New Kid on the Block: Nova Octo

“I want to encourage people to dress up!” says Silje Lübbe. To that end, she took her 15 years’ experience in fashion, with a specialty in evening wear, and co-founded Nova Octo, a new service that allows women to rent extraordinary dresses that would otherwise sell for upward of $7,000.

“Like a lot of people, I was looking for meaning in life, and it was important to me to do something sustainable,” she says. “Buying a new dress for every occasion, even if you can afford it, brings up sustainability and space issues.” Renting makes sense for other reasons, too. First, people don’t want to be seen—and photographed, in our social-media age—in the same dress twice. Second, no one relishes running into someone wearing the same dress; at the very high end, retail outlets used to have some control over that issue, but not when everyone is buying online. Third, dressing uniquely is much easier when you don’t have to rely on the current season.

Despite the fact that celebrities are borrowing everything they wear, there remains some stigma attached to renting. Consequently, Nova Octo makes the experience as luxurious as shopping on Madison Avenue. You can browse online, of course, or you can stop by the elegant new showroom on Laight Street, where you’ll be offered espresso, wine, and Champagne, and you can try on as many pieces as you like. Everything is organized by size, and Nova Octo even has custom-made shoes, in various heights and all sizes, for its fitting rooms. The staffers, who are all passionate about evening wear, can make slight alterations. Rentals start at $200 and average $500 to $600. The piece is yours for four days, and same-day delivery is available within the city.

The best reason to visit in person is that the selection is bigger than it is online, because some brands are still sensitive about being available for rent. Looking through the labels, you’ll see many that you recognize—Giambattista Valli, Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, Marchesa, and so on—both vintage and contemporary. Nova Octo owns most of the dresses, and it’s working on persuading fashion houses that offering past seasons for rent in a luxury setting makes far more sense than dumping them at off-price outlets. Some of the dresses are owned by private individuals, with whom Nova Octo has a profit-sharing arrangement. “They know they’re not going to wear them again, or the dresses don’t fit anymore,” says Lübbe. “And ninety percent of them have never even been worn!” (Nova Octo is always looking for sources of high-end evening wear, if you’d like to free up some closet space.)

Last but not least, 15 percent of the rental cost is donated to one of four causes, and each client gets to decide which: Elephant Crisis Fund, Global Green, the “I Have a Dream” Foundation, or Girl Rising.

P.S. About the name…. A nova is a star “that expands and goes back to normal, a good metaphor for renting evening wear,” says Lübbe, and octo is Latin for eight, which is also a traditional infinity symbol, or “what comes around goes around.”

Nova Octo is at 88 Laight (between Washington and West); 212-219-2288; novaocto.com.

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2 Comments

  1. “I want to encourage people to dress up!” says Silje Lübbe

    Yes, so do I!

  2. This is great! I can’t wait to try…! Thanks for letting me know

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