Vow To Be Chic, the first company geared towards giving bridesmaids the option of renting their gowns for weddings, is officially shutting down its operations, CEO Kelsey Doorey tells The Knot in an exclusive interview.
“I started working on this company about five years ago after graduating from business school,” Doorey, 30, says. “We had to custom-build a site because it’s rental, and there’s nothing out-of-the-box for rental. Rental is pretty new to apparel and especially women’s apparel—and especially bridal within women’s apparel.”
“We launched to the public in 2015,” she continues. “I’ve been a bridesmaid many times and so I knew the pain point, and [the bridal industry] was one that was ripe for disruption. We were excited to come in, and had this big ambitious mission: We wanted to bring the wedding industry into the 21st century. That was really our goal, to help brides and bridesmaids save time and save money. We were able to do that for quite a few years, for tens of thousands of women, and unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to do that anymore. And that’s the heartbreaking side of things.”
According to an email that Doorey and her team sent out to Vow To Be Chic customers on Wednesday, May 2, the primary reason that the company is shuttering its operations is because there just hasn’t been enough capital to keep the concept pushing forward. “By definition, startups are change-makers, rule-breakers, and boundary-pushers. A startup ventures into unknown territory to try and make the world a better place and this comes with many challenges,” the email read. “Ultimately, we launched a company that was before its time… In short, we needed more time and money to prove out our concept, that unfortunately we don’t have. Sadly, our capital constraints mean we have no choice but to stop operations today.”
Doorey explains that other companies who are also in the bridal rental business have struggled to raise the funds to ensure their longevity. “On the business side, rentals are a really capital-intensive business, and Rent the Runway has raised $200 million, the Black Tux and Le Tote have each raised over $60 million,” she says. “Rental is a very capital-intensive business, and we came out with a big goal and we did our best. But at the end of the day, I’m CEO, so it’s my responsibility. We weren’t able to make it work, and that’s the saddest thing. We’re heartbroken.”
In all, Doorey says she and her Vow To Be Chic team have helped women save more than $6 million since its launch, which is no small feat. “Tens of thousands of women like you and me and our sisters and our friends were able to each save hundreds of dollars in the process of being a bridesmaid, which is an expensive process,” Doorey says. “And I’m so grateful for that… I know that means something, because I’m a now-30, but formerly a 20-something-year-old bridesmaid, and I know how much having an extra hundred or two hundred bucks in my pocket really helps and not having to spend it on a wedding.”
With Vow To Be Chic, customers were able to order designer bridesmaids dresses (and Little White Dresses, too) online for their special occasion at vastly discounted prices, and then return the pieces within three days of the wedding.
The company also offered stylist consultations for brides who wanted a little extra help pulling together all the pieces for their bridal party. Those who preferred to buy versus rent were also given the option of purchasing from Vow To Be Chic’s vast collection of designers and styles. Now, any customers who have existing orders with Vow To Be Chic may have to come up with alternatives—but Doorey and her team are prepared to help brides and bridesmaids figure things out, one step at a time.
“We’ve done our best to fulfill as many customer orders as we possibly can, and that’s been our number one focus,” Doorey says. “A lot of people may be getting their dresses earlier than expected, and that’s great and they can just keep their dress like normal and send it back three days after [the wedding]. For the few people who we won’t be able to service, we’ll be in touch with them with more details. We’ve stopped taking customer orders on our site, and some people are upset by that, but we wanted to do the right thing. … Our focus is on the customers that we do have.”
Doorey also notes that she has called upon the help of some other great companies in the bridal space, who are happy to help out any brides and bridesmaids affected by the company’s closure.
– Rent the Runway: The popular clothing rental company is stepping in to help impacted brides and bridesmaids. Rent the Runway is offering 50 percent off all bridesmaid packages and giving the bridal party and the bride complimentary access to a bridal stylist by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Bella Bridesmaids: Is here to help all Vow brides and bridesmaids to shop online or in one of their showrooms. Bella is offering 10% off for Vow customers between now and September 1. The company is also taking over all four styles of Vow To Be Chic’s partnership with Monique Lhuillier. (They include the Rachel, the Mindy, the Kelsea and the Cara.) Please mention Vow when placing your order. Shop here or dial the help desk line: 1-312-339-6025.
– Brideside: Is here to help all Vow customers. Brideside is offering a discount to affected brides and bridesmaids. Shop online here or call Brideside’s dedicated phone line to connect with a stylist directly at 1-866-202-6302.
– Kleinfeld Bridal: The beloved brand behind TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress has bridal party dresses in-stock and they’re ready to ship. A rep for Kleinfeld tells The Knot that the company is extending a special discount to brides and bridesmaids impacted by the Vow closing. Just email your phone number and proof of order to email@example.com, and someone will help.
-Your Local Stores: Check out The Knot’s marketplace to see if any of your local boutiques are offering any solutions and alternative options.
– Dessy-: Is happy to extend Vow customers 15% off every order plus free shipping with coupon code DGVTBC15.
The Knot has once again opened a digital help line for brides and bridesmaids impacted by the closing. The email, which was originally conceived to help those affected by Alfred Angelo’s bankruptcy, is once again active for those who need additional assistance.
“It’s been amazing to see how our industry is really rallying together and really helping these brides and bridesmaids,” she says. “I’m super impressed that the industry is really coming together to help the brides and bridesmaids, which is really what matters at the end of the day. I’m really impressed with our peers and the others in the space, and I think that’s something I love to see.”
“I mean, we have a business that’s by women and for women, and that’s something that I’m super excited about and I’m literally devastated personally and professionally that we weren’t able to make this work,” Doorey concludes. “We started this with a big mission and a big vision and unfortunately, it didn’t work out in the way that we wanted.”