Armarium launched earlier this year as a platform for women to rent luxury clothing, shoes and accessories, at close to one-tenth the cost of the retail price. Now, with a new partnership with online luxury marketplace Net-a-Porter, Armarium is hoping to appeal to new users who buy designer pieces, too.
The partnership looks to marry the two worlds of luxury rental and investment. When Armarium members choose a piece to rent, they’ll be offered a selection of items available on Net-a-Porter to “complete the look,” which are selected by Armarium’s team of stylists. For example, those looking to rent an Alberta Ferretti wool overcoat for $600 (regular retail price: $5,990) are shown links to purchase a Gucci satin scarf, Miu Miu platforms, and a Mason by Michelle satin dress on Net-a-Porter. Then, while they’ll only be the owners of the Ferretti coat for the four-day rental window, they’ll own the Net-a-Porter pieces.
“The shared economy and traditional e-commerce are not mutually exclusive,” said Trisha Gregory, co-founder and CEO of Amarium. “The service pairs the two acting as a ‘complement’ to full price investment pieces.”
With a crop of startups with similar offerings to Armarium, the shared economy has stretched its boundaries beyond vacation homes and rides to reach luxury clothing. But while other companies like Rent the Runway, Style Lend and LSWOP operate on the assumption that most people who want to wear designer goods can’t afford them, Armarium’s high-barrier price points (most dress rentals cost around $500 for four days) aren’t appealing to women who can’t afford a robust designer wardrobe; they instead want increased access to variety.
Armarium’s new partnership accounts for the notion that these women aren’t going to build their entire wardrobes on rented clothing, and are also simultaneously looking to purchase. Its rentable dresses, coats and other statement pieces are positioned as special occasion items for rent, and those looking for something to wear beyond that are pointed to Net-a-Porter, which carries many of the items available on Armarium already. Renting can also inspire purchases: When items are rented and worn, that interaction that the borrower has with the brand could make them a full-time customer down the line.
“Renting is a test drive,” said Tony King, founder of luxury agency King and Partners. “You get to see how you feel wearing a certain designer or carrying a handbag, and that gives you the confidence to know what to buy later, and gets you further down the path to purchase.”
Rent the Runway, whose core service is similar to Armarium’s but at a far more accessible price point, is betting that women of a different income and demographic are willing to rent their whole wardrobes. Earlier this year, Rent the Runway introduced Unlimited, a service that lets members rent everyday items for a monthly fee of $139. According to Forbes, that model — amounting to $1,700 a year per person — is on track to account for 20 percent of Rent the Runway’s annual revenue of a projected $100 million.
But Rent the Runway’s challenge for maintaining Unlimited is proving value to a lot of brands, who have to be convinced to offer up their ready-to-wear items on a for-loan basis.
By partnering with Net-a-Porter, Armarium has established a relationship with the hundreds of brands already sold through the marketplace. For Net-a-Porter, it’s positioning itself squarely in the way of that path-to-purchase that clothing rentals hope to inspire. (Net-a-Porter was unavailable to comment for this story, and Armarium wouldn’t disclose how much of a cut it takes from purchases made on Net-a-Porter through the site.)
“The Net-a-Porter partnership reinforces the industry support and shows that the shared economy and full retail e-commerce businesses can, and should, work with each other,” said Gregory.