“I have nothing to wear” is a sentence often repeated by many around the globe every morning. It is also a continuous nightmare for every woman ahead of each and every big event.
Flaunting a new dress to significant occasions is a fashion goal that all women strive to achieve; some might work towards it, while others would surrender to fashion recycling. With the recent price increase and import restrictions, that goal has become even more difficult for local women.
This week, a new cyber hero came to rescue many fashion-forward women that have a difficulty affording their expensive taste and event-studded schedule. La Reina Exchange is a new website that allows local women to trade their designer wardrobes.
While it allows many to flaunt designer dresses on a rental basis, it also gives others the chance to monetise their biggest fashion investments. The website is a local startup based on the idea of rental evening gowns.
Ghada El-Tanawy and Amr Diab are two entrepreneurs that started changing the face of local fashion a year ago. After an intensive research left them shocked of skyrocketing prices of bridal gowns, the two started by launching La Reina, a website dedicated to rental designer bridal gowns.
Their first digital startup allowed many women to get their dream dress for a much more affordable price; meanwhile, it has generated money for formal brides that had their valuable gowns collecting dust in the closets.
After an eventful first year, the duo has expanded their horizons to include evening gowns as well. La Reina Exchange is their second project, set to change the way local women prepare for important events.
The new website has a cohesive merge between foreign high-end brands and local designer-made dresses. Accordingly, it accommodates various tastes and budgets.
Daily News Egypt sat with El-Tanawy to talk fashion, monetising garments, and local market awareness.
What is the main concept behind La Reina Exchange?
The main concept is about expanding your closet without keeping up with the investment terms of expanding. It is an invitation for fashion fanatics to look fresh, unique, and fancy at every event that they attend and keep their fashion investment for luxurious items that they plan to keep for a while.
Fashion keeps changing every now and then, and nobody can keep up with its frantic pace.
How far did the current economic changes impact your decision to establish La Reina Exchange?
The devaluation of currency was the main motive behind this project. We suddenly found that the brands we were used to buying for regular events, that have been previously affordable, have suddenly become too expensive over night!
It suddenly made no sense to invest more than EGP 10,000 in a dress just to attend a regular wedding or event.
La Reina Exchange is a new concept; an alternative. This gives everyone that owns a relatively large closet, which they have spent a lot on, a chance to monetise it. At the same time, you can look fresh and fancy with a new gown every time without borrowing your friends’ dresses.
You do not have to be a social butterfly to ensure having a new dress for every occasion.
What has the past year taught you about the local understanding of renting garments?
People have accepted the concept of renting a bridal dress, though it is much harder to rent such a sentimental gown. However, we are becoming much smarter shoppers now. You are basically left with two options: you either get something off the shelf and end up feeling regular, or you compromise a little bit and share a designer dress with a very limited group of brides.
When you take something off the shelf, you are also not the only person that wore this exact design; hundreds around the world have already worn it.
On the other hand, it is a real accomplishment to see how people make money out of their dresses and how they are exceptionally happy because they managed to monetise something that has been collecting dust in the closet; it impacts their lives.
Everyone is talking about La Reina, but each group of friends starts dealing with us after the first initiative from one of the group’s members. We have even created an exclusive collection that is not showcased online. We are accepting the people’s concerns at the very beginning and we are betting on the fact that people change once they get used to new concepts.
Before La Reina, they were completely against the concept; now they are doing it, but not in public. However, in the near future, they will say it with pride.
Who are the main designers currently available on the website?
We have dresses straight from the designer house. Gowns from designers such as Amany El-Cherief, Nihal Khalifa, Sara El-Razaz, and Inas Abo El-Komsan. Basically, through this section on the website, we cater for a clientele that wants to be seen in those dresses first.
Rather than going to the designer and buying one authentic piece, they can rent four or five through La Reina Exchange. Nonetheless, they can still be the first one to wear it straight from the designer house—the alterations will even be made at the designer’s atelier, only for a premium price.
This is also an opportunity for the designers to reach a new audience. Many people fear investing a budget in a new designer that they have not dealt with before. This encourages customers to try new designers more often.
Meanwhile, we have another category that includes designers such as Dior, Chanel, LV, Zuhair Murad, Armani, Iman Saab, etc.
We have a wide selection of designers—local and international. We are trying to support local designers; therefore, we try to keep the majority of our collections locally made. Nonetheless, part of our launch plan is to move towards the Middle East with the main focus on each country’s local brands.
How do you filter your clients?
For the bridal line, we have a form that all potential clients have to fill in ahead of the process. For example, we have a specific list of hotels that we cater to, and all brides have to choose the venue, because we want to keep a certain image and standard.
For La Reina Exchange, we also aim to have a firm filtering process that we are still working on. We cannot leave it accessible for everyone, because neither the designers nor the dress owners would want their gowns to be seen on anyone.
Why are you separating La Reina Exchange from La Reina on the online website?
Bridal shopping is a very unique experience. You need to have the full designer experience, from stepping into a specialised space to having a stylist helping you find your dream dress and having a team to deal with you through your bridezilla moments, plus all the necessary fitting appointments.
However, in La Reina Exchange, the client is often outgoing, fun, and fast. She wants to look fresh, young, and fashionable all the time. She just needs to order the dress online and get it delivered to her house.
How far does the local market currently support fashion startups?
Almost two years ago, when we started our survey for La Reina in general, the majority of people did not give us much attention as we talked about designer dresses. However, if you are keeping an eye on the rapid expansion of local designers in the market, you will realise that the number of eligible designers is growing aggressively every year.
Each person currently values looking authentic in a designer piece. We no longer have online websites and social-media accounts that promote designer copies. The local market currently supports Egyptian designers with extended pride.
Now walking into a regular dinner feels like stepping into a red-carpet event, just because everyone is dressed up from the latest local designers.