Tech City: Fashion tech to save women’s wardrobes

Filipa Neto and Lara Vidreiro

Filipa Neto and Lara Vidreiro - Credit: Archant

Two young entrepreneurs are taking the fashion tech world by storm as they become the biggest online dress rental business in Europe.

Aged just 24, Filipa Neto and Lara Vidreiro were catapulted to success with Chic by Choice after winning Portugal’s renowned business competition, Acredita Portugal, fresh out of university.

They have since made their first acquisition making them unrivalled for size in the industry.

Filipa said: “We actually had the chance to acquire the assets of the second-biggest rental community in the UK and we became the biggest rental community in Europe offering 700 dresses to more than 230,000 members.”

The women started the business at university after struggling to find clothes to wear to a party.

Filipa said: “We thought how good it would be if there was an option to wear a dress but not pay full price, because we would only wear it once.

“Chic by Choice is the fashion rental marketplace, renting the world’s best items sourced from brands, boutiques and e-commerce platforms.

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“As well as helping women to spend less by renting more, we’re also helping retailers and e-commerce sites to manage inventory excess in a cleverer way.”

Filipa said there were several factors that made Chic by Choice, which is based at the Trampery, in Bevenden Street, so unique.

She said: “We have three different types of partnerships: boutiques, brands and using our ecommerce platform. With boutiques we can source the most expensive couture dresses, and with brands we can get a bigger offer as well as source new brands from abroad.

“With the ecommerce platform we get stock that people are willing to buy online and make it available on the site. These three sourcing options give us variety; you can rent dresses from £60 to £600.

“It caters to different women and occasions because you can provide what the girl at 20 wants – the dress from the most popular brand – or the most couture styles and runway looks.

“You can be at university and want to feel amazinsg for the prom but don’t want to spend that much or you might want that amazing look for cocktails with your company.”

The stock model the business uses is its most defining feature. Though there are hundreds of dresses photographed on the site, the pair only buy the ones that are in highest demand to save money on excess stock.

Filipa said: “We borrow the dress for 24 hours and photograph it to upload online then we only buy them according to demand. What we figured out is women always want the same things and this way we don’t have as much risk with stock.”

The business also offers a try-on service, sending a backup size of the same dress.

Customers can hire two dresses, back-up included, and get a refund on the dress they do not wear.

Chic by Choice is now looking to branch out into accessories to “give customers the complete look”.

Working as a young businesswoman in the tech industry, Filipa said having a co-founder to share the journey and support from mentors and accelerators were invaluable for potential startups.

She said: “It is going to be a rollercoaster and you will really need a person to share your vision of the business and actually, to get the most from the business, you cannot do it alone. You need someone to share your ideas and to receive feedback from.

“Then entering competitions is really important to validate your ideas because most of these judges are really relevant people in your sector. Get a co-founder, go to competitions and ask people to be mentors, even it is half-an-hour at a coffee shop to get their feedback.”

She attributed working in east London as a reason for staying driven and looking to the future: “One of the things that has more impact when it comes to London is the people you have a chance to interact with. Especially in east London, people are really driven and creative. That has an impact with the way you perceive business and the way you scale it. It’s so inspiring that it makes you want to grow better, faster.”

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