In the GlamCorner with Audrey & Dean Khaing-Jones
We caught up with the young couple and budding entrepreneurs to talk business, fashion and e-commerce.
Dean and Audrey Khaing-Jones have done what most married couples would never dream of – they went into business together. The couple had been committed to their high-profile careers in the finance sector, until they made the decision to plunge into fashion, together, in 2011. The pair had little to no industry experience, so the jump was risky, but with Audrey’s great fashion sense and a zeal for quality, designer clothing, they managed to cultivate their passions and create one of Australia’s leading e-commerce ventures.
Australia is a multi-billion dollar designer fashion industry, and with the couple’s banking background, a fashion rental business seemed like the perfect opportunity, “it very much resembles any other traditional ‘lending’ business [we] had worked with as bankers,” they explain.
Backed by Venture Capital firm AIRTREE, Dean and Audrey are determined to turn into their startup into a thriving business to rival that of US website, Rent the Runway, which was valued at $600 million last year. “We met with AIRTREE in 2015,” Dean explains. “They knew the space, they had an amazing track record of supporting Aussie tech companies and it was just the perfect mix.”
Today, GlamCorner has expanded beyond even their own expectations. They have over 50 high fashion designers from Australia, and internationally, including Alex Perry, Alice McCall, Dolce & Gabbana, Sass & Bide, Zimmerman, Herve Leger, Camilla and many more. With the fast paced success of their company that is leading innovation in Australian fashion, Dean and Audrey are looking forward, have plans to expand GlamCorner while remaining customer focused. “They’re everything to us,” Dean explains. “If you’re genuinely solving a real problem that customers have, everything else is ancillary to that.”
The couple have also made the list of Top 50 People in E-Commerce 2017, and we sense many more achievements from here.
Q: Do you have a limit on how many times a dress can be worn?
A: We’re very strict about stocking designer dresses of the highest quality. This has the dual benefit of ensuring our customers are always incredibly happy with their items while also ensuring the items last a healthy amount of time on a rental basis. Where some elements of the fashion industry manufacture items to be only worn once and then disposed of, this is not the case for the high-end designer clothing industry, so the risk of things being ‘overworn’ is much lower. We find that after around ten rentals our items begin to show signs of wear and tear, which is when we look to retire them from circulation as we maintain a very strict standard of only renting designer items that are in as-new condition.
Q: Have any clothes been returned in a ‘story-worthy’ state?
A: People are surprised to hear that it’s very rare for our items to return in a damaged state. This is because our very loyal customers feel like they’re driving a Ferrari for the weekend and as a result are very careful with their garments. We get the occasional bit of hem damage or stitching issues, but our in-house seamstress and laundry teams are able to return items to as good as new every time – it’s just clothing after all isn’t it? It’s very rare for serious damage to occur like red wine spills or fake tan stains, but even then we’ve found our free $100 damage insurance that comes with every rental is able to cover this.
Q: Has the demand been high? If so, are you surprised with its popularity?
A: Yes. GlamCorner now has tens of thousands of happy and repeat customers around the country – from Bondi to Alice Springs! We knew this was an excellent idea but even we have been taken back by how quickly our customers have been drawn to it – we regularly read reviews from our customers who now consider GC as their “other closet” for all of those “I have nothing to wear” moments. The repeat frequency from this has driven such a surge in demand that we’ve literally seen the business expand fivefold in the last twelve months alone. Our team of over 40 awesome employees operate out of our over 1,000 square meter warehouse in Alexandria which we moved into late in 2015 to support this incredible growth!
Q: Were high fashion brands eager to get involved?
A: Initially our reception in the industry was mixed as a lot of designers had not come across this business model before. While ‘rental’ has existed in the motorvehicle, accommodation and housing industries for a long time, the idea of the sharing economy for women’s wardrobes was very new. Although as the business evolved, a lot of designer labels (local and international) have been very receptive to the idea of utilising fashion rental as a channel to introduce their labels to a new market who aspire to wear their label but have thus far been unable to afford it. Our customers have also come to see GlamCorner as a brand-discovery platform. So in the same same way companies like Spotify have introduced a new way for people to discover and consume music, GlamCorner have introduced a new way to discover and consume designer fashion.
Q: How do you guarantee a 100% fit?
A: We provide a 100% fit guarantee or your money back and we do this in several ways. Firstly, if customers are genuinely unhappy with anything we send them, we offer full refunds with no questions asked. But over time we’ve learned what the main size and fit sticking points are, and hav innovated several solutions around this. The first has been the ability to add a backup dress to your order for just $15. This acts like a piece of insurance and allows you to rent two dresses and simply wear the one that fits best. We also provide a $30 at-home ‘Try On’ service where you can try items on ahead of placing a booking. We send the item to the customers house so they to try on in the comfort of their own home 24 hours before sending it back. Another really important element we’ve found to be super-helpful to our customers has been our ‘User Reviews‘, as literally thousands of our customers have left reviews with a lot of ‘sisterly’ advice to the next user, like specific size and fit notes to keep in mind. This has helped to crowd-source our size and fit stylist advice to ultimately ensure our customers are happy with what they rent from us – which is intrinsically our ultimate goal at the end of the day.
Q: What is the maximum delivery time?
A: For very regional areas our maximum delivery time is 2-3 business days, but this is quite rare. The vast majority of our customers are within Australia Post’s next-day delivery network and if you’re in Sydney we can provide 3-hour courier service for emergencies. So the average tends to be next-day for us and you can book an item to arrive on a specific date up to six months in advance for peace of mind.
Q: Generally, how much cheaper is it to rent, than purchasing a high fashion dress outright?
A: We try not to view our service as being “cheaper” than designer fashion per se. In the end, our customers are placing more value on “access over ownership” so it’s not really comparable to compare the price of renting, to the price of owning something outright as it depend on what the customer values most. Do they want an item for a single night, or do they want something to keep forever? That said, our items are priced at an average of 15% of the retail price for a 4-day hire period. Sometimes we go up to 20% for extremely popular items, but we do our best not to price any higher than this as one of our company’s main objectives is to keep designer fashion accessible to our customers. We’re very focused on keeping these prices affordable, and as we grow we’re passing the benefits of our scale on to our customers in the form of lower prices.