Have you ever looked in your closet, sifted through the clothes hanging on the rack while you’re wearing your skivvies, and thought, “damn, I have nothing to wear.”
Yep, me too.
Imagine if, instead of having the same old clothes you wore last winter - or even last month - you had a constantly rotating set of designer outfits that didn’t cost you thousands of dollars and wasn’t creating additional waste for the earth?
Let me introduce you to Armoire.
Armoire is a designer clothing rental service built through machine learning and fashion stylists to get fresh, curated items whenever you want. For just $150/month (that’s less than two days of rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Seattle), you can have “new” clothes delivered to your door to wear to work or your friend’s dinner party.
The Seattle-based company’s goal is to help badass women “ranging from life-saving surgeons to top-tier management consultants, venture capitalists to tech CEOs, and incredibly hardworking mothers of two, three and even four children” (Seattle Magazine) dress in something that makes them feel great while also saving them time and money.
But, like many female entrepreneurs understand, starting a business from scratch - especially a business so reliant upon emerging technology such as machine learning - is anything but simple. While they’re changing the game in the retail and fashion industries, there’s been a lot to learn along the way.
With that said, Armoire’s work is empowering women to dress well, feel great, and focus on the parts of their life that truly matter.
So, without further ado...
Read their inspiring journey in the full interview below:
Ashley Hoffman (AH): Where did the idea for designer clothing rental come from?
Emily Smith (ES): Armoire launched in 2016, with our first three months in MIT’s Delta V accelerator program. Created by our CEO Ambika Singh, the idea was driven in part by the bias in workplace attire.
Men can wear the same suit multiple times a week, while women are looked at as “not put together” if she shows up to work in the same dress. Armoire strives to make this as even as possible, making it as easy for a woman to get dressed as her male counterpart.
AH: What did the path from idea to inception look like?
ES: Launching at Sloan Business school was a great resource for the necessary legwork to turn an idea into a reality. We had access to individuals who were eager to help – whether it was surveying over 500 women to test/refine the idea or beta testing the service with a close audience.
We were also surrounded by an amazing group of professors and mentors – reminding us to stop making updates to our deck and instead go out there and get our first customer… because that’s when the real fun starts from there. And they were right.
AH: In your mind, what makes your business model stand out from other clothing rental services?
ES: In the simplest form, Armoire is the dream closet for the busy woman. It’s endless, but personalized just for you. It’s easy on your time, your wallet, and the environment. It lets you experiment and express yourself, on your terms and reactive to your constant personal evolution.
Our technology, customer service, and quality of clothing definitely makes us stand out. We use machine learning and advanced tech to curate a dream closet for our members — saving her valuable time and energy.
Each of our members has access to a personal stylist in-person, on live chat, or over the phone making the experience personalized. Because we cater to the busy professional woman, we offer top quality clothing options that take her from desk to dinner.
AH: The technology portion seems key to your business model. What would you give to other female founders who are interested in implementing machine learning in their businesses?
ES: Sometimes simple is the best. In every area where you look at machine learning in your business, always start with something simple and move to something more intricate if that doesn't work. Also, look at areas where machine learning would have a high impact on the business. Don’t feel obliged to incorporate it into all aspects.
AH: What has been one of the biggest struggles so far?
ES: We knew that building a business would be challenging, but you never really know what goes into it until you jump in, head first. We underestimated everything building a company from nothing entails — it’s a roller coaster of emotions, a constant dose of challenges, and in reality, nothing about what we’re doing is easy. But it’s the little wins throughout that make it all worthwhile.
AH: What's your favorite part about Armoire?
ES: We are so inspired by the community of women we’ve cultivated and are humbled to serve everyday. The fact that we’ve given them minutes, hours, many hours in some cases, back in their lives so they can focus on what really matters is the ultimate motivator.