Angela Pastor & Julie Kalinowski: Meet The Founders Of Fitzroy Rentals

Back in 2016, besties and business partners Angela Pastor and Julie Kalinowski started a rental dress company called Fitzroy Rentals after hearing women complain about buying dresses they only plan on wearing once.

Lifelong friends and businesswomen Julie Kalinowski and Angela Pastor love designer clothing and have found a way to make it accessible to everyone who appreciates luxury fashion. The duo met in kindergarten and became business partners in 2011 when they started doing seasonal pop-ups throughout Toronto. After many of their customers shared how they wear their formal pieces only once, they decided to test out a rack of rentals in their final pop-up shop. The rack of rentals was a success, and the pair decided to open Fitzroy Rentals in 2016, a rental dress company with pieces from prestigious designers that are available for consumers to rent. We had the chance to chat with the duo about how the pandemic has affected their business, the fashion industry and what style means to them.

Q: With second-hand clothing becoming increasingly popular, have you seen more people wanting to rent rather than purchase?
J&A: Yes, definitely. There’s a huge appetite for sustainable fashion and supporting brands that are transparent with how they source and produce their garments. The wasteful and harmful fast fashion practices have really turned consumers’ heads to second-hand and sustainable choices like renting clothes, as they give garments multiple lives and provide access to pieces you wouldn’t otherwise buy.

Q: How has the pandemic affected your business?
J&A: We rent special-occasion garments (everything from cocktail to formal gowns) so with all events being cancelled, we hit a major standstill in 2020 and the beginning of 2021. We, thankfully, saw a huge upswing in the summer of 2021 with the return of social gatherings and, more importantly, customers really wanting to dress up again after wearing sweats for a year and a half. It was amazing to see the pieces that we were renting were some of our most colourful and fantastical pieces. We saw this great resurgence of people wanting to celebrate and wear joyful and fun pieces to counteract the doom and gloom of it all. It also gave even more merit to not needing these formal-wear pieces in your wardrobe. They are truly one-time-wear pieces that you don’t need to have wastefully collect dust in your closet.

Q: Do you think Instagram has contributed to how much people purchase clothing and their increased interest in renting?
J&A: Absolutely. People want to show the best possible version of themselves on social and not repeat outfits, which has definitely helped the popularity of rentals. Renting clothes allows you to affordably wear a different outfit to every event while still being sustainable. It also gives you access to designer pieces that you might not normally have access to or be able to afford. It’s a win-win on all fronts.

Q: What is the biggest challenge of running a business in the fashion industry?
J&A: There are a ton of logistical challenges specific to the rental business, from inventory management to managing returns to cleaning garments and turning them around in time for the next rental. It’s something no other fashion business has to deal with. I think, in general, though, fashion businesses have the challenge of constantly keeping up with the trends and turning pieces around quickly, but the flip side of that is being able to get multiple uses of those garments and prolonging their life cycle through renting.

Q: How do you pick the new pieces of clothing that become available to rent to the public?
J&A: We select all our pieces directly from the designer or brand. It’s one of our favourite parts of the job! Over the years, we have really developed an understanding of what women want and what works for various body types, so we can quickly narrow down to select garments and fabrics that we know will work.

“The wasteful and harmful fast fashion practices have really turned consumers’ heads to second-hand and sustainable choices like renting clothes”

Q: What inspired you to start renting bags?
J&A: We wanted to be able to offer the full outfit, so bags are an obvious addition to an evening look. Evening bags are also the same as dresses in that you don’t need to own them. They are interchangeable items to go with the specific outfit and are not for everyday wear so they lend themselves perfectly to rentals.

Q: Favourite customer story?
J&A: There are so many! One of our favourites is always the last-minute bride, who is either eloping or had an issue with their dress not arriving in time or not fitting correctly. They usually come to us stressed out and in a panic, naturally, and leave absolutely thrilled to have found a gorgeous dress to get married in at a fraction of the cost of a typical wedding gown. When they come back after and show us the pictures from their special day, it gives us all the warm fuzzies.

Q: Who is your favourite designer?
J&A: We always love Elie Saab on the red carpet. Monique Lhuillier is another favourite; we actually carry her contemporary line in our collection.

Q: Which dream celeb would you want to work with?
J&A: There are so many! Zendaya would be an amazing one.

Q: What is your definition of style?
J&A: Feeling super-confident in your look. Style to us is not about following trends but dressing in something that makes you feel like the most elevated, powerful and beautiful version of yourself.

Q: What is the most memorable outfit you’ve ever worn?
J&A: Our matching Hebe Studio Italian suits to fashion week. Rentals, of course!

Q: What are the three must-haves for spring/summer 2022?
J&A: Brights, a dreamy boho go-to dress and a killer jumpsuit!

Q: What are your future goals for Fitzroy Rentals?
J&A: Expansion, for sure. But, you’ll have to stay tuned!

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Mursal Rahman

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