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VIP storage service for clothes comes to South Florida

There’s hardly any woman alive who doesn’t complain about a lack of closet space.

Now space-challenged South Floridians who want to store clothes in a climate-controlled atmosphere can turn to the same service used by celebrities and designers.

Garde Robe believes it has the answer. The New York-based company expanded into South Florida this month, aiming to serve savvy fashionistas, multiple home owners and globetrotters. Think of Garde Robe as both relief for closet crowding and a personal valet service that delivers your clothes anywhere in the world.

“The same way you have art storage and wine storage, we’re the only company dedicated to protecting and preserving the works of art that stay behind your closet doors,” said Doug Greenberg, vice president of sales and marketing for Garde Robe.

“You can’t just store clothing by wrapping them up and then bringing them back when you need them. It’s museum-quality storage.”

But that comes with a price. Garde Robe’s minimum calls for a one-year contract at $350 per month, which includes storage for 50 items, 10 shoe boxes and a box of accessories.

This service includes one local delivery per month in the area of the Garde Robe facility; customers pay for shipping to other cities.

“It’s very labor intensive to properly care for textiles, and you can’t do it on the cheap,” Greenberg said. “We know that prices some people out of the market. It’s not a mass-market service.”

Garde Robe’s customers include socialite Ivanka Trump and supermodel Iman. The company also provides storage for the collections of top-name fashion designers such as Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera.

The concept was started in New York in 2001 by Kim Akhtar, then Dan Rather’s publicist and a Flamenco dancer. Akhtar needed extra closet space and figured others in New York had the same problem.

But it wasn’t until 2008, when Garde Robe expanded beyond New York. The company now has facilities in Southern California and Tokyo, with plans for London as well.

The South Florida expansion largely was driven by requests from existing clientele in other markets who have second homes here or are regular visitors. Locally, Garde Robe partnered with Rey’s Cleaner’s, a Miami company that specializes in the cleaning and care of luxury goods and specialty items. Rey’s is a licensee of Garde Robe and owns 70 percent of the South Florida business.

The company will provide pick-up and delivery to serve customers from Key West to North Palm Beach County and west to Naples and Tampa. All clothes will be stored at Rey’s facility northeast of Miami International Airport.

For the Garde Robe loft, Rey’s created a separate room that is climate- and humidity-controlled by an air purification system. Temperature remains a constant 70 degrees.

Clothes are all wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and placed in separate protective white bags.

While Rey’s and other dry cleaners have stored clothes for customers before, this takes it to another level, said Angel Suarez, Rey’s owner.

“This serves as a complement to what we are already doing,” Suarez said.

Linda Haugland has been a Garde Robe customer since 2007 in New York and still pays $1,300 a month for the storage service there. But she recently moved to Coral Gables and is eager to give Garde Robe some additional black-tie dresses and her husband’s extra suits to store for her in South Florida.

“It makes life so much easier not clogging my closet with stuff I don’t need every day,” Haugland said. “It’s definitely become part of my life.”

Every customer who stores clothes with Garde Robe gets their own cyber closet.

A few mouse clicks, and the customer can view pictures and descriptions of every item in storage so they can easily select the clothes they need for that special event or vacation.

If the Garde Robe member is in the same city, clothes can be delivered in 24 hours or less. Garde Robe will also pack and ship a member’s items anywhere in the world.

That ease of service appeals to customers like Margaret Luce. When she divested of her New York apartment two years ago and moved to Jupiter full-time, she put her winter clothes and some of her formal clothes in Garde Robe’s New York facility. Now whenever Luce travels to New York or Los Angeles, she doesn’t have to worry about packing luggage. She simply goes into her virtual closet, picks out the items she wants and has them delivered directly to her hotel room.

“Being a model, I travel a lot and this is so effortless,” Luce said. “They’ll send it to you wherever you are in the world. Everything arrives nice and clean and pressed. It’s almost like shopping all over again because everything seems brand new.”