Dressing up for success - dress rental site Designer-24 - Gulf Business
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Dressing up for success – dress rental site Designer-24

Dressing up for success – dress rental site Designer-24

One year on, the co-founders of Designer-24 have launched their own marketplace as they eye regional expansion and a wider offering

When Designer-24 co-founders Sara Alemzadeh and Ranya Khalil-Aghamardi launched their online dress rental company last year they had one simple goal.

To solve the dilemma most women face – a closet full of clothing but nothing to wear.

Now after some initial success – including backing from Jabbar Internet Group – the two are embarking on the next phase of their business, with expansion, new services and funding in their sights.

Building awareness

Since launching in the middle of last year the biggest challenge the two have faced is building awareness.

Although they admit attracting the big fashion brands – with dresses retailing from $1000 to $10,000 – has become significantly easier than before they launched.

“For sure, it was definitely a challenge at first. But now that we are more established, both contemporary and high-end luxury brands love us,” says Alemzadeh.

The business has achieved 60 per cent growth month-over-month since coming online and enjoyed particular success with repeat customers. Some top clients have rented over 30 times since the company launched.

Following this opening run, the two are now looking at the next phase of their strategy. A wider range of products including accessories and clutches to pair with the dresses will be joining the lineup soon. They are also eyeing expansion outside of the United Arab Emirates due to growing demand from other Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

“We have already started sending some orders outside the UAE, to Saudi and Bahrain, but we have not actively marketed it. There is so much work to be done in our home country,” adds Alemzadeh.

But perhaps the most significant addition is the new marketplace, allowing customers to rent their own dresses to each other.

“Many of our best clients asked if we would rent their designer dresses. When we looked at the dresses, there were so many beautiful treasures from Ellie Saab to Vintage Valentino. In October, one third of our rentals came from these dresses and we just launched it. The culture of borrowing clothes has existed for ages, now we are just scaling it and making it efficient,” Alemzadeh explains.

This is not to say they will take just anything. Dresses have to be either luxury or contemporary designer names and are evaluated for quality and style before they are put on the site. This is followed by the usual cleaning and steaming after use as seen with the rest of the D24 inventory.

“You take the guesswork out of inventory selection, create a truly collaborative economy for fashion and provide access to vintage designer dresses women never dreamed they could get their hands on,” she adds.

The two see the model as an easy way of increasing the variety of their online offering, while also allowing women to “make a business out of their wardrobe” with the shared rental revenues.

Forming a fashion hub

Just as Designer-24 is growing, so are Dubai’s credentials in the fashion world. Already a hub for luxury and fashion on the consumption side, Alemzadeh and Khalil-Aghamardi believe initiatives like the Dubai Design District are a great way to foster regional talent and attract investment. Something that may come in handy as the two reveal they are in the middle of their next fundraising round.

So what advice would they give to would-be female entrepreneurs?

“A Hewlett Packard report showed that men apply for a job when they meet only 60 per cent of the qualifications, while women apply only if they meet 100 per cent of the qualifications. This gender confidence gap shows women need to have more faith in themselves,” says Alemzadeh.

“The reality is that you will never have all the answers from the beginning nor should you; therefore be comfortable with the unknown and flexible to adapt and learn as you go.”

Clearly a little self-confidence can go a long way.

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