Marie-Philip Simard, a long-time Montreal lawyer, said going to law events meant that she had to look sharp, and that came with added pressure. She wanted to impress.
“I’ve worked in big law firms and I never knew what to wear for events,” she said. “Ladies don’t want to wear the same dress twice. You’re with partners, you’re with important people and you want to look good.”
The Montrealer founded a new startup called Chic Marie, which will rent out high-end complete options for a big night out: dress, shoes and accessories for women and a suit, tie, shoes and a watch for men. “Everything you need for your night out and it’ll cost you about 10 to 15 percent of the original price of a high end suit.”
They haven’t launched just yet- that’s planned for September- and so they can’t reveal what brands they’ll be renting out. But Simard indicated that the company would like to offer brands like Hugo Boss, Armani and BCBG.
Chic Marie needs about $300,000 for a proper, basic inventory, and right now they have about $50,000 in inventory. Simard and her CTO Philippe Rivard are currently going through the Founder Institute program in Montreal and will likely apply to a few accelerators after.
Their biggest competitor is New York’s Rent the Runway, an online service that provides designer dress and accessory rentals. Initially a purely e-commerce company, it began to expand into brick-and-mortar in 2013, opening three retail locations in the US. Valued at $200 million, the company has four million users, according to Simard, and it has received $54 million in venture capital.
Rent the Runway CEO Jennifer Hyman was named one of the “12 Most Disruptive Names in Business” in 2013 by Forbes.
Obviously something’s going right in the space- so why not a small startup from Montreal? After all, Rent the Runway’s three brick-and-mortar stores are in New York and Las Vegas, and it appears as though its ecommerce options are only for those in those areas. As well, Rent the Runway is completely devoted to women’s fashion, leaving the men out.
While an average dress on Rent the Runway goes for US $41 for a four-day rental, Simard said an average rental on Chic Marie for a dress would initially start at around $200.
The ecommerce play will also offer a stylist service, where users can upload a picture of themselves and Chic Marie’s stylist will give them three recommendations. “It’s like having a girlfriend at home,” said Simard. “Especially for men when they don’t know what to wear, the ladies will tell you.”