PARIS, France — Luxury rental service Armarium is working with Parisian department store Le Bon Marché to offer customers the opportunity to rent pieces from the Spring/Summer 2019 collections. The service will launch on February 23, just before Paris Fashion Week, and is part of a wider initiative at Le Bon Marché called “Geek Mais Chic,” a store-wide technology exhibit.
“We carefully curated the assortment with Le Bon Marché’s team featuring some overlapping brands and some exclusive ones,” said Armarium chief executive Trisha Gregory, underscoring the wide range of dresses available, which she hopes will net Paris Fashion Week goers seeking evening looks. The service will feature around 50 brands, mostly smaller labels, including Alexandre Vauthier, Alessandra Rich, Erdem, Haider Ackermann, Paco Rabanne, Jason Wu and Sies Marjan.
In other sectors, from transport (Uber) to music (Spotify) to entertainment (Netflix), ownership is giving way to on-demand digital services, especially among young millennial professionals living in cities. In fashion, many luxury brands and retailers have been reluctant to embrace the rental market, fearing it would dilute brand equity and cannibalise sales. But some are warming to the idea that rental could actually support full-price sales. “We see it as a complementing service rather than competition,” said Le Bon Marché style director Jennifer Cuvillier.
This certainly isn’t the first time that luxury retailers have teamed with rental services. Rent the Runway, the market leader, struck a deal with Neiman Marcus back in 2016 before exiting the partnership to focus on building its own physical retail presence.
Armarium itself has worked with Browns, Net-a-Porter and several independent boutiques. But for the start-up — which was launched in 2016 by Gregory and Alexandra Lind Rose, and has raised $5 million to date from the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Carmen Busquets, Holli Rogers and C Ventures — this is its first partnership with a major department store and its first foray into France.
“We have a lot to learn,” acknowledged Gregory. “But we know that French consumers are adopting the sharing economy.” According to Amarium, revenue is growing at 200 percent year-on-year, though the company declined to reveal specific turnover figures.
The online clothing rental market is set to hit nearly $2 billion globally by 2023, an opportunity that has attracted several upstart rental services including Flont (fine jewellery), Eleven James (luxury watches) and Vivrelle (luxury accessories, such as Chanel and Hermès bags).