The search for the perfect dress, that you may only wear once, is an ongoing hassle. Ask any woman. Or ask Olivia Mezher about her experience. While searching online for an elegant evening dress to attend a one-hour-long event, Olivia didn’t find any boutiques in Lebanon that rented out dresses. That prompted her to introduce a dress rental service in Lebanon, which she called: The Hour Dress.
Since its founding, clients have signed up to The Hour Dress, browsing the latest designer evening dresses, and renting them for a special occasion. Capitalizing on her creative background, with a degree in architecture, Olivia started taking fashion design courses, and a year later, The Hour Dress was founded.
BDD’s team sat with Olivia (OM), to discuss challenges in the fashion industry, how her business model is adapting and how the company effectively marketed itself.
BDD: What are the challenges that you faced along the road?
OM: Like any start-up business, there are many challenges involved in the making. Some of the main challenges came in form of how to insert the concept of rental dresses into the Lebanese society- especially that rental means, by default, unexclusive.
Lebanese women are known for their unique elegance and intricate sense of fashion style, and so the main challenge proposed was to offer these stylish ladies the designer dress they fancy while still meeting their high standards of product acquirement. Building a solid trust between the shop and the clients is not an easy task either. This is translated by a relentless daily commitment to providing excellent customer service. Also, it is important to point that reaching a bigger audience of Lebanese female customers’ demands, means offering versatile styles among their diverse society. So, our ultimate goal was to create a distinguished brand that can stand out in the fashion industry.
BDD: How is the retail sector changing and will change further in the near future?
OM: The rental concept, especially designer and high-end brand dresses, is expanding in Lebanon and is reaching a bigger audience. Contrary to past shopping inclinations, customers are now opting to rent a dress rather than purchasing it. This new shift in dress shopping criteria is due to the simple fact that the rental process has now become more desirable because of how accessible and efficient it is. A stylish woman can now feel like a celebrity dressed by a designer - without having to break the bank.
BDD: What tools do you use to market your business? What is the most effective way to communicate?
OM: It is very important for a business to focus not only on excellent products and customer service, but also to market what additional offerings they have. In this realm, social media is the way to go. Engaging clients on social media, offers a wide platform to reach out to more diverse customers. However, it goes without saying that word of mouth will forever generate the most impact for the success status of any business.
BDD: What are your plans for the future?
OM: Maintaining an operating business is crucial, but stepping out of the box is mandatory, to stand out in the crowd. Expanding in the future is one of the main commitments on The Hour Dress’ agenda. Also, creating a digital social platform and an online application for the shop, will help facilitating the booking and rental process easier and create a synergy between the company and its clients.
In addition, collaborating with more Lebanese fashion designers is also very crucial to The Hour Dress. Our vision is not only to introduce a more diverse approach to fashion styles, but also to help emerging designers to establish their well-deserved status among the Lebanese and international fashion industry.
On behalf of BDD's team, we would like to wish The Hour Dress and all Lebanese startups, success and prosperity in 2020.