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You Can Now Rent Couture Gowns in the Philippines Through RSVP.ph

Jul 03, 2018

Through RSVP.ph, you can now rent couture gowns in the Philippines and still have that luxury experience of visiting an atelier. Founders Maica Salud and Cara Sumabat thought outside the box and devised a new way for young millennials to up their style game. 

As young people get older, there are suddenly more events that have to be attended: weddings, work events, balls and even more weddings. That’s a lot of gowns that need to be made, gowns that might only ever be worn once.

Enter RSVP.ph. The brainchild of Maica Salud and Cara Sumabat, this eveningwear rental service specializes in gowns that can be borrowed for a fee, to be worn for the night for a real-life Cinderella moment and then returned the next day. Rent The Runway is a US-based website that does the same but RSVP.ph’s version focuses on the luxury experience of borrowing. “RSVP is the first luxury rental service of its kind in Manila and holds an edit of local, high-profile designers in its closet,” both girls say. “We give our clients the luxury, full-suite experience with a personal, face to-face edit every single appointment.”

Cara and Maica had the same frustrations of dealing with a continuous onslaught of events coming their way. “Two years ago, we were working full time jobs and stressing about having a wedding or event to attend almost every month,” they share. “We didn’t have the time to have these gowns made or bought.” They both realized they weren’t the only ones with these problems, so after months of brainstorming and selling their pitch to designers, they opened the service. Today, designers involved with this venture are Vania Romoff, Martin Bautista, Sassa Jimenez and Stacy Rodriguez.

What started out as an operation in Maica’s house is now housed in a studio apartment in the Rockwell Area, artfully cluttered with fashion books, plants and millennial pink accents. The bathroom is well stocked with beauty products that the customer is encouraged to try (Glossier is a favorite, along with Aesop hand wash), and the studio is scented with much loved candles (the girls are big fans of Diptyque, Jo Malone and Le Labo’s offerings).

Clients begin their RSVP.ph journey by booking an appointment on the website, which includes a short questionnaire that allows Maica and Cara, also working as in-house stylists, to prepare for the fitting and pull out a curated selection of dresses they both feel will suit the client. “We prepare a personalized dress edit to match every occasion,” Maica and Cara answered, when asked how they operate as a team. Once a dress has been decided on, clients can immediately pay to borrow, but if they feel like they’d like to wait, a short grace period to decide is allowed. After the event, clients don’t have to take care of dry cleaning; RSVP.ph takes care of that.

The most rewarding part for both girls is the sheer look of joy when “The Dress” is discovered. “The success of the business is helping the girl find her look each time,” they say. Customers tend to vary: “Girls who are looking for something for prom, debut, wedding, and life celebrations.” they shared.

Beyond those in the know, there are scores of young ladies who don’t know that a service like RSVP.ph exists, and continue to do it the traditional way of getting an outfit made: Visit the atelier, get a sketch made, go to fittings and then leave with a specially designed gown. In the beginning, Maica and Cara knew this would be a roadblock in the business: how do you convince customers and designers to deviate from the norm and think out of the box? Their answer can be applied to every question young, enterprising business owners have ever asked about starting a new business: “If your business has an intention and you really believe in it, keep trying,” they said. “There’ll be bad days and good days especially when you’re first trying to execute your business idea. Once you’ve lifted off, just always go back to why you started the business so that the intention is always present.”

To make an appointment at RSVP.ph, visit www.rsvp.ph

 


R.S.V.P. only

Apr 13, 2018

Call it luxury on a borrowed basis ­— and all at approachable price points.

I have a room full of clothes, yet there are still occasions where I find I have nothing to wear. Every weekend for a month there’s a couple tying the knot to themes as outrageous as Bollywood or as vague as formal. More frequently in my line of work there’s an international or regional fashion event where brand principals and their global celebrity ambassadors are pulling out all the stops. My work has brought me anywhere from a medieval palace ball with a matching dress code (“but make it fashion”) to an exclusive jewelry exhibit launch shimmying with Academy Award winners and taitais dripping with fine jewelry.

 

Now, there is no requirement for lifestyle journalists to epitomize the beat they cover. To make a spectacle of oneself can be misconstrued as self-promotion, still frowned upon even in the “influencer” age where writers and editors represent the brand; but even if you look at things in a more general sense, regardless of the industry you work for or wherever life takes you, wearing an ensemble that makes you look like your best self can only improve your experience of things.

 

Last month, I got an assignment with only days of notice to the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra regional launch in Amanpulo, Palawan. We should bring our style A-game, it was implied, and no one was taking this lightly. I dropped by a few designer RTW boutiques and on-theme pieces in size zero had been pulled out (industry term for loaning pieces). Borrowed finery, once available primarily to be loaned to celebrities and society swans in exchange for exposure or as a friendship perk, is an essential.

 

Without top resources, I didn’t have the clout that these celebrities have; and yet that work trip felt like a Cinderella moment for me — and it’s all thanks to RSVP.

 

 

Designer fashion in a sharing economy

 

If you’re thinking RSVP is our local answer to Rent The Runway, it is anything but. They describe themselves as “Manila’s first luxury eveningwear rental service that reconsiders ‘occasion dressing’ into something easy and personal for every woman.” Founders and in-house stylists Cara Sumabat and Maica Salud got their light bulb moment one wedding-packed month. Not exactly fashion newbies, they’re fashion consultants and luxury retailers, and also the familiar names and faces behind bag and home accessory venture Halohalo (not to mention true-blue fashion gals off-duty).

 

“We live in Manila where someone you know is probably getting married every other weekend. The old thinking goes: new wedding to attend, new dress code to think about,” says Salud.

 

“It’s not even about the money, the cost of having a dress made, but it’s your time, going to a minimum of three fittings for a dress every single time,” adds Sumabat.

