Should Women’s Fashion Go The Way Of Netflix?

A new online startup lets you rent clothing for a monthly fee. Thanks to Facebook and Instagram, we need more clothes than ever, a co-founder argues.

Raskesh Tondon and Brett Northart were tired of hearing the women in their lives complain not having anything to wear, despite their extensive wardrobes.

“My wife has this problem where she has a closet full of clothes but says she has nothing to wear,” Tondon says.

The pair of investment bankers think they can remedy this problem with a service called Le Tote, which some have described as a Netflix of women’s clothing.

Northart adds that he was also inspired to start the service by “friends who were entering the workforce, but didn’t want to spend a ton on [new] clothing.” He says that with the popularity of services like Instagram and Facebook, women are under more pressure than ever to show off new outfits.

Le Tote works like this: for $49 a month, you belong to what is essentially a big clothing-borrowing club. You can’t pick what items you’ll get, but each “tote” comes with three items of clothing like dresses and shirts, as well as two accessories like necklaces or earrings. When you’re done with them, you ship the items back in a prepaid box, and they send you a new set of items. Your size (sizes from 0 to 14 are available) and location are taken into account. For example, come December, a woman in Los Angeles won’t be getting the same kind of stuff as a woman from New York.

The items all bear a Le Tote label — they’re not designer pieces. To stay on trend though, the company purchases clothes from the same wholesalers that stock stores like Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters.

And Rakesh and Brett don’t pick out the clothes — they hired a buyer who previously served as a buyer for megabrands as Macy’s and Nike. The clothing is geared towards women in their 20s. They don’t plan to offer a men’s version anytime soon — both cofounders agreeing that by and large, men remain more utilitarian with their clothing and don’t crave the variety that Le Tote offers.

New users are asked a series of questions to help establish their sense of style.

Lately it feels like almost every week a new fashion- or beauty-related online subscription services launches. Birchbox, a particularly popular one, sends members beauty product samples. Others send members socks, underwear, or even a trunk of clothing every month. But those only come every four weeks, and you have to keep the stuff.

Online clothing rental services also aren’t new. Rent The Runway, one of the more successful ones geared toward special occasion dressing, allows members to rent expensive designer dresses. It might make sense for a rare black tie event when an attendee can’t afford to splurge on $500 formalwear. But Le Tote hopes to stand out with the promise of simply sprucing up your everyday wardrobe on a weekly basis (though members are not limited to weekly shipments, and can get an unlimited number of new “totes” if they so choose).

Venture capitalists have invested millions of dollars in fashion-related internet startups, but Rakesh and Brett are bootstrapping Le Tote for the time being. They say they are in discussions with “angel investors.” Only a few thousand users currently subscribe to Le Totes, with the goal of offering the service to a much broader audience at the end of this year.

In the meantime, there’s always your roommate’s closet.

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