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WHY I STARTED A DRESS RENTAL BUSINESS, AND WHY I AM STILL IN LOVE WITH THE DREAM TODAY

Posted: Jan 14 2015

While it has been little over a year since I coined the name 'Her Wardrobe', the dream of running a dress rental business has been one I have held close to my heart for over five... 

In 2009, I was studying at The Melbourne School of Fashion in Fitzroy and as part of our final assessment we were to come up a with a business plan for a "dream business". With no financial constraints and only my imagination holding me back I designed a beautiful, brick and mortar store on the corner of Gertrude and Izett Street in Prahan. I can even remember the colour scheme of the store, and a big quote I had painted on the back wall in the floor plan;

It is still one of my faves today!

This store housed hundreds of beautiful designer dresses from the best Australian and International labels.  The point of difference? You could only rent them. 

Fast forward two years and I had begun to embark on my first real life attempt at creating and running a dress rental business. At the same time overseas, the fashion rental industry had started to take off with sites Love Me and Leave Me and Rent the Runway gaining increasing popularity. 

The reason I started my first dress rental business was simple: I had a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear! My friends had closets full of clothes and nothing to wear, and I watched as we all repeatedly invested hundreds and hundreds of dollars into dresses that we were only ever going to wear once. Renting seemed like the obvious solution. 

Unfortunately after two and a half years I chose to walk away from my first business. An endless list of technical problems and a toxic business partnership had spoiled my exciting, shiny dream and I was no longer inspired nor motivated to make it happen. 

Or so I thought...

Just months after I walked away from my first business, I realised there was really nothing else on my radar that I felt destined to achieve. I knew that returning to study would just prolong the time it would take for me to start and grow a business. I thought about opening a traditional retail store, starting a t-shirt brand and even opening a taco bar - but none of these ideas felt as "right" as the dress rental business I had dreamt up back in 2009. And just like that, the pain of Failure #1 started to wash away and the excitement and possibility of Round #2 started to shine through. 

The differences between Her Wardrobe and my first business are immense. Which seems impossible when they are essentially the same business, but the reason I started both are very different. My first business sprouted from the simple idea that renting, albeit a good one, was just another way for women to consume fashion. It would give a young women more choice when she opened that bigger and better virtual closet she now had access to online. 

Her Wardrobe evolved from a much more sophisticated ideal...

  • Her Wardrobe is about giving women the opportunity to wear labels they have never worn before. 
  • Her Wardrobe is about elevating designers and showing women how truly wonderful the quality, fabrics and fit of a designer dress is over it's chain store counterpart.
  • Her Wardrobe is about giving women the choice to experience fashion in a way that suits both their budgets and their lifestyles.
  • Renting is for women who value experiences over their wardrobes - and this doesn't mean they don't love clothes but they are financially intelligent enough to know the money they spend on dresses for special occasions could be better spent on their kids, their homes or even a holiday! 

    I look back on how much money I have spent on special occasion dresses which I have only worn once - It is approximately $20,000. That's 41 dresses I have hanging in the far corner of my wardrobe, which I have only ever worn once or sometimes never at all. At an average of $500 per dress, it adds up. You may argue that you don't have 40 - and that's fine. I bet if you delve into your wardrobe there's at least 20. And okay, you don't buy designer labels at $500 a pop. There's still a holiday in there somewhere. 

    At some point, I loved each and everyone of these dresses, and enjoyed fabulous events such as the races, engagement parties and my 21st Birthday in them. But, I realise now I would still have the very same photographs and wonderful memories if I had rented these dresses. Furthermore, I would be $15K in the green!

    So what's on the cards for my dress rental business now? I am looking forward to shaking up the way we shop in Australia and introducing you all to some exquisite designer labels! The five year evolution of Her Wardrobe has only made it so much better and while I once believed it was a case of renting vs. buying, I now know that it doesn't have to be one or the other, Her Wardrobe is about having it all! 

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    Comments

    • Posted by Meera Farooqi on November 16, 2016

      I too had this idea for long time, I wanted to start Indian Pakistani ladies wedding and party outfits rental business Sarees, Lehenga and anarkali cost from $250 to $800.
      I understood that there are some online rental stores but they charge big and customer has no way to feel see and try the outfit
      So my husband went along with my idea and we opened the 1st Indian outfit rental store with fitting rooms and hundreds of suits and sarees “Pret To Let” at Touhy and California intersection in Chicago few months ago.
      So far my customers are non-Indian ladies going to Indian wedding and parties.
      Indian and Pakistani community appreciating the idea but so far they are making up their minds to rent an outfit.
      Having non-Indian customers once in a while is not enough to make business successful.
      Any advice!

    • Posted by Valerie on October 26, 2016

      I love renting businesses, but I wonder how do you manage not to be stolen? I’ve heard of people who own clothing rental businesses and were stolen by people who presented fake documents and then disappeared with the clothes. Is there a way to make sure that the documents your clients give you are real, so you can be certain that they are not going to steal you or anything?

    • Posted by Fiona on October 11, 2016

      Hi.i love your story.i was thinking of doing the same in Africa but too scared to start.i feel a bit encouraged now.keep up the good work.i wish we could talk more maybe you could give me pointers.

    • Posted by Remi on August 18, 2016

      Great stuff you’ve got going! Permit me to share your beautiful ideas with intending startups in this area….. Meanwhile, I’ve got a domain name that fits your business perfectly: www.dressrenting.com, and it’s up for sale. Well, I know you already run a site that takes care of your business…but should you come across anyone who needs a domain name for dress rentals, please do refer them to me…(remichima@hotmail.com). Thanks ma’am….keep blazing the trail!

    • Posted by Kimberley on July 02, 2015

      I think your concept is beautiful. I just read the article in Collective Magazine that the Entourage group talked about you. I can’t wait for my next occasion to shop on your website instead of in store for a dress.

    • Posted by Alex on January 22, 2015

      Thank you ladies! Your support and encouragement means the world! xx

    • Posted by Brooke Marr on January 15, 2015

      A flawless idea that has been a long time coming. Congrats Alex – your stella service is a credit to you and ensures repeat renters like myself. I look forward to watching Her Wardrobe grow from strength to strength. All the best Alex xx.

    • Posted by BRETELLE on January 14, 2015

      Loved reading about your journey Alex, and well done for having the conviction to see your dream through. Those nagging ideas & dreams that follow us around are magic, and should never be ignored. I can’t wait to see how far your take the business, for it is such a valid & worthwhile plan. Best of luck xx

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