A Luxury Wardrobe Management Firm that Archives and Protects Designers’ Greatest Assets: Their Creations.
Lack of storage and closet space can be a real problem for apparel firms and individuals living in cities like New York. Garde Robe, the luxury wardrobe management and Cyber Closet valet service, provides temperature-controlled, air-purified storage facilities suitable for the most precious pieces. Designers can also opt for Archival Couture Preservation for long-term storage of costumes, inspiration pieces, haute couture, and vintage textiles.
Recently Textile Insight chatted with Garde Robe’s co-owner and VP of sales and marketing, Doug Greenberg.
Are apparel firms the bulk of your business?
“In terms of numbers, it is more private collectors. But the volume from designers can be much greater. At one point, we had 35,000 articles of clothing for a lifestyle brand. We started working with Oscar de la Renta 13 years ago, helping them with standard services like preservation, cataloging and archiving, as well as joining forces with the de Young museum for a retrospective of Mr. de la Renta’s work. The museum identified celebrity lenders like Taylor Swift and Anna Wintour to lend pieces for the show. We collaborated with curator André Leon Talley to get everything looking beautiful and shipped safely. After the show, we returned and packaged the pieces for long term storage.”
Do you have a favorite piece in your facilities?
“We were approached by Alexander McQueen North America before Mr. McQueen died. He has designed haute couture pieces for a Middle Eastern bride — it was her rehearsal dinner dress and wedding dress. The value was far into six figures. Essentially, they said the wedding isn’t until next year, but we want to have them safely stored. Those pieces are probably two of the last pieces he designed. It’s wearable art. We used to do archiving for Zac Posen, who designed his sister’s wedding gown. It was so voluminous with a train about 20 feet long, like a duchess, and red. Just working with Carolina Herrera and other dynamic design houses. We see their early collections and inspiration pieces.”
How many archivists are on staff?
“Seven in New York and one in California. That is something we are most proud of. Before Garde Robe, if you wanted to get into fashion archiving, you had to go in-house and they really tend not to pay a lot. Now we are up to about 20 employees. We have been able to give these archivists work with profit sharing, retirement plan, health care and a good wage.”
What is your pitch for an emerging designer?
“We get approached by some emerging designers who recognize that their early pieces are going to be iconic. Perhaps they may want to draw from past pieces for collections. We just picked up a new client like this a couple of weeks ago. They were working out of a small atelier. Rather than renting space for themselves and putting pieces at risk in mini storage, they heard about us. We’ve been a partner of the CFDA for many years and extend preferential pricing in the interest of working with up-and-coming brands in hopes that they’ll become more established and profitable.”
Do many designers come in to just poke around for inspiration?
“It depends. We have some designers who have really moved on from the early days. Others go back and use archiving as their primary inspiration. Some use it as a resting place and long-term preservation.
Your LA facility is fairly new, correct? Is most of your work there for private individuals?
“Yes, we opened there in May 2019. We were in San Diego for nine years and the vast majority of our members were in LA, so we relocated. We have more costumes out there like 1980s television/video costumes that folks are never going to wear again. We also do a lot of work with insurance companies. After Superstorm Sandy, I discovered that homeowner’s insurance was never intended to cover this type of clothing. After the storm, I got a call from the collector whose entire collection in the Hamptons was destroyed. Her insurance company excluded paying her a nickel for the couture because the policy excluded flooding. Having more than 400 private members, I went to insurance companies explaining that there needs to be coverage. AIG Private Client Group saw the benefit. Now there is AIG created wearable collections insurance. AIG prefers collectors mitigate risk by keeping pieces in our facilities.”
What is special about your facilities?
“In storage facilities, you don’t have control over who is in the unit next to you. We recently picked up two collectors — one is an entertainer and another is a model with a fashion line. Both were moth-infested in mini storage. Similarly, the home environment is also not really ideal for textile preservation, considering fluctuations in temperature and humidity, along with open windows and pets. Moths can hibernate in pet food. Closets can be way too close the bathroom, where there’s steam and moisture that are terrible for leathers and suedes. Many collectors have abundant space for hanging garments and not nearly enough for folding bias-cut and heavily embellished eveningwear. We average about $5-10 for an article of clothing, which can be a savvy investment for something worth five figures. A lot of these folks have private chefs and chauffer’s, but they really appreciate someone taking care of their wardrobe. That’s what makes us successful.”