Through her career as an angel investor for fashion e-commerce companies, Carmen Busquets has made a more than $50 million bet that the future of fashion will be determined by technology.
The entrepreneur and angel investor has backed funding for the names most associated with fashion technology, including Net-a-Porter, Moda Operandi, Lyst and Farfetch. Most recently, Busquets contributed to her second round of funding in Armarium, a luxury fashion rental company that lets customers loan out off-the-runway gowns and other occasion wear from more upscale designers with higher loaner prices (Roberto Cavalli, Christopher Kane, Zimmermann) than the similarly formatted Rent the Runway.
Armarium, which has raised $3 million in funding so far from investors like C Ventures alongside Busquets, has relaunched its site, adding an in-store boutique integration, an AI-powered personalized lookbook builder called the ArmiBot, and a new team of in-house stylists that use both a creative eye and customer data sets to make recommendations through a live messenger service.
The companies that Busquets invests in are ones she believes can change the current path and format of the fashion industry, thanks to their use of technology. The size of her investments, which range between $50,000 and $200,000, are meant to avoid ballooning the valuations of young companies before they can build out a sustainable path to growth, according to a New York Times interview.
We asked Busquets why she’s bullish on the future of companies like Armarium, what else she’s betting on at the center of fashion and technology, and what’s behind shifting customer expectations.
Why invest in Armarium?
The luxury fashion retail environment and customer is changing. Armarium was created as an innovative retail service offering. I have seen the landscape of luxury fashion retail drastically change and evolve over the last 20 years, from my own brick-and-mortar business to the launch of e-commerce with Net-a-Porter, to the foray into online trunk shows with Moda Operandi, and now to the shared economy with Armarium.
One constant thread across all of these platforms is luxury service. I invested in Armarium to further grow awareness of the shared economy and believe in this specific platform as a unique service offering within retail and client experience. My role as a founding investor has been to closely and carefully grow the Armarium brand to new heights with strategic partners, luxury brands and investors that understand how the industry is shifting and how the consumer is now shopping.
How does this investment address what modern luxury consumers actually want today?
Thanks to technology, luxury is now accessible to everyone and truly convenient. Technology has allowed us to be more efficient with our time. Trends are more accessible via high-street fashion, as well as social media. Social media has prohibited us from wearing looks more than once, and therefore causes us to question the purchase of such trends that are hard to re-wear. But the trends allow us to feel more youthful and beautiful, and allow us to experiment with new designers and styles. Now with rental, Armarium allows you to actually experiment with these high-fashion trends and luxury brands before turning away from trying them because of the novelty or sticker shock. The same way millennials feel they can drive a luxury car for a weekend to test it, they want to wear a brand or trend before finding and investing in their own style.
Experimenting via rental leads to brand loyalty and full-price purchases — especially with the personalized styling services and knowledge Armarium provides. The modern luxury customer wants a unique, personalized experience, which is exactly what the new ArmiBot and the Armarium team delivers to existing and future luxury clients.
Do you think the luxury industry is adapting quickly enough to this shift?
The big luxury groups learned their lessons in the early 2000s, when they all thought technology was not going to affect and empower consumers the way it has. Today, consumers are empowered, and they are demanding. The brands would actually prefer their customers rent expensive, novelty looks and, in turn, become loyal to them, [rather than see] them buy and sell product on the secondhand market, and risk losing them. So, they are actually all viewing Armarium as a new marketing solution: Renting and then converting consumers into loyal ones because of their initial experience. I believe the luxury industry prefers rental services over allowing the secondhand market to grow.
What other technology piques your interest?
Other technologies and ideas I support and invest in are because I need them as a client. For example, Vault Couture operates my closets and stores my clothes, and can deliver or pack my bags if I travel. I also love technologies such as Myswear and Unmade, where I am allowed to choose and make my own shoes or sweaters. Technologies such as ASAP54 I also favor, as they have became a concierge service that Farfetch acquired; customers can get anything they want, whenever they need it.
I have also invested in Tagwalk to see all fashion shows without advertisements interrupting my viewing. Additionally, Moda Operandi is the best solution today to pre-order from designers, so you don’t have to waste time looking for things you want. And I also use Lyst. Last but not least, I also love using Instagram and contacting artisans or unknown people to order something they sell somewhere in the world. Instagram has become the new easy destination, or the new couture lab, as we can travel the world as customers in one convenient click.