Tulerie makes its debut today, joining a growing roster of online clothing rental startups.
The New York-based Tulerie focuses on high-end couture—items that retail for $1,000 to $10,000—that might be worn a time or two but mostly take up space in a woman’s closet. The company is building a two-sided marketplace, with owners of haute garments and accessories on one end, and people who want to rent them on the other.
“You may have bought it for a special occasion or it doesn’t fit you properly anymore,” says Merri Smith, Tulerie’s co-founder and COO. “But it’s an investment, and you can’t really get rid of it.”
Smith and Violet Gross co-founded Tulerie, a peer-to-peer clothing rental market, two years ago. The startup’s mobile app, which is now available for iOS devices, features items such as Celine dresses, Chanel handbags, and Prada separates.
Gross, the startup’s CEO, says Tulerie wants its users “to feel like they are borrowing from a friend of a friend.”
Online marketplaces where people can rent clothing have been growing in number, an offshoot of the so-called sharing economy. Perhaps the best-known such service is Rent the Runway, which charges users fees each month based on the amount of items they rent.
Tulerie’s founders say the company takes a 17.9 percent commission from each rental, which they claim is compatible with similar services. “We wanted to make it very easy and non-committal for people,” Gross says.
After users create an account with Tulerie, they provide their clothing and shoe sizes. Then Tulerie contacts the person for a brief interview. “People need to trust the process,” Smith says. “People want to know they can trust who they are lending to.”
Smith says Tulerie currently has a “couple hundred” users, and estimates about one-third of them have put items up for rent. Listers can set whatever price they want, though Tulerie’s founders say they recommend prices be around 5 percent of an item’s sticker price if it were new. A Gucci grosgrained jacket, which retails for $3,980 is available for rental for four days for $149, for example.
Gross says the rental period starts when a user receives and item and items can be reserved a few weeks in advance. The app allows the two parties to chat in order to check into fit issues for a particular item. “If it still doesn’t fit, they can return the piece within 24 hours for a full refund, less shipping,” she adds.
I signed up for a Tulerie account—Gross and Smith waived the interview process so I could browse in order to write this story—and tried to peruse the offerings in my size. But, unfortunately, the app kept crashing, something Tulerie will likely address as they hope to bring on more users and products.
Gross and Smith say both list items they own on Tulerie. Smith, who worked as a director at Saks Fifth Avenue, met Gross at Paris Fashion Week two years ago. Gross had previously helped develop an app to help diners with food allergies.
While both women enjoyed the variety of shopping at fast-fashion brands, increasing awareness of how such shopping habits contribute to waste persuaded them to consider a rental-based business model. Tulerie has a partnership with RewearAble, a New York nonprofit that recycles textiles. When users decide a clothing item can’t be worn anymore, Tulerie will send them a shipping label addressed to RewearAble.
In the meantime, Gross and Smith say they hope to encourage women to start viewing their closets as a potential revenue stream. “Women typically don’t wear 70 percent of their wardrobes,” Smith says. “We want them to supplement their wardrobe, not just for special occasions.”