There are way too many instances when I purchase a clothing item, wear it once and then leave it neglected and relatively unworn in the back of my closet as I have moved on to the newer, shinier, trendier item. Le Tote, a new Y Combinator-backed startup, is launching to let shoppers like me have my cake and eat it, too. Le Tote is a fashion rental service for women’s apparel and accessories, but with a twist.
The startup differs slightly from models like Rent The Runway, in that it operates on a subscription model, and focuses on providing personalized clothing for everyday wear versus special occasions.
Here is how it works: customers fill out a style profile asking about style tastes in clothing and jewelry, sizing and more. Then a Le Tote stylist chooses three garments and two accessories personalized to the style of the customer that arrive via mail. The customer can keep the items as long as they like, wear them as much as they want, and can even purchase one or more of the items. Le Tote will provide a pre-paid box to return the clothes so all the customer has to do is drop the “tote” in the mail.
Once the items are returned, a new tote is chosen and mailed. This happens as often as the customer likes, at a cost of $49 per month, plus any costs for the clothes you keep.
Founders Rakesh Tondon and Brett Northart tell me that the clothing is priced moderately, with dresses around $50 and shirts priced at $30 (these items are discounted). Jewelry, scarves and belts cost from $10 to $30. While no cleaning or ironing is required for returned clothing, you can purchase an insurance plan that will cover any stains or tears on clothing. Additionally, you can browse through hundreds of clothing items and accessories on Le Tote’s site and add it to your closet to be sent in the next shipment, and also favorite the item so the startup’s stylists will put similar items in your totes. The more you interact with the site and the service, the more personalized your “Le Tote” will be.
Another point worth noting — Le Tote will clean all clothing, and polish jewelry and resend this to other customers (as long as the quality has remained), so you may not be receiving an item that is 100 percent brand new.
Le Tote launched its service nine months ago in private beta and already has more than 1,000 paying subsribers and a wait list of more than 18,000. The company sends out over 100 totes a day to customers in 48 states. The startup has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Y Combinator, the YC-VC fund, 500 Startups, Andreessen Horowitz, Lerer Ventures, Google Ventures, and several angels.
Startups applying the subscription, e-commerce model have had their fair share of troubles over the past year, but Le Tote could be on to something interesting. Combining the rental aspect of the clothing, with styled picks is compelling enough that women may feel like they are getting a good deal on customized styling without the Bloomingdales or Neiman Marcus sticker price. Le Tote isn’t the only startup to try to tackle this space. JewelMint and RocksBox are also offering a similar model, but the services are both focused on jewelry.