Tak­ing the stress and ex­pense out of event clothes

Young en­tre­pre­neur brings her es­thetic to summer com­pany

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - SH­ERYL NADLER

NI­COLE DRAGUS WAS DONE spend­ing money on dresses she’d wear once and never again. As a stu­dent at Car­di­nal New­man Se­condary School, there were an­nual proms and for­mals (dou­ble that to in­clude her boyfriend’s school), and she found her­self stress­ing over buy­ing for­mal wear more than she cared to think about.

“I’ve al­ways hated shop­ping for an event,” says the en­tre­pre­neur­ial 17-year-old. “It’s stress­ful and you’re spend­ing all this money on one dress that you’re go­ing to wear once. So I just thought, wouldn’t it be cool if you could rent a dress like you can rent tuxe­dos and stuff ? So when the idea came for­ward for Summer Com­pany, I said, I’m go­ing to do this. I’m go­ing to buy dresses and rent them out to peo­ple.”

The On­tario gov­ern­ment’s Summer Com­pany pro­gram of­fers men­tor­ship and up to $3,000 to qual­i­fy­ing stu­dents be­tween the ages of 15-29 years old to turn an idea into a real busi­ness over the course of a summer. Dragus took the op­por­tu­nity and ran with it, us­ing a good chunk of the grant money to pur­chase dresses and other startup items like ship­ping boxes and gar­ment bags. Soon Dolled n Dressed was born, a dress ren­tal com­pany geared at women in their teens and twen­ties who are also sick of spend­ing money on an out­fit they’ll only wear once.

For­mal and cock­tail dresses made up the bulk of her in­ven­tory ini­tially, Dragus says. But af­ter a swift prom sea­son, she found her­self re-eval­u­at­ing and re­al­ized she was go­ing to have to ex­pand her busi­ness model if she was go­ing to cater to women in their 30s for wed­ding sea­son. The prob­lem, of course, was how to get more in­ven­tory with­out spend­ing money.

“So I started a pro­gram — it’s called The Adopt A Dress pro­gram, and the way that it works is that I al­low peo­ple to rent their dresses through my busi­ness,” says Dragus, who adds a com­mis­sion for her­self for ev­ery ren­tal through Dolled n Dressed. “A lot of peo­ple were con­tact­ing me say­ing I want to sell my dress. And I didn’t know what to do about that be­cause I had a ton of peo­ple ask­ing me to buy their dresses. So I said, OK. I’ll al­low you to rent your dress through my pro­gram.”

She’s be­gun tin­ker­ing with styles and sizes by gaug­ing in­ter­est through so­cial me­dia and views on the web­site. She says she en­cour­ages feed­back so that she can get a bet­ter idea of what her cus­tomers want.

AND WHEN IT comes to her own style, Dragus, who will be study­ing his­tory and po­lit­i­cal sci­ence at Queen’s Univer­sity come Septem­ber, says she lives in high-waisted Levi’s jeans, T-shirts and Con­verse. Easy, breezy dresses and rompers, like the blue and white seer­sucker num­ber she wears here from Zara, are high on her list, too, for the com­fort fac­tor. And de­spite run­ning her own fash­ion startup — which she plans to con­tinue even when she’s at school,

“It’s stress­ful and you’re spend­ing all this money on one dress that you’re go­ing to wear once.”

NI­COLE DRAGUS ON SHOP­PING FOR FOR­MAL WEAR

with the help of her fam­ily — Dragus is that rare teenage spec­i­men who loved wear­ing a school uni­form ev­ery day.

“A lot of peo­ple say, I can’t ex­press my­self with a uni­form,” says Dragus, who fin­ishes her look here with metal­lic sil­ver strappy san­dals from Aldo and white and yel­low gold ear­rings, a gift from her grand­par­ents. “I could just save my money and go shop­ping when I needed nice clothes. I wasn’t con­sis­tently buy­ing seven pairs of jeans be­cause I couldn’t wear the same ones ev­ery day or just stuff like that. I loved not hav­ing to worry about it in the morn­ing.”

Most eye catch­ing piece

For my boyfriend’s prom I wore a … pink, strap­less dress. It was tight­fit­ting and had a long, in­cred­i­bly long train … ev­ery time I see it I fall in love with it. I love the pink colour, I love the style, I love how it fit on me.

Quirki­est wardrobe item

These velvet over­alls. I’m not even sure where I found them or where I bought them. I liked that they were dif­fer­ent … they’re navy blue.

Wardrobe must have

My Con­verse. I have four pair of Con­verse and I just switch them up based on my out­fits but they go with every­thing.

Best pur­chase

My Levi’s jeans shorts. I bought them from a vin­tage shop in Paris (France). And I think they would have cost, like, over $100. I’ve seen them at Aritzia and stores here and they’re so ex­pen­sive. And I bought them for €10 in Paris.

Re­grets buy­ing

This is the rea­son I started my busi­ness: all the dresses I’ve bought and never worn again. I have sev­eral of those.

Loves to shop at

Aritzia. I’ve re­ally started to like H& M, For­ever 21 …

Rid­ding her closet of

Right now my school uni­form. In ad­di­tion to that … all of my old Tshirts with say­ings in them or any … I have this one Nir­vana shirt with this funky design on it and it’s not re­ally my style any­more. They’re still nice, I just don’t think I’ll wear them again.

Splurges on

Dresses. I love dresses — for my­self. Even ca­sual dresses, I’ll wear them over any­thing be­cause it’s just so com­fort­able. If it’s ca­sual, I’d say these cute T-shirt dresses that I have. I have these tight fit­ting plain dresses — they’re just cute to wear with a jean jacket or some­thing. They’re not too fancy but they’re not too ca­sual, so it’s a good in be­tween.

Beauty prod­uct she can’t live with­out

Mas­cara. There’s this L’Oreal tele­scope one that I had. I have very short lashes but I ac­tu­ally just got ex­ten­sions be­cause I couldn’t han­dle how short they were … it’s just great for length. Loved it. Couldn’t live with­out it. In Jet Black.

PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY SH­ERYL NADLER, SPECIAL TO THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

“You can just throw on a dress or a romper like I’m wear­ing to­day and pretty much have your whole out­fit made,” says Ni­cole Dragus, 17, of her seer­sucker romper from Zara that she ac­ces­sorizes with metal­lic sil­ver strappy san­dals.

Al­though Ni­cole re­cently got eye­lash ex­ten­sions, she still can’t live with­out her L’Oreal Tele­scopic mas­cara.

“I’m pretty ca­sual,” says Ni­cole Dragus of her style, say­ing she will turn it up a notch when meet­ing with her Dolled n Dressed clients. The sil­ver straps san­dals from Aldo she wears here with a seer­sucker romper are a good ex­am­ple.

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