Welcome to the era of sharing: Uber, Airbnb, Rent the Runway… But can “borrowing” ever be luxurious? According to Nova Octo founder Silje Lübbe, it can. Her couture rental company offers one-of-a-kind pieces that perhaps wouldn’t have seen the light of day without her help, as she outfits New York’s elite for charity galas, fashion events, and red-carpet appearances. “Working in the industry, I would see these pieces go into stock rooms, or marked down 70-percent,” Lübbe notes. “And with the sustainability movement, many women won’t spend $8,000 on a dress to wear once, even if they have the money. So, I thought, let me create this archive of beautiful pieces.”
Drawing upon her connections with designers and luxury retailers culled over years in the industry working as a buyer, Lübbe has created such an archive, including pieces from Giambattista Valli, Oscar de la Renta, Elie Saab, Marchesa—you name it—in Nova Octo’s Tribeca showroom. But don’t expect to shop looks that just came off the runway; the product mix includes vintage and couture pieces that don’t put an emphasis on season. And if it is brand new, you won’t know it, as Lübbe will order gowns in a different color or slightly customized style than what you’ll find at retail, so customers never run the risk of showing up at an event in the exact same gown as someone else.
The idea behind Lübbe’s concept is that everyone wins: “My goal isn’t to compete with retail—they’re the ones keeping the brands alive,” she says, noting that even celebrity stylists can’t tell the seasons apart when they come into her boutique. Her hope is to never see a couture gown hit the sale rack. “I think eveningwear shouldn’t fit into the same cycle as ready-to-wear—so much work goes into these items,” she says.
Celebrating her grand opening this month, the reception to Nova Octo has been astounding. So far, Lübbe says two demographics have formed her client base. “I have the young, New York girl about town who’s coming in for a Balmain short dress to wear to an event or dinner. A lot are models,” she explains. “My second client is in her mid-30s—the gala attendee. She’s an executive who is definitely well-off, she knows the value of what a couture gown is and what she can rent it at.”
So far, many customers have lived in the Tribeca area and have discovered Nova Octo by chance just walking by, but Lübbe says the brand isn’t just appealing to downtown women; many items have shipped internationally. “More than anything, it’s a real chance to dress up,” she notes. “My client wears this quality in her day-to-day life, but she’s conscious at this moment about how she spends and waste. We want to get women in here with our professional stylists and feel amazing—feel like how a celebrity looks on the red carpet.”
She should know—so far, Nova Octo has dressed Josephine Skriver for the Cannes Film Festival, Mallory Edens for the ESPYs, and other celebrities including Nina Agdal, Melissa Joan Hart, and Jennifer Morrison.
Moving forward, Lübbe sees Nova Octo’s online presence and international business taking off, and is starting to dabble in accessories, but she’s taking her time growing the business. “We don’t want to rush. We take a lot of pride in the pieces we’re picking, not just because they’re popular in the moment,” she says. “It’s not going shopping—we’re going to dress you for an event.”