Port Washington resident Jen Forman’s successful online teen fashion rental destination Charlotte’s Closet (www.charlottes-closet.com) started with an aqua dress with intricate beading for Forman’s daughter’s bat mitzvah.
The dress, which has been rented out over the years, now hangs in Forman’s first brick and mortar location at 405 Main St., Suite 6, seemingly as a reminder of how far the brand has come. The Port Washington Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Dec. 14, welcoming the online and now brick and mortar store with the motto, “Rent it. Rock it. Return it.”
“We wanted to open up a space where customers could try things on comfortably,” said Forman. “It’s a great space. It’s a happy space. When they walk in, they’re like in a department store, so whatever hesitation they have about renting a dress, when they see the inventory, it’s so beautiful and so well-kept. It’s the same experience we want them to have as if they are walking into Bloomingdales or Saks Fifth Avenue, even though they’re paying 75 percent less than retail.”
Residents can walk into the new brick and mortar on The Wharf or make an appointment. Forman explained that because the location does not house all of Charlotte’s Closet’s merchandise, if one has a specific dress or outfit from the website in mind, it’s best to make an appointment so staff can make sure that clothing is in-store and ready for try-on.
“A lot of times it’s their first experience in a dress; they don’t know what size they are, so we spend a half hour to 45 minutes with them,” said Forman.
Forman began the clothing rental business, perfect for special occasions—like proms or bat mitzvahs—that call for a one-time look, in 2016. Since then, Charlotte’s Closet, which previously had a warehouse location on Vanderventer Avenue, has grown to rent out designer dresses and more to 48 states and sizes from double zero to 24. Charlotte’s Closet offers a home try-on service where teens can try on three dresses at home before renting for $29.95 plus shipping. One of the most popular services is the Endless program, a monthly subscription service that allows customers to choose one ($49.95), two ($69.95) or three ($99.95) pieces for the month.
“The seventh graders come in all day long and swap dresses,” said Forman of the Endless program. “They always have something new to wear. They get charged every month. They can go on and off it; we handle all the cleaning. What’s interesting about Gen Z, which is basically 12 to 21, is they have no attachment to the actual dress. They just want the picture in the dress and the experience, which is amazing.”
Forman, who is looking to continue expanding her brand, is going to test some pop-up stores around the country in partnership with other businesses in 2019.
“I think there is still something to be said for the customer to try it on even though our target is so comfortable shopping online, they seem to like this experience,” said Forman.