Australia’s first crowd-funded fashion platform, Chandelier, is quick to distinguish itself from designer dress hire sites.
Co-founders Belinda Paul and Joanne Goutziotis say their business model “sits outside the hire market”. Having launched November 2016, the site aims to match four women of the same size and style to share the cost of a design item. They have two ‘wears’ of the item over four months with Chandelier managing storage, dry cleaning and distribution.
“The process is need it, find it, crowdfund it, wear it.”
“The process is need it, find it crowdfund it, wear it. We have a time limit of three to seven days on our campaigns to create a sense of urgency. When people are looking for outfits for an event, they don’t want to wait three weeks to see if they’ve secured the item,” says Paul.
Via Chandelier, the average price per share for a $1,200 to $3,000 dress, for example, could be $300 to $700, which means the wearer would pay $150 to $350 per ‘wear’.
“Once each of the four women have had their share of it, we can offer that garment up for sale to those or we might gift it to one of them. As a way of getting maximum exposure, we’re looking at different avenues. They’re each paying a fraction of the cost and ultimately potentially own it at a very small price,” says Paul.
“Each item will only have eight wears and the whole point of the Chandelier is it’s a premium service. You’re not getting a garment that’s been worn and dry cleared 200 times. We’re offering people the experience of wearing a high quality beautiful item,” says Paul, a former international brand manager and buyer, while Goutziotis was a trends forecaster for the Australian retail industry.
"We tried to build a brand personality through social media, especially Instagram, so people would understand the general gist.”
“In our roles we would be inundated with stock, beautiful items in the products we managed and ran and from this we had our friendship group and network coming into our wardrobe on rotation. The idea was borne out of this so I wrote a business plan seven years ago and sat on it as I’ve had two kids since,” says Paul.
“It took time because was new concept for the market needed a platform for them to view the items. We tried to build a brand personality through social media, especially Instagram, so people would understand the general gist.”
The site features five brands on rotation including Versace, Alex Perry and Maticevsky, but Chandelier takes suggestions from customers who’ve spotted a particularly fetching dress they’d like to be posted on the platform. The start-up then encourages that customer to post and share about their wish on their own networks.
"Their app and web developer “loved the idea so much” he has equity in the business."
The plan is to have dress measurements posted on the site and for each customer to have a profile set up so as soon as that size dress arrives, Chandelier can tag them on social media.
The ubiquity of social media has helped prompt this start-up, too.
“Because people get tagged on social media, there’s pressure to wear a new outfit at every event,” says Paul.
They’ve self-funded their business, but their app and web developer “loved the idea so much” he has equity in the business. It’s early days, though, says Paul.
“This is absolutely our launch phase. Even in the last four weeks we’ve changed and evolved the concept, so we’re always listening to people and will continue to do that.”
“We’ve met a lot of business people along the way and we’re happy to hear their stories and challenges. We’re keen to take on board advice and we’d love more mentors,” says Paul.
Former Sunday Age staff journalist, Margaret Paton (formerly Jakovac) has written widely for corporations/government departments and more than 100 online/hard copy mastheads in regional NSW, Sydney, Melbourne and Europe.