fact that they spend less money,” she said. “You spend less time … you have four items at any time that are from the service and I generally just live out of those four because I have them. There’s no extra decision that needs to be made about, ‘do I really need to keep this? Do I really love this? Am I going to love it next year?’ It’s like, it’s here, I’m going to put it on for a test drive.”