Closet Culture

Ilana Heller '08 creates an affordable fashion alternative at the 5Cs. Closet-Culture is a “Blockbuster meets Nordstrom” model that allows designer trends to be more accessible to college students.

Closet Culture Ad

Poster design by Pitzer student Lauren Steinberg

For college students on a tight budget, keeping up with the latest fashion trends can be next to impossible. That's where Ilana Heller '08 steps in. The Pitzer College senior started a clothing-rental business from her residence hall room, offering tops, dresses and other items to female students at The Claremont Colleges.

“We range from more party, going-outtype stuff, to more conservative,” said Heller, a twenty-two-year-old Dallas native.

Heller got the idea for her business, called Closet-Culture, after reading an article in Vogue magazine about a group of best friends who combined their separate closets into one. Heller fleshed the idea out, combining some of her clothes with contributions from nine other women. Closet-Culture now has twenty-three members who each pay a $5 monthly fee for access to Heller's racks of clothing— which number about ninety pieces.

Each three-day rental costs $3 to $6, depending on the item, Heller said. “A lot of times girls wear things once, and they have no (further) need for them,” she said.

Heller keeps two large clothing racks in her bedroom, and wheels them out into her Mead Hall suite's living room when customers stop by to rent items.

Other recent business ventures have used the concept of offering clothing and other fashion items for rent. Bag Borrow or Steal offers handbags and jewelry, and a business called Wardrobe offers high-end dress rentals designed for awards shows and similar events in New York City and Los Angeles.

Heller says her venture differs from those because it caters to the average person, who may need an outfit for a weekend date or a job interview.

“College students don't have the money to go out and buy a new top whenever they need one,” said Pitzer student Lauren Steinberg, who contributed clothing and helped design flyers to promote the business.

When Heller decided to move forward with her business idea, she reached out to friends and other contacts to help get the company started. She plans to file paperwork to form a limited liability corporation for the business.

She had little difficulty finding help, with several friends pitching in clothing, and others helping with promotion.

Her operation is relatively small, but Heller said business picked up once she posted photographs of each available item on the company Web site—www.closet-culture.com.

“The idea was to do a test run, apply the concept I have and see how I do,” Heller said. “College campuses are great little think tanks.”

Heller, who graduated in May, plans to continue her business when she leaves Claremont. She said she will likely return home to Dallas and run the business there. “My dream is that, after school, this will turn into something bigger,” Heller said.

—Will Bigham, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin