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Girl Meets Dress co-founder Anna Bance chats to Startacus

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by Startacus Admin

Attention ladies (and gentlemen) we’ve got something for you - Have you ever wanted a designer dress for that big event but have been put off by the price? Well look no further than

GirlMeets Dress is the online luxury rental destination providing millions of women with the ability to hire the hottest designer dresses and Girl Meets Dressaccessories for less than 10% of the retail price. Founded in 2009 by Anna Bance and Xavier de Lecaros Aquise, GMD is rapidly becoming one of the fastest growing startups in London.

So we thought it only right to catch up with co-founder Anna Bance to find out more about this rather fashionable venture.

So the GMD concept seems like an obvious idea now, as the pay-as-you-live lifestyle market is valued at over £22 billion - but what was it like when you started out? Did everyone think it was a good idea or was it met with scepticism?

The idea of collaborative consumption is now making a big impact around the world, whether it is somewhere to stay (Airbnb) or a car (Whipcar) – and now designer clothing. When we started, ensuring we had a full team in place while bootstrapping was no easy feat. We were lucky to find so many hardworking and ambitious staff to stick with us and share the vision. Launching a business is always going to have an element of risk, but I believed in the idea, my co-founder and the market potential.

To see if our idea could work we needed to test the product at market – which is the first step to seeing if there is demand. We found Girl Meets Dress was a concept that women really responded to, especially as we launched at the perfect time, providing a timely and innovative fashion solution during the recession.

Not only that, GMD is also very attractive to designers because many women will typically only have tried a few high end designer brands in their lifetime, if any. With rental, designer labels get to be introduced to potential customers on a regular basis. 98% of our customers try a new brand they have never worn previously in their life. That is a huge marketing opportunity for designers trying to reach new customers + the next generation on a mass scale.

So where did the original idea come from?

The Girl Meets Dress story began in 2009 when I was working as UK PR Manager for French Luxury brand Hermes - and like my previous roles in the fashion industry, it involved lending the collection of dresses and accessories out on a daily basis to fashion magazines, shoots, celebrities and journalists…I thought to myself "wouldn't it be amazing if we could all borrow dresses for just one event, and wear a different designer for every event in our calendar?”

Anna BanceWhen Xavier and I looked into the market we saw that no one was doing it. We were the first company to rent luxury fashion online and it is wonderful that Girl Meets Dress is now pioneering the way for rental as a new and exciting ecommerce category of its own.

How have people's attitude changed towards this concept?

The trend for fast fashion phenomenon over the past few years has been fuelled by mass market retailers’ abilities to manufacture and retail in very short time cycles. Similarly celebrities are promoting ever more products at every opportunity; so much so that consumers have ended up buying at such a rapid rate that women now buy four times as much clothing as 30 years ago and the average woman has 22 garments in her wardrobe that she has never worn.

Designer dress rental is the evolution from this and it means that by spending the same...a woman can always be on trend AND in a different dress for every event. This is the perfect retail cocktail for the customer which the fashion industry has been unable to provide until now.

You are only based online, would you ever consider a high street store?

Never say never! We currently have a showroom in our Battersea HQ where customers can come and try on as many dresses as they like – this has proven to be very popular.

While looking through the reviews on your website, I noticed that the sizes worn are generally quite small, are bigger sizes not available?

We try our very best to offer a wide range of sizes, and are working towards launching a plus size range. We would be happy to increase the collection of size 18 dresses but most of the designer brands we carry don't make them unfortunately.

What has been the biggest obstacle you have faced in this field?Girl Meets Dress

Our biggest challenge was having to 100% bootstrap the company, self funding Girl Meets Dress until summer 2013 when we raised our first round of investment funding. I worked around this by finding a co-founder, Xaver, who has different skill sets to me. This is a brilliant way to launch without needing to hire a full team on day 1. If you can split the main areas of the business between you, then you can launch with minimal cost.

Where do you see the business in the next five years? Any plans to develop a men’s range?

Without giving anything away, Girl Meets Dress is proving the potential to be huge! Nothing on the horizon for menswear at the moment, but we have ambitious and exciting plans for the year ahead. We want to continue to grow the collection of stock, the team, and to innovate within the wider fashion space. We will continue our leadership of this emerging space and be in a position to wow our customers in every way possible and to forge a brand and quality of service which women will wonder how they managed without, giving women access to the biggest closet in the world!

Like fashion startup related stories? You might want to read:

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Published on: 5th May 2014

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