This brand new fashion tech startup is using the collaborative consumption model in a unique way. Borrowed by Design has created a rental platform where users can rent (and offer to rent) formal wear. We spoke with co-founders Jennifer Bluemling and Kathryn Ewing to get the details.
Describe Borrowed by Design.
Borrowed by Design or “BBD” is an online community for women to lend and borrow formal wear. We like to call ourselves the “AirBnB of fancy dresses.” [Editor’s note: check out our post on collaborative consumption here.]
What inspired you to start Borrowed by Design?
This was a need-based idea. A few years ago, we (Kathryn and Jennifer) had a ball to attend as volunteers and needed to wear formal gowns. This was the first event like this for Kathryn since it was during her first job out of college. Kathryn was never in a sorority, so the only fancy dresses she owned included an old prom dress and a few bridesmaid dresses–not appropriate for this type of event. She was also working on a pretty limited budget, so buying a new dress to only wear once was out of the question. Additionally, Kathryn’s a bit taller than a lot of her friends, so borrowing from her immediate friend group was tough.
At the same time, Jennifer was struggling with finding a dress that fit a more curvy frame and she is taller than the average woman as well. All in all, we were both struggling to figure out what to wear, just like every other woman out there for a formal event. That’s when Kathryn had the idea, “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a place I could go borrow a dress from someone with my same body type?” Kat shared this idea with Jen over lunch one day and we’ve been working hard at making it a reality ever since!
What sets Borrowed by Design apart from other fashion tech companies?
We’re really the only ones in the fashion tech space that offer a peer-to-peer rental platform. We are structured very similar to the Etsy marketplace, but with a rental model instead of selling. The trend of collaborative consumption and a shared economy are seeing huge success in a lot of other spaces (think Uber or AirBnB), so why not for dresses? (Especially more formal dresses that you may only wear once.) A lot of other fashion tech companies have a set number of inventory and styles or cater to a limited size range, but we’re working to grow our community to one day be able to offer dresses for all formal occasions for all sizes and cultures.
What has been the hardest obstacle for you in creating Borrowed by Design?
The business side of things (taxes, finances, filing for an LLC and our trademark) has been a definite learning curve for us. While we both have experience in the business world, it’s a whole different ballgame when you’re just starting out. Luckily, we’ve had some awesome mentors and advisors along the way who have helped us overcome these obstacles and we’re continuing to learn and grow in these areas each and every day.
What has been your favorite part?
Our favorite part so far has been the response from the community. Every time we tell a fashionista what we’re doing, they usually exclaim how brilliant this is. Often, when we explain about attending the ball they relate to the situation and have their own stories to tell as well. We’ve listened to hundreds of women tell us what they are looking for and many of those ideas have helped shape our community: from our payment and commission structure to how the profile pages are set up.
What can we expect from Borrowed by Design in the future?
We have a ton of awesome projects underway. The biggest one we’re working on is a complete redesign of our site to align with our branding and (to offer) a mobile responsive user experience. The new look and feel has had a great response from those we have surveyed and should be going live in the next six weeks. The other big project we’re working on is creating our campus rep program. We are poised to expand on four different universities in Georgia this fall and use that as a test pilot for expanding throughout the southeast and then on a national scale over the next year.
To learn more about Borrowed by Design, check out their website here. We’ll have our eye on the company as they grow!
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