Julie Buczkowski and Angela Pastor are the female entrepreneurs behind Studio Fitzroy Dress Rentals, a dress rental service for Canadian women who choose not to invest in expensive luxury and rent it temporarily instead. Studio Fitzroy Dress Rentals is like the Uber for party dresses — the shop provides all the access to luxury fashion you could ever need, but more financially responsible on your wallet. Notable readers can use the promo code NOTABLE10 at checkout or mention Notable10 in-store to receive 10% off dress bookings. Promo ends April 5th.
I handle the day to day operations of Fitzroy, from ordering product and supplies to customer service in-store and online, styling and fittings, shipping orders and booking couriers, and updating the website and social media. I also manage the scheduling of the dresses, making sure they are coming in and out on time and dry cleaning and repairs.
I am the Co-Founder/Owner of Studio Fitzroy Dress Rentals. I handle our PR and marketing, events, general management, buying, styling and other numerous odds and ends that come with being a small business owner.
Do you know where you got your drive from?
Angela: I think it came from the fear of being stuck in an unfulfilling career where I couldn’t express myself. Life is so short and the idea of wasted time really scares me. However I wasted a lot of time coming to this conclusion.
Julie: I think that I got my drive from my Mom who has always been very ambitious and hard working. When I was born she was studying for her second Phd. She later became Associate Professor at the Canadian School of Management and part-time Professor at U of T and was Vice President & President of various community and government councils and groups. She inspires me to strive for more and taught me that you can take many paths in life.
How do you stay self-motivated?
Angela: When you run a small business, the motivation comes from knowing that you are only going to get out of it as much as you put in. This can be a double edged sword however, as it can be difficult to strike a balance when you constantly feel like you need to be working harder, and as much as you can do is never enough. Fear of failure is a huge motivator, for better or worse. I know all entrepreneurs can relate to this. Anytime I feel like giving up though it’s our clients who keep me motivated. Seeing the pics they send us in their rentals, hearing how much they loved the experience and saying that they’re never buying another dress again – that keeps me going. Also working with your best friend keeps you motivated too – I never want to let her down!
Julie: I am the type of person who likes to stay busy so that certainly helps but I think I stay motivated with Fitzroy because I believe in our business and love what we do.
What would you say is your preferred way to network?
Angela: I love social media as a first-step in the networking process. I’ve actually met many of my friends online before we’ve met IRL. Because I’m shy I find it easier to connect with someone on Instagram and develop a bit of a back and forth relationship there, which then makes me more confident to approach them in person at an event. Aside from that we’ve been so fortunate to have met and worked with so many industry professionals over the years who have helped us along the way, introduced us to their contacts and become great friends in the process.
Julie: My preferred way to network is typically at industry events like fashion weeks and the many fashion events and seminars/speaker sessions in the city. Chatting with people in various parts of the industry helps you come up with ideas for business collaborations and connect with like-minded people. We definitely use social media to network as well, something as simple as commenting on an Instagram post and following up with an email can be an effective way to connect and start a conversation.
How would you describe your process for deepening relationships?
Angela: I think relationships should happen organically, and I see it on a daily basis with our clients. I spend a lot of time chatting with them one on one during fittings and I like to get to know as much about them as possible, as it can really help with the styling process; finding out what kind of person they are and how we can make their dress rental reflect & enhance their personality and lifestyle. It also (hopefully) helps to put them at ease and make them feel comfortable during their fitting. We often find out we have something in common, or a mutual friend, and many clients have been back enough times now that I know their pets and kids names and would consider them a friend rather than a client. Our dress rental studio is a very warm , welcoming and intimate space where we want to connect with women and make sure they have a great time and come out feeling their best, and I’m proud that we’ve been able to accomplish that in such a short period of time.
Julie: I would say I try to connect with people on a personal level. I try to find something that we can relate on and to communicate without judgement. I’m not one who loves small talk, I prefer to get into deeper conversations. I’d rather talk about an issue you may be struggling with or a personal or business problem and discuss solutions and hopefully strengthen a relationship that way.
