Every young girl reaches a time in her middle and high school years when weekends are filled with Sweet 16s and bat mitzvahs, surprise parties, homecoming dances and prom. Founder and CEO Jen Forman created Charlotte’s Closet, an online platform where young girls can rent dresses and rompers for all of their special events without having to spend a fortune on something they will only wear once.
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Pulse spoke with Forman about her life before Charlotte’s Closet, the process of starting a business and the inspiration behind the name and the concept you need to tell your teenage niece about.
Long Island Pulse: Why did you start Charlotte’s Closet and what was the inspiration behind it?
Jen Forman: It was started based on a need. My daughter [Charlotte] was starting to go to lots of parties, as a 12-year-old going to bat mitzvahs, and she wanted a new dress for every event and that is just not something that is attainable for me nor I think anyone else. It’s just such a waste, and with the invention of social media they take pictures and they don’t ever want to wear the same dress twice. Her own bat mitzvah was coming up and I was looking for a way to have her look amazing without spending a fortune. I have definitely rented dresses before and there was nothing like it in this teen and tween stage so it inspired me to launch Charlotte’s Closet.
Pulse: How does Charlotte feel about your business?
Forman: She loves it, I think that she’s proud that it’s named after her and now she has this endless closet of dresses and rompers that she can always wear.
I also think as a mom (I’ve always been a working mom) it’s important that my children, especially my daughter, see that it’s amazing to work and you can manage and balance everything. I’m trying to empower these young girls to have passion.
Pulse: You mentioned the closet that your daughter gets to invade: where do you get your inventory?
Forman: All of our inventory is purchased directly through designers. I think we’re up to 26 designers…we started with 10 and that’s a combination of traditional, special occasion, […] as well as contemporary brands that we’re adding. That’s everything from BCBG Generation, French Connection. We’re adding Nicole Miller. Every week we seem to be sourcing and adding new designers.
Pulse: What’s your favorite style advice, and what’s your favorite fashion tip for your daughter?
Forman: I always love to mix up an outfit whether it’s taking a fun formal dress and throwing on a jean jacket or leather jacket to change up the look a little bit. Don’t be afraid to take a little risk like that. And always have fun, fashion is always supposed to be fun.
Pulse: Is Charlotte’s Closet only online?
Forman: We have a web-based business, we ship everywhere. We do take private fitting appointments in our Port Washington location and showroom. And also as part of our business we have something called the home try on program, so if you live in Florida and obviously aren’t in New York and you would like to try on a dress for a very special occasion, for $29.95 we will ship you three dresses up to six months prior to your event. You get to model the looks at home. It’s essentially the Charlotte’s Closet showroom coming to your house.
Pulse: Do you think you’ll eventually expand and carry adult women’s clothing?
Forman: I think so. The next phase for us will be adding accessories. We’re starting to look into jewelry, handbags, certainly we will add under garments and fit garments to sell, and the option to rent out accessories to complete the look because that’s helpful.
Pulse: You had an idea, made it a reality and started a business. What was that process like for you and what did it entail?
Forman: It definitely takes a village and as a working mother it’s certainly a challenge, but it was really an idea that was born in my kitchen […]. With my background in public relations I was able to test the concept with media and the response was overwhelmingly positive, which for us meant there was a need. It took the right team, it’s definitely hard work and it’s definitely something that is obtainable if you’re dedicated.
Pulse: If you could give any advice to someone who wants to start a business on Long Island, what would it be?
Forman: Don’t give up. I think that if you’re dedicated and passionate about something, you should go for it. It’s really as simple as that.