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Clever Couture

Clever Couture

The ‘silly season’ is well and truly here, and you’ve no doubt got a lot of party invitations and, therefore, outfits to organise. If you’re not keen on spending a small fortune on a new frock but you’re also a bit sick of your go-to LBD, the latest trend in fashion will be music to your ears. Meet three of the ladies behind it.

Hire. Wear. Return. Repeat. It’s the method of the influx of clothing hire companies dominating the local fashion scene, like Renee’s Runway.

Award-winning fashion designer and stylist Renee Lee has turned her Brisbane-based trove of high-end clothing – collected over a decade – into a lucrative business, hiring out her threads to customers looking for a quick fix or one-night-wonder.

“My collection of clothes has often been admired, so I came up with the idea of renting my high-end pieces to make them more affordable,” Renee says. “Many people think I’m crazy and my clothes will be destroyed, but everyone who has hired my pieces has been very careful and considerate.”

And with the season of endless dinners, drinks, work functions and family gatherings upon us – each requiring a special yet different outfit – fashion hire businesses are really a godsend.

Noti Mafuco is another fashion hiring entrepreneur and says that for her business, Noti x Nature, orders peak around December.

“It gets crazy busy, particularly around Christmas time and the New Year,” Noti says. “We are currently gearing up for the Christmas season and working hard to replenish our stock.”

Like Renee, Noti built a business straight out of her closet. She says her sizeable collection of designer outfits – and woeful bank balance – triggered the lightbulb moment that leads her to hire out her pieces, and two years later she has dozens of faithful clients constantly coming back for more.

“I think it’s a great concept,” she says. “Hiring gives you the opportunity to wear the best in fashion at affordable rates, removing the burden of purchasing garments at exorbitant prices and, of course, catering to the unwritten and misguided ‘girl code’ that prohibits outfit repeating.”

Hiring veteran, Hannah Strauch, agrees wholeheartedly. She started her business, Designer Night Hire, more than four years ago, and business has been booming ever since girls realised that they had a multitude of wardrobes at their fingertips.

“I send out up to 100 orders over a weekend at some stages of the year, particularly at Christmas time or for the races,” she says. “I didn’t expect it to be this crazy. When I started, hiring wasn’t even a thing – now it’s a massive concept with a lot of people preferring to hire than buy!”

So how exactly does it all work? The ladies handpick the items they want to hire out, which Hannah admits is the tricky part.

“You need to find what the general public likes, not just what you like,” she says. “I’ll try to buy the same item in two sizes where I can.”

Renee and Noti, on the other hand, prefer to work with their own styles, hoping the response will be positive. However, Renee’s sense of style is proven. She’s owned and operated several fashion labels over her career, one of them winning her a coveted RAQ Fashion Design Award (Lifestyle category).

All three fashionista business owners have dedicated websites and Instagram accounts that display all of their hireable items. Clients can request pieces through the website, ‘try before they buy’ – and, in Renee’s case, even ‘style’ before they buy – and the item is all theirs… for a few days at least. Simply return it to the showrooms within the hiring period, in the same condition you borrowed it, and call it a day – or a very well-dressed night.

Keep an eye out for Renee’s app, High Street Rentals, when it launches over summer. The app allows users to earn money by renting their clothes and save money by borrowing others and even has a locator feature so you can find the perfect outfit close by. How’s that for a clever, last-minute lifesaver?!

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Words // Anastasia White

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