Trisha Bantigue, CEO and co-founder of Queenly, is on a mission to revolutionize the formalwear industry. Queenly, a marketplace for dresses, aims to make high-end fashion accessible to everyone, particularly those who dream of owning a “Cinderella” dress but find it out of reach. In this founder profile, Bantigue discusses her journey from participating in pageants to fund her education at UC Berkeley to leading a technology-driven platform reshaping the formalwear landscape.

Funding Round Details

Queenly logo
Company: Queenly
Security Type: SAFE
Valuation: $14,000,000
Min Investment: $100
Platform: Wefunder
Deadline: Apr 29, 2024
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What inspired you to take the leap and start this company?

Coming from a minority, low-income background, my co-founder Kathy and I grew up feeling that the dream of having that “fairytale Cinderella” dress was never truly attainable for most people. I was an emancipated youth at 17, so I’ve had to figure out various ways to make a living and survive independently. I started competing in pageants in 2013 to acquire scholarships that I was then able to use on my UC Berkeley tuition. Going through all these pageants, I saw the behind-the-scenes of the formal wear industry. I realized how expensive they were, how the industry has stayed low-tech and old-school, and how most of the inventory has been offline for decades. This phenomenon was unique to pageants and every special occasion women have to go through in their lifetime! Most women resorted to secondhand shopping and selling to facilitate dress transactions, but they did it through unsafe and manual methods. I was so disheartened at the amount of scams that would occur within this industry and how other existing resale platforms were unsatisfactory for this type of inventory. Coming from the tech industry, I’ve worked at Google, Facebook, and Uber, so I had this gut feeling that told me the formalwear industry needs to be innovative. This was the ultimate push for me to create Queenly!

Why did you choose to launch a crowdfunding round?

We launched a crowdfunding round because we truly believe that our platform is powered by our community, which has always been passionate about formalwear and sustainability. Through this community raise powered by Wefunder, our highly engaged and loyal customers can take an even more active role in shaping a more sustainable future for the formalwear fashion industry.

Who is on your team and how did you come together?

My cofounder and CTO is Kathy Zhou, and we met over a decade ago at our first tech internship. She studied Computer Science and Environmental Science at UPenn while I was studying International Relations at UC Berkeley. We stayed in touch through text and social media and became good friends. After college, she moved to San Francisco to work at Pinterest, and our relationship grew closer. I started mentoring and helping her with her very first pageant, and soon afterward, she also saw the same gap in the industry as I did. So in late 2018, we started to work on Queenly on the side as a passion project. In the summer of 2019, that’s when we started to gain a lot of traction, and we were encouraged by our founder friends and tech mentors to quit our day jobs and pursue Queenly full-time.

What does the competitive landscape look like, and how do you differentiate?

Before Queenly, shopping for formal dress meant driving a good distance and stopping by multiple boutique stores and department stores, only to find limited inventory and sizing. The high-price nature of formal dresses also meant that it excluded a lot of customers who may need help to afford them brand new. After purchasing it and wearing it to your event, there was also no efficient way to resell it properly, and it kept collecting dust and taking up space in your closet. Lastly, over 80% of formalwear inventory currently exists offline so they are not accessible for everyone. 

Since launching, we’ve been the only marketplace to focus on this vertical, similar to how StockX has focused on the vertical of streetwear and sneakers. Most methods to purchase a formal dress have been through brick-and-mortar stores, chain department stores, or international ordering. We are the first to centralize all types of dresses onto one platform while utilizing advanced technology to make the buying & selling process even easier. We focus on inventory for bridal wear, wedding guest dresses, prom, homecoming, military balls, cotillions, galas, red carpets, Sunday church dresses, bat mitzvahs, quinceañeras, community parades, date night, going out cocktails, content creation, graduations, cruise dresses, festival wear, cultural attires, ice skating, ballroom dancing, and more! You cannot find those on just any other online marketplace.

Moreover, we have a patented AI virtual try-on tool that allows users to use Augmented Reality to try on our inventory or create an AI-generated photo of themselves wearing the clothing. Superior to other virtual try-on companies that are limited to select products, our virtual try-on feature is available on all 200k products on Queenly because our in-house trained machine learning and computer vision processes generate instant models for all inventory. In the future, we plan to release our virtual try-on tool as a paid product for other companies.

What is your strategy to improve your product and grow your business?

Because Queenly’s AI-driven virtual try-on technology has already launched and seen early success with organic growth (with this feature driving over 60% of buyers’ final purchase decisions!), we’d love to make it as incredible and as ubiquitous as Bard and other chat agents are today. There’s still a gap between the in-person fitting room shopping experience and how people currently shop online; our virtual try-on tool solves that. One of our main goals is that we want to make sure our product is inclusive and accessible: our try-on tool will make sure we can cater to ALL body types, dress sizes, and skin colors and that any user can find the perfect dress for their specific look. We’ve already seen proof that our launched virtual try-on tool can drive most of our growth, and we plan to accelerate this further by scaling further.

Additionally, our GTM strategy with paid marketing has reached an all-time high of 750% ROAS (comparing this to only 50% last year). We have proven that we know how to utilize our marketing dollars on campaigns that have an ROI. We do a variety of ad channels such as Meta DPA ads, Instagram Shop ads, Google Shopping ads, ASO, TikTok content creator partnerships, etc. We’ve also created an active brand ambassador and referral program for our users. Since day one, we have invested in establishing our SEO game, which is a huge growth driver. Lastly, we aim for strategic partnerships relevant to our product and users, such as partnering with Netflix’s Bridgerton Ball and Miss USA.

What do you see as exit opportunities to generate a return for investors?

Queenly’s exit opportunities would be a strategic M&A with a larger fashion conglomerate or a larger tech e-commerce player. We’ve met with a couple in the past who have expressed interest in us, but we felt like it was still too early and not the right time. We have the unique inventory, patented technologies, and rich data on the formalwear industry that most companies would want to acquire, as we are the only marketplace focusing on this vertical. 

If we speak again in 12 months, which milestones will you have achieved?

We want to ensure we can grow our GMV 2-3x and expand to LatAm. We also want to reach 1M+ active users on the platform and acquire social media virality through various influencer and celebrity partnerships.