Taking the stress and expense out of event clothes
Young entrepreneur brings her esthetic to summer company
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.