Thanks to two Toronto entrepreneurs now you won’t have to!
Julie Kalinowski and Angela Pastor have earned the title “The Fairy Godmothers” as owners of The Fitzroy, Canada’s premier dress rental company in Toronto. The party dress service recently expanded to offer clients thousands of designer rentals at a fraction of the cost of owning. It’s kind of like a “Moore’s” for women. But instead of renting a tux, it’s a dress.
“Many of our clients call us their Fairy Godmothers because that’s exactly what we do—we create Cinderella moments for people who may not have access to designer dresses,” says Julie Kalinowski. “Customers walk into our showroom and call it Dress Dreamland.”
How The Fitzroy got off the ground
Julie and Angela have been BFF’s since elementary school when they attended Our Lady of Sorrows in Etobicoke. Julie attended Etobicoke Collegiate Institute while Angela went to Bishop Allen. Although the best friends attended different universities (Julie went to Western while Angela attended University of Toronto) they remained close.
In 2016, the two best friends saw a gap in the Canadian rental market and wanted to fill that void.
“Before we did the dress rental business, we did Pop Up Retail Shops for five years bringing in designer looks,” says Julie. “We started noticing that some customers would say ‘I really love that, but I’d only wear it one time’. It got us thinking, why don’t we rent them out? We closed the retail division and founded our party dress rental service out of a 600-square-foot, second-storey apartment where the living room was the showroom, and the bedroom was the change room. We had one staff member, and we’d get so excited when we saw people coming in.”
Word of mouth spread like wildfire and before long the two friends moved their business into a larger space while they built their collections, adding more sizes and styles for every body type. “It was incredible,” says Angela Pastor. “Everyone would ask where the person got that dress, and our customer base grew and grew. It was a true word-of-mouth growth and social was the other big thing—Instagram as people posted at their event and tagged us.”
The Fitzroy today – Thousands of pieces to choose from, 50 employees, 9,000 sq. ft. location
Today, they employ a team of 50 and have thousands of pieces showcased at a stunning 9,000 square foot location with a showroom and several dressing rooms. There’s a VIP area with a dedicated stylist and refreshments. No appointment is necessary (walk-ins are welcome) and The Fitzroy is open seven days a week. Clients living outside of the GTA can book a free 30-minute appointment with a stylist on Facetime to discuss fit, measurements and the many style options.
“It’s a win-win as some designer dresses are retailing for thousands of dollars,” states Julie. “There are zero reasons for spending that kind of money on surely one-time wear. As much as you think you’ll wear it again, it sits in your closet because everyone saw you in that dress, so you want a new one. Our rental is from $100 to $150 for a four-day rental which includes dry cleaning and easy two-way shipping. It’s a fraction of the cost and it’s much more sustainable. Some of our customers say they are never buying a dress again; there’s no point.”
Angela adds: “Shopping at a mall and trying to find the perfect dress can be exhausting and overwhelming. We are a one-stop shop for your special event needs. You can work with a stylist to select a dress that fits your body type and needs. And, you don’t have the guilt of spending money on a new dress or having party dresses hanging in your closet collecting dust.”
The Fitzroy has you covered for every occasion
The Fitzroy has you covered for every occasion on your calendar including cocktail parties, black-tie events, proms and weddings. Yes, you can rent a bridal gown and even outfit the bridesmaids and the mother of the bride!
“We travel to New York and other fashion centres each season to buy clothes directly from the designers to create a curated collection of current looks,” says Julie. “It’s our favourite part of the job.” Angela adds: “We don’t buy from consumers which is a common misconception. All the dresses come to us brand new directly from the design houses; the reason being is that we need to offer each style in each size, so we’ll bring in all the sizes the designer makes from size 0 to 20.”
Designer names like Zac Posen, Mac Duggal, Bariano, Ronny Kobo, Sau Lee, Gemy Maalouf, Elle Zeitoune and designers from Australia, the U.K. and U.S. We handpick what we feel will rent well.”
What’s hot for this Holiday season and beyond
“The trends for the holiday season are rosettes sewn on the bodice or on necklines, according to Julie. Gold is also a huge trend. We’ve brought in some gold leather gowns which are really cool. For spring summer, lilac and lavender is really trending. Angela adds: “Red is always big for the holidays but this year in particular, a bright, bright red. And for spring so much lavender, yellow and turquoise. Barbie pink is still going strong, and we love it, but we didn’t see it as much for spring/summer 2024.”
Even if you need a dress for this weekend or last minute, there are hundreds of items available in the studio for rent. “Our message is, it’s easy, it’s fun and it’s a smart alternative to buying new outfits that you may only wear once,” says Angela. “We also offer variety which is what our customers want. Our customer reviews and photos on our website speak volumes about the experience of wearing a special dress. Customers tell us they have never received so many compliments or felt so beautiful.”
Magical Cinderella moments in the making.
The new Fitzroy headquarters are open every day at 213 Sterling Road, Unit 111, Toronto, fitzroyrentals.com, @fitzroyrentals or email questions about size and fit at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Laurie Wallace-Lynch