When Armoire first emerged from MIT’s accelerator program back in 2016, the company’s vision was already fully formed — combine StitchFix and Rent the Runway to give women a low-cost, sustainable way to get a high-fashion, high-functioning wardrobe for every day.
Ambika Singh, the Seattle-based company’s chief executive, set out to solve two problems: the amount of time wasted on shopping, some 216 hours spent in stores or online, and the waste associated with the impulse purchases and fast fashion that have become the byproduct of an accelerating consumer culture.
Carried along by two trends — the proliferation of direct to consumer brands trying to capture the attention of a new customer and the rise of the rental movement — Singh thought Armoire could provide a daily wardrobe for professional women at a price point that could be attractive enough to switch from an ownership to a rental model for fashion.
(Or as The New York Times put it in a strong contender for headline of the year: “They see it. They like it. They want it. They rent it.“)
It may have taken three years, but investors are now renting out some space of their own on the company’s cap table. Armoire recently raised a $4 million seed round from investors, including Jesse Draper’s Halogen Ventures; Zulily co-founder, Darrell Cavens; Vijay Talwar, the former chief executive of BlueNile; and Rajeev and Jill Singh, former executives at Concur.
A subscription to Armoire’s service costs $149 per month and covers four items per shipment. The company’s average customer (Singh would not disclose how many of those there are), typically receive between 12 and 15 items in a month by swapping out the clothes they order.
Singh says this $149 per month is a discount to inventory that would otherwise cost around $300 if bought directly from stores.
The other benefit, says Singh, is that the company focuses on women-owned brands. Current suppliers include Of Mercer, Brass Clothing and Zuri.
While the relationship between the company and its clothing providers is more of a wholesale model (Armoire buys the clothes at a discount), Singh envisions a time when the company could reduce costs or add revenue by marketing styles from its clothing suppliers to customers.
Other companies that are also taking the rental retail model to the masses have a consignment relationship where their suppliers are getting a portion of rental revenues.
The number of companies pitching rental retail has grown significantly since Armoire’s chief executive first stepped on the MIT pitch competition stage in Boston years ago. Now there’s Gwynnie Bee, Haverdash and the grand dame of rental fashion, Le Tote.
Why enter a market when there’s already a global contender backed by more than $62 million in venture financing?
Some competitors and retailers have a consignment relationship from which they’re getting a portion of a rental revenue.
“We’ve got a particular focus that a woman post-30 needs. We focus on maternity and nursing and we have a focus on fit,” says Singh. “And the fact that rental has major headwinds around us and we have this consumer that is underserved and finding her voice in her wallet.”
Armoire’s team is 90% women and was hired from places like TheRealReal, Amazon, Zulily and Rover. The company owns all of its own inventory, and is targeting a 30-to-60 year-old woman who’s typically a working mother.
Singh uses a $70,000 median household income as its targeting proxy on Facebook, but says she’s hoping to bring the price point down for middle-class consumers. “This is a good way to get the volume ‘she’ might desire with a fixed budget,” says Singh.
And Armoire does have an option to buy the clothes that customers are renting — should they feel inclined. Singh expects the company booked roughly $200,000 in May.