5 Minutes With: Girl Meets Dress Founder, Anna Bance

Girl Meets Dress

Picture the scene. You’ve got a fabulous party to attend and you want to look your designer clad, dressed to impress best. Do you blow your whole season’s budget on an exquisite evening number you’ll most likely only wear a handful of times or dig out your trusty but ever-so-slightly battered, old LBD instead? Unless you’re very rich or very famous, it’s likely you’ve come up against this conundrum more than once in your lifetime and until not-so-long ago there wasn’t really any good way of getting around it. This was a dilemma Anna Bance knew all too well so in 2009 she decided to come up with a stylish solution and launched Girl Meets Dress. Stocking everything from cute Carven cocktail numbers to floor sweeping Temperley gowns, Girl Meets Dress is a truly ingenious concept that enables fashion fanatics without bottomless bank accounts to rent the dress of their dreams for a fraction of it’s retail price. Or more simply put, to borrow, party and return.

I caught up with Anna to get the inside scoop on her fashion career so far and the realities of launching an award winning business…

LPA: What was your first job in fashion and how did you get it?

AB: During university we had to do an Internship placement and I chose InStyle magazine. The team were great and I loved working there. When I graduated they kept me on as a full time Fashion Intern and I stayed for a year I was learning so much. After InStyle I went to The Telegraph, Wallpaper magazine and Harpers Bazaar, before joining Hermes as UK PR Manager at Hermes.

LPA: Leaving a secure position as UK PR Manager at Hermes to co-found a new company was potentially a pretty risky decision. What prompted you to make such a bold move?

AB: I knew it was just a matter of time before I started my own business.  Something I had always wanted to do when the right idea came along. Launching a business is always going to have an element of risk, but I believed in the idea, my co-founder and the market potential.

LPA: The concept of Girl Meets Dress is a brilliant one that holds obvious appeal for millions of women, myself included. But how did you take a great idea and turn it into a viable business

AB: The GMD 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?” When we looked into the market 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. The idea of collaborative consumption is now making a big impact around the world, whether it is somewhere to stay (Airbnb) or a car (Whipcar) – and now designer clothing.

LPA: Talk me through a typical day as Co-Founder/Creative Director of Girl Meets Dress…

AB: As with anyone running their own business, variety is massive element. On a normal day I will be in the office catching up with emails and working with the team to improve the various areas of the business. Some days I am popping in and out, to meetings with designers, a marketing partner or a supplier, or interviewing a potential new GMD team member! Some weeks are very hectic, if I am speaking at an all day ecommerce event, or attending fashion week (Thank god everything can be managed from a phone!)

LPA: Girl Meets Dress launched just as the economic recession began yet, unlike many other companies, it’s been extremely successful. Do you think the fact that many people had increasingly less to spend on luxury items such as designer dresses actually worked in your favour?

AB: Yes there is no doubt that launching when we did was perfect timing for the concept and it enabled us to provide a timely and innovative fashion solution during the recession.But the ‘money saving’ aspect of GMD is only part of the reason women use us. Many of our customers are very wealthy but use us to easily wear more relevant, trend led, time-sensitive fashions, while continuing to invest and buy only in those classic pieces which will stand the test of time.

LPA: Which designers do you look to when you’ve got an important event or big night out coming up?

AB: Of course it is my responsibility to test the designers we stock, so I make sure I try to wear at least 1 GMD dress per week.  It is important to live your brand and know what our customers are experiencing. My current favourites for versatile party dresses to wear in the day and then straight out at night are Alice + Olivia and Rachel Zoe.

LPA: How useful do you feel that studying BA Fashion Promotion was when you began working in the industry? Would you recommend this kind of degree to other people hoping for a career in fashion PR or journalism?

AB: When I left school, there were only a handful of universities offering courses related to fashion journalism or PR.  The London College of Fashion was by far the best in terms of reputation, course structure and industry contacts. They made us do internships with companies of our choice, starting as early as the 1st year. I joined the New Woman and MIZZ magazine fashion teams. If you don’t actually physically go and do the job you’re studying to do, then how on earth can you know it’s the correct career path for you.

LPA: What advice would you give to someone hoping or planning to launch their own company?

AB: Although not 100% necessary, I recommend choosing an area that you know something about. There are exciting ways to pioneer every market, whichever field you love. Of course, you can learn about any new topic – but will you be able to compete with people with years of knowledge and expertise. Find a Co-Founder with different skill sets to you. This is a brilliant way to launch without needing to hire a full team on day 1. If you can split the main areas of the business between you, then you can launch with minimal cost and test the product at market – which is the first step to seeing if there is demand. Don’t over think it. There will never be a perfect time to leave your secure job, risk your salary decrease, take a chance on an idea which might not work – but what’s the worst that can happen? You’ll go back to your previous role until you come up with the next idea!

Click here to browse all the styles available at Girl Meets Dress.

Love Ella. X

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