Looking back on the past couple of years, I can’t help but notice the impact that The Fitzroy Dress Rentals has had on the scene. A look into the hashtag #FitzroyFoxes shows women across Toronto wearing designer dresses (for all shapes and sizes) to the most noteworthy events.
I sat down with Angela Pastor, co-owner of The Fitzroy, for a Q & A to see how the studio became what it was, and why her company’s name is on the lips of little ladies across the city:
1. You originally started as an online and pop-up store. When did you decide to make the switch to renting dresses and accessories?
We launched the pop-up back in 2011 and the online store followed in 2012. Initially, the pop-up was just to test the market, try out different neighbourhoods and get to know our “girl,” what she wanted and didn’t want while we searched for the right location to put down roots. What ended up happening was that we saw a change over the years, particularly due to Instagram and social media, where women didn’t want to repeat an “event” outfit.
We heard customers in the store complaining about having to buy yet another dress, they saw it as an expensive and stressful hassle rather than a fun, feel-good experience. Because they knew that ultimately once that event was over, they weren’t going to wear that dress again, and they’d be stuck with it in their closet full of ghosts of parties past.
We didn’t know of any other dress rental place offering our style of trendy, boho-glam rental dresses so we decided to test it at our longer pop-up throughout the summer of 2016. We started with one rack, then added a second, then a third, and so on as we saw that demand and enthusiasm was way more then we expected.
“People are downsizing their wardrobes, simplifying their lives, and no one needs a closet full of gowns or a dress they wore to a wedding 2 years ago. We have too much clutter in our lives already.”– Angela Pastor
2. When did you decide to get rid of your pop-up and move to a location to solely provide dress rentals?
By the end of the summer, we had six rental racks and found it was what most people were coming to us for. Women LOVED the fact that they could use the dresses and have that experience of looking and feeling amazing without having to commit to buying it. We’ve become very non-committal as a culture of late and that’s ok, we just decided to switch our business model to reflect that. It simply made more sense. Think about Uber, Netflix, Airbnb; the sharing economy. Experience over ownership. It saves you money and is more environmentally sustainable as well. It’s a win-win.
Once we saw it was working for us and how fast word was spreading we decided to end the retail side of our business and focus entirely on rentals. We wanted to stay in the neighbourhood where people knew us already, and we opened our rental studio at Dundas and Ossington in October 2016. As demand grew, we later moved to a larger studio space, where we currently reside, on Sterling Road.
3. How do you think that renting is shapeshifting the market?
As I said before, we strongly believe rentals are the future. People are downsizing their wardrobes, simplifying their lives, and no one needs a closet full of gowns or a dress they wore to a wedding two years ago. We have too much clutter in our lives already. men have been renting suits and tuxes for years, so I’m not sure why it’s taken so long for women to notice that party dresses are one-time-use items. Renting has become a huge global trend over the past five years or so, I think we’re just now starting to catch up here in Canada but more and more people are coming to us every day saying how much they love the concept, and telling us they’re never buying another dress again, so it’s an exciting time to be in the rental game for sure.
“We all get bored so quickly these days as we’ve been so trained to covet what’s new, what’s next. Renting allows you to do that without feeling guilty about it.”
4. Do you think people will be renting their wardrobes in the future? What do you see coming from this?
We definitely see rentals expanding and being much more commonplace in the future, including wardrobe swapping and sharing. It just makes more sense than buying, with dresses in particular. Some things you still want to invest in, like a leather jacket that you’ll wear every day for years until it becomes a part of you. But a dress? Wear it once then throw it back into the ring and pick another one! You want to feel excited when you pull out a dress for an event, not “Meh, I’ve worn this one before.”
5. Anything else you want to add about the future of rentals and how/why people flock to you and why you’re finding it such a success would be great.
I think we’re finding it a success because women are loving our selection and the styling service we provide. You walk into a dream closet, have your pick of the dresses, and have a personal stylist to help you choose the perfect one for your event! Our goal is to take the stress out of the whole “I need a dress” situation and to make it as easy as possible for you. You can see all of our dresses online and reserve them there, or just come in at any time (which we encourage) and try them all on so you have lots of options for all your future events. And because we don’t take appointments, just drop-ins, you can come grab a dress whenever is convenient for you.
Often plans change, weather changes, your body changes and what you thought you were going to wear doesn’t work anymore. Or maybe you got a last min invite but don’t have the right piece in your closet. And who wants to go walk the mall yet again? It can be really overwhelming, stressful and expensive. Come see us instead, even if your event is starting in an hour we got you!! We’ll hook you up and send you out the door feeling confident and fantastic. That’s why we love what we do.
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