Anna Bance: Founder of Girl Meets Dress
Before you read on we warn you: you will fall prey to dress envy and have one of those “that’s SUCH a good idea” moments when you hear about our latest inspirational subject, businesswoman, entrepreneur, pioneer and innovator, Anna Bance.
Having worked as a journalist at some of the most prestigious publications in the business, Anna went on to work as UK PR Manager for the fashion institution that is Hermes, before launching online rental revolution, Girl Meets Dress, in 2009. Anna tells us about her passion for fashion and turning that into a viable business, and gives us some fabulous tips on choosing the perfect dress for that special occasion…
My Little Black Book: Anna, you obviously have a long-lasting love affair with fashion and style. How did that start?
Anna Bance: I studied Fashion Journalism and PR at The London College of Fashion and then worked at magazines such as InStyle, The Telegraph magazine and Harpers Bazaar, before joining Hermes, so it was a natural choice of industry in which to launch a company.
MyLBB: Do you have any personal favourites in terms of designers?
AB: My current favourites for versatile party dresses to wear in the day and then straight out at night are Alice + Olivia and Rachel Zoe. I also love our two newest brands to the site, Carmen Marc Valvo and Badgley Mischka.
MyLBB: For those of our readers who are unfamiliar with Girl Meets Dress, can you briefly explain the concept and how the site works?
AB: Girl Meets Dress allows you to hire designer dresses and accessories at up to 95% off the retail value. Membership to the Girl Meets Dress website is free and features designer dresses in UK sizes 6 to 18, from £29 for 2 nights.
Customers can rent up to three dresses per order to ensure fit and we refund for anything unworn. Girl Meets Dress provides customers with a pre-paid, pre-addressed label to return the dresses, and offers a £7 insurance fee to protect against accidents. Rental prices include the dry cleaning and care of the garments.
Girl Meets Dress is your new best friend with the massive designer wardrobe who is cool enough to let you borrow whatever you want! We provide millions of women the ability to rent designer dresses and accessories for a fraction of the retail price, allowing them to look and feel beautiful for all of their special occasions. GMD is a disruptive eCommerce business with a mission to democratise luxury – believing that everybody deserves a Cinderella experience.
MyLBB: Such a good idea! We read that you came up with the original concept when you were working for Hermes and were involved in the loaning out of collections of dresses and accessories and then launched the site with your co-founder Xavier de Lecaros-Aquise. How long was the journey from original idea to launch?
AB: I went full time with Girl Meets Dress as soon as I had the idea. The Girl Meets Dress story began in 2009 when I was working as UK PR Manager for French luxury brand Hermes – and like my previous roles in the fashion industry, it involved lending the collection of dresses and accessories out on a daily basis to fashion magazines, shoots, celebrities and journalists.
I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could all borrow dresses for just one event, and wear a different designer for every event in our calendar?
My co-founder Xavier de Lecaros-Aquise and I looked into the market and we saw that no one was doing it. We were the first company to rent luxury fashion online and it is wonderful that Girl Meets Dress is now pioneering the way for rental as a new and exciting ecommerce category of its own.
MyLBB: How easy was it for you to get designers and labels to agree to get onboard? Was there any initial resistance?
AB: Girl Meets Dress is very attractive to designers because many women will typically only have tried a few high-end designer brands in their lifetime, if any. With rental, designer labels get to be introduced to potential customers on a regular basis. 98% of our customers try a new brand they have never worn previously in their life. That is a huge marketing opportunity for designers trying to reach new customers and the next generation on a mass scale.
Our relationships with our designers are crucial and the aim is to bring together the best dresses from all over the world – from both UK new talent to worldwide established brands.
MyLBB: Is there any risk involved in sending these beautiful pieces out to customers that they will never be returned? Does that ever happen?
AB: No, that never happens. It’s very similar to renting a car. Our main priority is that our customers have a magical night in the dress. We understand that spills happen. Our care team dry clean every dress after use and you can opt for £7 insurance, which will cover for minor accidental damage such as a zip break.
MyLBB: When choosing an outfit for a special occasion, do you have any advice for our readers on picking out the perfect dress?
AB: My advice is to get in touch with our personal shoppers here at Girl Meets Dress! They will advise you on the best options for your event and body shape. They can even send you a personalised list of dress suggestions by email so you can narrow down your favourites.
MyLBB: We understand that there are some exciting expansion plans afoot for Girl Meets Dress. Can you tell us anything more about those?
AB: The profile of our new investors mirrors our ambition to build a brand combining ecommerce and merchandising expertise with a deep sense of innovation and luxury. We have ambitious and exciting plans for the year ahead, expanding our market leading position in the UK and continuing to give women access to the biggest closet in the world!
MyLBB: How often do new designers come onto the site and is there anyone we should be looking out for?
AB: We’ve launched many new designer brands this season, including Carmen Marc Valvo and Badgley Mischka, both of which are extremely popular for events and make stunning full length gowns and shorter cocktail dresses.