What are your preferred tools for keeping organized?
Angela: I’m old school so I like to write things down on paper. I have little notebooks everywhere full of to-do lists half checked off. I’m not very organized.
Julie: I use the calendar on my phone to keep track of day-to-day tasks that need to be done as well as an actual list of to do items and then cross them off as I complete them. If I don’t complete them that day I’ll move them on to the next day and so on. With being at home with a small baby, time to get things done is fleeting so staying organized is key. Basically baby’s nap times and evenings are when I plug away at things I need to do for the business, but let’s not kid around, I get tired and give myself some of those moments to rest as well. I just try to handle the pressing stuff as much as possible and those that can wait I keep chiseling away at them when I can.
What is your favourite way to market your product or services?
Angela: I’m a huge fan of Instagram. It’s a platform that people look to for style inspiration, so it’s a great fit for our service which allows you to access & use glamorous pieces without having to own them. And then when women wear their rentals and tag us in their own pics, the marketing effect is exponential. YouTube is obviously an amazing tool that we need to be more involved with but just haven’t had the time.
Julie: I love doing media appearances. We’ve been able to get some great press for the dress rental studio and it’s so much fun getting dolled up and going on camera to discuss our business and what’s on trend. We would definitely love to do these more often as well as being involved in more blogger videos and creating our own video content.
Who has been your mentor in helping you find success?
Angela: I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by amazing, brilliant boss babes who are all killing it at their respective games while supporting and encouraging each other at the same time. Women like Jen Agg and Kristen Voisey who are taking predominantly male-dominated industries by storm – they have definitely been mentors to me and continue to be so inspiring.
Julie: I would say I look to outside mentors. Female business & fashion industry leaders such as Diane Von Furstenburg, Rachel Zoe, Grace Coddington, Ariana Huffington; have all influenced me through their drive and passion for their work.
What social issue does your organization raise funds and/or awareness for?
Angela: Environmental sustainability. The textile industry is one of the worst polluters on the planet, and yet this culture of fast-fashion or throwaway fashion continues to dominate our society. It’s so insane and we are all guilty of it, as we’ve been conditioned to always be looking for what’s new, what’s next. With the rentals we’re making it possible for people to use these dresses without owning them. Meaning that instead of being worn once and then sitting in someone’s closet until they are thrown away, the dresses get used again and again by many people, extending their life cycle. The less people buy, the better for the planet, so our belief is that we buy it so you don’t have to. The sharing economy is definitely the future, and we hope to eventually be able to recycle the dresses once they’ve been completely worn out and need to be retired.
Julie: Although we strived to sell clothing that wasn’t factory made when we were a retail store we often struggled with where our pieces were manufactured and the wasteful nature of the textile industry. Fast fashion is a huge environmental issue so I love that we are providing an alternative solution. We saw a need in the industry and wanted to approach it from our perspective of offering fashion forward pieces in a warm and intimate environment. The sharing economy is where everything is heading and we want to be on the forefront of sharing dresses.
How and where do you continue to learn?
Angela: The learning process is constant. Most of the time I’ll turn to other business owners for advice on how they handle certain things. Failing that there’s probably a tutorial on YouTube.
Julie: I try to stay on top of what’s going on in the industry, what designers and fashion brands are doing and what our competition and the industry in general is doing.
Do you have a fitness ritual that you live by?
Angela: I try to exercise as much as possible when there’s time. Running is my go-to as it helps me relieve stress, but then I get more stressed when I haven’t had time to run. REALLY looking forward to spring because I don’t brave the winter roads but I hate the treadmill. I also love (hate) spinning so I can’t wait to try Soul Cycle.
Julie: Right now fitting in a fitness schedule between the baby and the business is tough. I go to baby yoga when I can but I try to use play time and walks with Julian to keep active. In general though I like to fit in work outs I find online (I just google 20-30 min workouts that have either good music or a dance component to keep it fun) and I try not to beat myself up about missing workouts.
