How Armarium Is Making the Case for Luxury Fashion on Loan
Luxury, in essence, is about exclusivity, and having access to something that is truly unique. Nowadays, with fast fashion and designer knock-offs being so prevalent in the market, this ideology is becoming less viable, and certainly less pervasive. However, there are those that still value quality and great design—and have the spending power to get their hands on a straight-off-the-runway, “It” item. But even then, the time frame that these must-have designer pieces are allotted (usually six months) doesn’t substantiate the hefty cost. Also, many don’t have access to the really good stuff, the editorial pieces that are usually meant to be a showpiece. This is why the masses have taken to borrowing items from Rent The Runway and Bag, Borrow Or Steal, websites that lend pieces for a fee. That said, their selection veers more toward the commercial, less statement-worthy goods.
Filling this void is Armarium, a premiere service for on-call luxury, where invite-only members can gain access to a virtual treasure trove of designer, couture-like pieces. For a fee, selected clients can lease sought-after apparel and accessories from the premier brands in the industry, including Nina Ricci, Marchesa, Robert Cavalli, Vionet, Salvatore Ferragamo, Lee Savage and many more.
“For years, we’ve talked about how hard it is to find statement pieces from runways to wear to events or even to dinner with friends,” said co-founder Alexandra Lind Rose, a fashion designer and former style entrepreneur, in a statement. “That’s when we started thinking about how we could solve this issue, and the idea for Armarium was born,” said the other co-founder and CEO Trisha Gregory, the former director of public relations at Salvatore Ferragamo.
Both are industry veterans who have nearly 20 years experience between them, which means that their Rolodexes are filled to the brim with the who’s who in fashion. Using this to their advantage, they created the Style Brigade—a team of stylist and experts that are available for hire via Skype, showroom appointments, or private residences for those living in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. These experts are able to dress clients for all categories—from a fabulous excursion in the Bahamas to glamorous black-tie gala— using the carefully curated collection provided by Armarium.
Through their mobile app and website, clients from around the globe can access this truly one-of-a-kind service, along with the most fashion-forward pieces from the best brands in the market—and at a fraction of cost. Yes, these items may be on loan, but with the fashion cycle being so fleeting nowadays, it would be more advantageous—and cost effective—to borrow then to buy. “Luxury is defined by convenience and service,” said Gregory. “What we want to provide is a sense of community. I think that’s what true luxury is about.”
In celebration of the newly launched app and website, Gregory hosted a swanky party at 583 Park Avenue, where she spoke about the nuts and bolts of Armarium, and how you, too, can become a part this incredibly chic community, or, as the they put it, #JoinTheArmi.
Where does the name Armarium come from?
It is Latin for wardrobe, or a place where people keep precious items. It’s also a play on the word armoire.
So how does Armarium differ from established luxury retailers?
We partner with brands, and buy pieces wholesale or on consignment. And we loan our pieces to our clients for 15 percent of the retail price for four days. We really focus on statement items that are more editorial, that are more of a one-hit wonder. You wouldn’t necessarily invest in owning these pieces, wearing them over and over again, because they make such a splash. We want clients to pair our statement pieces with other commercial pieces that they get from other retailers.
What if they want to hold onto to the pieces for more than four days?
We can definitely extend it on a per-day basis. A lot of people are borrowing these items for various vacations. For example, someone came in who was going on trip to Moscow and Paris for 10 days, and borrowed five complete looks.
After a few seasons, do women really want to borrow pieces that are, well, outdated?
It really depends on the look. Sometimes you want to wear Nicholas Ghesquière’s last collection at Balenciaga, or what Hedi Slimane just designed at Saint Laurent Paris. We curate a very editorial selection, and know what can live on past a given season, or what should be sold. We will have sample sales twice a year.
What other services are you providing with your newly launched website and mobile app?
Basically, our new app allows our clients to rent the pieces, and book a stylist. We have 21 freelance stylists, ranging from Shiona Turini [formerly of Cosmopolitan magazine] and Anne Caruso [formerly of Harper’s Bazaar] to Meredith Melling and Valerie Boster [formerly of Vogue]. Our clients have access to these experts, either in our showroom in New York, or in their homes. Some of our stylist are even willing to fly around the country, or are available on Skype.
A small percentage. They will be styling our members in a very editorial, avant-garde way. We found that a lot of woman didn’t know how to access stylists of such caliber. Everyone on our roster—our Style Brigade—have more than five years experience in luxury fashion magazines and celebrity campaigns. We also have house stylists available in our showroom, or over the phone that are less costly.
You will also have editorials on your website. Tell us more about that.
It’s meant to showcase a certain kind of lifestyle. Whether you’re
borrowing a piece to a dinner party, or going to trip to St. Barthes
with your boyfriend and need a dress, we want to show that it’s not just
about black-tie events. We cater to all categories.
How do you make a profit?
Over three and half turns, we make a profit on the dress. In addition, we make a profit on the styling services. Eventually, we will also make it through affiliate partnerships.
How does one apply to be a member of Armarium?
You can fill out a form on our website. Right now our members have come by word of mouth, and through our various partnerships— like the St. Regis Hotel, the John Barrett Salon and Eric Buterbaugh [the noted celebrity florist] in LA. If anyone is interested in high fashion and booking a stylist, we want you to be a member of our club.
How do you see Armarium evolving in the next, say, five years?
We will add more brands, more categories, and maybe expand to menswear. Partnerships are key for us. We want to get our girl out the door and ready to face the world.