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Armarium lets you borrow luxury fashion from your smartphone

TechCrunch TechCrunch 1/06/2016 Sarah Perez

A number of startups want to make wearing the latest – and in some cases, luxury – fashion more affordable, including Rent the Runway, Le Tote, Gwynniebee, The Ms. Collection, and others. These companies offer to rent out clothing, instead of selling garments new. Today, welcome the latest to join this crowd: a new on-demand app called Armarium is launching to serve those with slightly more expensive tastes. Its collection features pricier statement pieces compared with its competitors, and promises to rent only those items from the current season or the last.

For comparison’s sake, Rent the Runway’s pieces can be up to four seasons old, and are much more affordable when you choose to buy. But Armarium’s statement pieces rent for $300 to $500, and retail for $3,000 to $5,000, because they hail from higher-end brands.

This makes it a bit out of reach for much of the mainstream, but is something that could appeal to the aspirational fashionista crowd.

The startup was founded by a team of fashion industry vets, including co-founders Trisha Gregory, the former head of Public Relations at Salvatore Ferragamo for North America; and Alexandra Lind Rose, a fashion designer and entrepreneur. There are also 21 fashion and celebrity stylists on board, including Shiona Turini, Karla Martinez de Salas, Natalie Joos, and others, whose time you can book for additional fees.

Together, Armarium’s team has curated a collection of clothing and accessories that offers more access to the top luxury brands, like Alberta Ferretti, Etro, Jimmy Choo, Nina Ricci, Anthony Vaccarello, Peter Pilotto, Sonia Rykiel, Roberto Cavalli and more.

While the idea is to bring runway looks to anyone, the clothing includes a range of items from street style daywear to black tie.

The goal is to make these items more affordable by dropping the price to 10 to 20 percent of retail. (Accessories are around $40 and ready to wear is $200 to $800). This helps Armarium define its niche in the space, as competitors tend to shy away from the very high-end pieces in an effort to keep their monthly pricing more affordable.

But Armarium’s business model is different. Though many of today’s clothing rental services operate as subscriptions – that is, you pay a flat fee to rent the pieces on a monthly basis – Armarium’s users simply pay for the items they borrow individually.

“I knew after many years of styling Ferragamo runway statement pieces on VIP women around the country for special events and watching them fall in love with the brand and the designer after wearing one of them that I wanted to create a platform that provided this type of access to more women,” explains Gregory.

“Often times the best pieces cancelled from production and not found in the market. There also wasn’t a player in the shared economy for luxury fashion and we wanted to educate and introduce new customers to luxury high fashion through our platform,” she adds.

Gregory says the ideal client is a socially active woman who wants high-end statement pieces but also the convenience they’ve come to expect with technology. They, however, do not have experience with high fashion and will use Armarium as their entry to these brands.

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To use the service, customers download the app and sign up for an account. You can then browse for items and place requests to borrow pieces. The rental period is fairly short – you can rent items for four days, but not a month or other indefinite periods of time, as on other sites.

In addition, Armarium offers a more hands-on approach to styling. The company provides access to a team of stylists who help customers via chat, in showrooms, or even in private homes in N.Y., L.A., and San Francisco. It also offers access to “House Stylists” who you can call for last-minute questions about fit and style.

When you’re finished with the item in question, you ship it back and Armarium handles the dry cleaning.

Armarium is aiming to be more than just rentals, however; it’s also trying to establish itself as a lifestyle brand. This is reflected on the company website, which features style inspiration, interviews with designers, photo shoots styled by its team, and the “Armi 400,” which focuses on influential people in business, arts and entertainment. Already it has featured content from Whitney Port on Wedding Style, as well as a profile of Bettina Anderson’s trip to Palm Beach, for example.

The company has been running a private beta with 3,000 users since earlier this year on an invite-only basis, and reports an average repeat customer trend of 28 percent, with average rentals of 1.25 items at around $300.

Armarium closed on $1.25 million in seed funding in May from Metamorphic Ventures, Carmen Busquets (investor in Net-a-Porter), along with various angels and strategic partners.

The app is available for download here on iTunes.

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