 

“It becomes unsustainable,” she continues. “It gets to a point where you have too many events and your closet can't keep up, or worse, you’re suddenly stuck with too many dresses you can't see yourself wearing again.”

 

I, for one, am in love with a style moment but am tired of the clutter that comes afterward. Dress looks can’t exactly be repeated yet are too precious to alter and repurpose. RSVP affords me variety and luxury access at a price that feels right (ranging from P4,000 to P6,000 per rental, depending on the make of the garment), and allows me the full experience of wearing a designer gown without the hassles of ownership.

 

Nothing to wear?

 

Setting an appointment on their website, I not only give my measurements and dress code they’ll be working with (white, resort, nautical) but also answer a quiz of my personal style. Truthfully, I was going for “tropicale glamazon” but I felt funny writing that down so I decided to go objective and carefully enumerate silhouettes I prefer. On the day of my appointment, I learned I could send them pegs (images of looks on your mood board) and I recommend doing this. The more honest and open you are in your expectations, the more relevant their curation will be. They carry a wide selection of designer gowns, in-house collections and pre-loved pieces from sizes 0 to 12 to suit every occasion. (RSVP commisions designers, too.)

 

Stepping inside the studio feels like settling into your fashion fairy godmother’s headquarters. It’s a sun-lit space decorated in muted pastel tones and adorned by orchids and big leafy plants. There’s a couch for an extra pair of eyes. There’s a bar cart stocked with rosé and G&Ts, useful for those with nerves that need soothing.

 

I made a beeline for their curated dress edit. My rack had 10 glamorous resortwear gowns lined up — they totally got the look I was going for and had the selection for it. I was drawn to a structured, meticulous lace-up piece by an Australian designer. It had been loaned to them by a girl who found it to be too small on her (more on this later). When worn, it did wonders for my figure, but I couldn’t get in and out of it without the girls’ help. I love how Salud and Sumabat were so encouraging with my glamazon aspirations; they just get it, and if one were to be more modest, they also know how to help you get it with no-nonsense styling advice to help you nail the look you want.

 

Another rack features select looks from some of the country’s top designers: Martin Bautista, Sassa Jimenez, Stacy Rodriguez of Eustacia, and Vania Romoff. “We invest in our closet so our clients don’t have to,” shares Salud.

 

I had been eyeing some of their pieces from their most recent collections and they were there, available to be worn. I was concerned about picking something in a fabric that might be high-maintenance — I didn’t want to return with a damaged gown — but they assured me I could just go for it. “That’s why we ask for returns to be made as soon as possible, so any wine stains and tears can be fixed before it’s too late,” Sumabat tells me.

 

I went for two looks. One was an empire-cut tulle extravaganza layered with a floral mini by Sassa Jimenez and the shiniest, smoothest emerald green pure silk cami top paired with a ruched skirt generously beaded on its train. When I tried them on, I literally gasped.

 

I also fitted a bunch of other options and they would snap pictures as part of their scheduled garment pickup service, with an allowance for reversible dress length alterations.

 

The proverbial clock striking 12 came two days later and I dropped the clothes off at the studio lobby, back in dead stock and ramie linen clothes. They took care of it with an in-house dry cleaning service. Now I know where to reach my fashion fairy godmothers again.

 

Too many clothes?

 

RSVP’s sustainable benefit goes both ways. They offer two services: Rent From Us, the luxury rental experience that I just did, and Rent With Us, a pre-loved luxury consignment service for people who have dresses and gowns to spare.

 

The sharing economy has given us consumption options, with consignment e-tailers and closed pre-loved fashion Facebook groups trying to bridge the gap, but they’re just saturated with infinity dresses and buyers who lowball you because they don’t see what your one-off designer gowns are worth. RSVP is that special place for and by girls who have style and recognize it when they see it.

 

The partner service allows clients to surrender their pre-loved eveningwear to the rental system. You and that gown may have had fond memories together, but if it’s just landfill in your closet now, RSVP can take it off your hands. Each successful match nets a fixed percentage for you while they take care of everything else.


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WATCH: Is renting clothes the future of fashion?

Mar 08, 2018

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Through the years, fast fashion has received a lot of flak for churning out cheap clothing that ultimately increases the fashion industry’s carbon footprint. Fast fashion retailers have also been flagged for inhumane working conditions and unfair pay of factory workers.

Because of these concerns, fashion consumers who have a more thoughtful approach to buying clothes are advocating for more sustainable ways to dress themselves. There are those who opt to buy most of their clothes in thrift shops while others ensure that they only purchase eco-friendly garments.

Renting clothes is another fashion trend that’s gaining traction among this market. As they recognize the fleeting characteristic of a piece of clothing, it then makes sense to rent rather than buy. It’s not only in fashion that we see this. Spotify, for instance, has also disrupted the music industry by offering streaming services instead of having consumers own a physical copy of the music they want to listen to.

If renting clothes is the future of fashion, the women behind RSVP, a luxury evening wear rental service in the Philippines, may be on the right track. The idea came about in 2016 when the founders, Maica Salud and Cara Sumabat, had a lot of events and weddings to attend to, which took too much time and money from them, only to spend on a single dress.

“There has to be a different way of doing it,” Sumabat says.

RSVP has yet to officially launch, but it has already welcomed several clients into their studio. “What's really great is we feel that clients come out of the studio with real happiness and relief that there's a place like this for them,” adds Sumabat.

The studio also works with fashion designers Martin Bautista, Sassa Jimenez, and Stacy Rodriguez to create capsule collections that they feel their clientele would respond to. In the future, Salud says that they want RSVP to not only be a space where women can look and feel good, but also be a space where women can support other women.

“We want this to grow into a community where we can connect girls with other girls,” says Salud.

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