Rent the Dress, Own the Party.
On March 2nd, William Ault, the founder of Curtsy, elaborated on the substantial growth that his company has experienced since its beginnings in 2016. The app where you can rent dresses from other college women is only two years into the game. Yet, there are now over 115,000 dresses available on the app and about 70,000 Curtsy users. Dozens of college towns nationwide are flocking to Curtsy to find their semi-formal outfits. Every story has its beginning, and while attending the University of Mississippi in 2015, William was presented with a problem that brought Curtsy to life.
“One of my friends, Sara, and I, were hanging out back in 2015. She was faced with the issue of having three formal events in a span of a couple of weeks; it was ridiculous. She didn’t want to go out and spend a lot of money to only wear something once.”
While Sara created a Facebook Page to enable girls to exchange their dresses, they brainstormed other easier ways to manage the dress exchange. Ultimately, technology was the solution to this problem. Ault brought his friends onboard to build a dress rental app for the University of Mississippi. The dresses would come from girls’ very own closets. They spent four long months building the app, where lots of prepping and researching went into the app launch. Traction and growth in these months led to an astounding 200 dresses on Curtsy. After catching this glimpse of success, William and his team applied to Y-Combinator, a start-up accelerator in California. The Y-Combinator has funded over 1,500 start-ups in Silicon Valley to this day, including companies such as Dropbox, Airbnb, and Reddit.
The Curtsy Team preparing to head to Silicon Valley to expand their venture.
Since then, 14,260,000 gallons of water have been saved from girls choosing to rent Curtsy dresses instead of buying new! The environmental impact of renting, instead of buying, speaks for itself. Curtsy gives another life to these garments, reducing waste and the impacts of fast-fashion production overall. All you have to do is upload your best dresses to the app!
Sharing Is Caring
Why wasn’t this done sooner? For a long time in history, men have been able to rent tuxedos and formal wear. Men’s clothing is less form-fitting than women’s, and their suit style is very straightforward: usually black, charcoal, or white. This is much easier to rent out, so they did it all the time. Even the pieces involved make the fit much more standard. With women, on the other hand, Ault recognizes there are so many cuts, styles, and fabrics that it made renting more difficult. But Curtsy does it! And they paint it in a very positive light.
“It’s not about what you own, it’s about the experience you have while wearing it. It’s way more fun to go out and feel amazing in a new piece, but it’s a burden to own tons of things! It’s great to spend a day at the lake with a friend who has a boat than to actually own the boat. You can still take the photos, have the memories, and have the fun without owning the product yourself.”
Founders Eli Allen, David Oates, and William Ault (from left to right).
Initially, people liked to call these worn items “secondhand”, but we are slowly moving away from viewing that negatively. As secondhand fashion and fashion trends from the 80s are making a comeback, there has been way more fashion rental companies. In 2015, this type of sharing economy has seen $12 billion in investments, which is double the amount in social media start-ups, according to The Business of Fashion. The high value but low usage model is now being replaced by a new model. Instead of paying full price to own an item you wear once or twice, you can pay a lower price to own a Curtsy outfit for a couple days at a time. This gives college girls more spending power and choice with less commitment.
The Future of Fashion
Just like every person with big ideas for the Fashion Industry, I asked William what direction he wants to see it going in the next ten years.
“I would love it if there was a way to swap out your closet in a sustainable manner. I would really own very little but I would pay a low subscription fee every season to pick out new outfits and return items from the last season.”
For example, Ault may order some button downs, shorts, shirts, and wear it for the spring season. Once the summer rolls around, he would pick out different outfits. At the end of the season, he can give the clothes back for someone else to use, or for companies to repurpose the clothing for newer styles. You would still have that new buy feeling, experience the fashion trends, and feel like you’re going to perform well that day. At the same time, you don’t have to worry about spending a ton of money, only to increase your closet clutter.
Curtsy Pop-Up Store in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
With responsibility for thousands of clothing owned by Curtsy members, the Curtsy Team ensures that items are clean and available. Recently, Curtsy has moved offline and become tangible for users. It is now a retail store at the biggest Curtsy school, Alabama. William informed me that they will be launching shipping! Curtsy has about 115,000 dresses available, and in the next week, Curtsy girls will be able to rent from anyone around the United States. Such great news for the Fighting Illini and all other Curtsy campuses!
We cannot wait to see what else Curtsy has in store for the coming year. Download Curtsy to get access to thousands of closets at a fraction of the retail price. If you are interested in keeping up with conscious fashion, don’t forget to subscribe to Seashorties!