Photo Credit: Becerra Govea Photo/Pexels
Trisha Bantigue’s life completely changed when she became fully independent at the age of 17. A Filipino immigrant from a low-income family, she was able to support herself through college by competing in pageants, which provided generous scholarships. These experiences eventually inspired her to co-create Queenly, a tech-focused brand that connects women with secondhand formalwear.
Repackaging gently used gowns to those in need is not a new concept. The Cinderella Project, for example, has several chapters around the world where volunteers collect used prom dresses, wedding dresses, and businesswear, and host pop-up shops in low-income areas for young women to source clothing and accessories for their milestone events at discounted prices.
The system isn’t perfect, however; events are typically only held once a year, and inventory is limited to whatever is brought that day. Gowns, shoes, and more are first come, first served, and not all sizes are available. Families must sometimes arrive a few hours before the shops open, and depending on where it's located, they may need additional travel time to reach the destination.
Bantigue and her team developed a way for technology to revolutionize access to formalwear to remedy these issues. “Queenly has become a leading online marketplace for the formalwear industry,” Bantigue tells CircleAround. “We aim to reflect the progressive, inclusive goals that she stands for and to be able to provide access and affordability to women everywhere.”
I always believe that the greatest founders are the ones that start solving a real problem with overly ambitious goals.
The company knows there’s more to the secondhand fashion industry than knowing so many women struggle to find and afford their dream dress for their special moment. “It can range from a woman in her mid 30s who is excelling in her career and living in an urban city such as New York City or San Francisco, to moms in the Midwest and the South who are looking for the best deal possible.”
Bantigue also ensures there is diversity and representation in fashion by making size inclusion a priority. Queenly’s photo shoot campaigns feature minority, plus-size, and trans models representing the brand. “We are very happy that we didn’t just stick to the status quo, and it was well-received by our users,” Bantigue says.
“We knew of the various demographics of women who were always excluded from the fashion industry,” she adds. “We know that brands are making huge mistakes by ignoring large demographics of women that fall under plus-size, darker skin tones, trans women, etc. We felt it’s only right for us to provide a dress marketplace that will be inclusive to all women, and that’s why we have one of the largest selections of plus-size formal dresses.”
Queenly is just one of many clothing companies helping to reduce fashion waste and the issues associated with fast fashion, and may be even more impactful as many of the gowns in the system are worn only once or twice. Sellers are able to make extra income and keep their gowns out of landfills, and buyers are able to give new life to couture gowns at a price range that fits their budget.
At the moment, Queenly is the only tech-fashion brand focusing solely on formalwear. “Katrina Lake did not achieve being one of the youngest female tech CEOs to go IPO if she just stuck with the status quo on how women should shop,” Bantigue explains. “She created a brand-new experience for her users and it was well-received. Now Stitch Fix is a big industry leader in fashion tech and I am in awe at what they’ve done. For us, we hope to do the same for the formalwear industry, as this industry has been so low tech and traditional for decades.”
This is what I love about the intersection between tech and fashion,” Bantigue adds. “We’re able to innovate so much to make people’s lives better.
Queenly’s app and website make it incredibly easy to find a gown in just a few minutes. Users can search by designer (Calvin Klein and Adrianna Papell are among the current inventory), size range, and price. Users can even whittle down selections based on color, style, and event, saving time, money, and additional hassle.
Similar to sites like Poshmark and Depop, Queenly uses an aggregation system in which sellers upload images of their gently used clothing items, set their price, and are connected directly with potential buyers. Queenly goes one step beyond with its quality control to ensure the value of the items is properly represented; sellers with items worth over $300 first send their gowns directly to Queenly, where its team provides professional cleaning, verification, and packaging. Shipping is also provided by Queenly to keep the process accessible for both buyers and sellers.
“I always believe that the greatest founders are the ones that start solving a real problem with overly ambitious goals,” Bantigue tells CircleAround. She is proud of the many ways her company has been able to change the formalwear industry for good. By providing easy access to gowns and accessories, women no longer need to stress about finding the perfect dress, at the perfect budget, for their big day.
“This is what I love about the intersection between tech and fashion,” Bantigue adds. “We’re able to innovate so much to make people’s lives better.”