How do you feed your soul?
Angela: TRAVEL. Nothing feeds my soul like exploring a new city or taking a road trip through beautiful countryside with no schedule or plans.
Julie: I feed my soul with travel (whenever I can), reading a great book, going for walks with my baby and just spending time with family and friends. I love listening to podcasts and reading books that have to do with psychology or human behaviour and in the last few years more spiritual topics like how your thoughts create positive or negative outcomes and how it’s important to be present, mindful, grateful and open.
How would you describe the eating ritual that makes you feel most powerful?
Angela: If I have a smoothie and a grapefruit after a morning run then it’s a good day.
Julie: I eat real, whole foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish, etc. Just good food that isn’t processed. I notice the difference in my mood and energy level when I eat healthy vs crappy food. I certainly like a dessert or something sweet (basically every day) so I try to make those as healthy as possible, like organic chocolate or banana bread made with good ingredients. I eat non-organic sweets too, let’s not kid around … you have to allow yourself indulgences once in a while or you’ll go bonkers. I’m also obsessed with green tea lattes, it’s getting out of hand.
Who is your favourite personality to follow on YouTube?
Angela: Any video of a sloth being cute is worth stopping your work for.
Julie: I’m not a huge YouTube watcher other then the random video and listening to music, but I do follow makeup artists such as Charlotte Tilbury & Lisa Eldridge. I am really into makeup and beauty (as I often do makeup for our photo shoots) so I love getting tips and ideas from their tutorials. I love makeup videos in general. They’re a bit of a guilty pleasure.
What type of content do you find most compelling on Instagram?
Angela: All the amazing streetstyle images that come out of the various fashion weeks around the globe. Paris streetstyle in particular is just so “effortlessly” chic – those women have a gift. My other favourite content is vintage photographs. Rare, rad 70s and 80s photos – I find them so inspiring.
Julie: I get inspired by streetstyle and fashion “influencers” (I put that word in quotes because I find it can be overused) like Pernille Teisbaek, Sincerely Jules, Aimee Song, Maya Wyh, Olivia Palermo. They’re a bit obvious but I still get inspired by how they put their outfits together and it keeps me thinking of fresh styling ideas for Fitzroy and myself. I love following travel and design instagram accounts as well. There’s too many to list.
What lifestyle brand would you say shares your values most?
Angela: Show Me Your Mumu and For Love and Lemons have done a great job of curating that boho, wild-child sort of lifestyle brand we all aspire to relate to.
Julie: I’m biased to the lines we carry but I truly love what brands such as Show Me Your Mumu and For Love & Lemons are all about. They’re both LA brands that are fun, bold and make pieces that flatter a women’s body. I love their use of colour and mix of playfulness and sex appeal.
Who is your favourite artist?
Angela: I love Thrush Holmes work. Cannot wait for his 10 YRS OF NEON show in Toronto this May!
Julie: My favourite artist right now would have to be El Anatsui. He creates amazing tapestries that look like metallic cloth. One of his pieces is on display at the ROM, its a huge wall tapestry made from aluminum liquor caps and tin cans that looks like colourful metallic magic. I also love what Yayoi Kusama is doing with colours, mirrors and light. In the fashion world, there are too many designers to list that I love – Prada, Saint Laurent, Isabel Marant, Prabal Gurung, Marchesa to name a few.
What is your favourite meal?
Angela: Nothing beats pizza and Prossecco.
Julie: Seriously pizza. Or maybe a pasta pescatore. Yum.
What is your favourite sport to watch?
Angela: The Jays, when they’re winning.
Julie: I’m not that into sports but I do love going to Raptors games. They’re fun to go to even if you don’t follow basketball. I’ll also watch with friends if the Leafs are in the finals or watch the Superbowl but that’s really more for socializing haha.
Where is your favourite place to unwind?
Angela: The couch with my husband and our cats, or the patio at Midfield Wine Bar after work. Rose all day.
Julie: Anywhere there’s a beach.