The rise of rental on the Irish fashion scene is real. Just ask Rhoda McDonagh. The former banker set up the Designer Room rental business in her Sandymount home in 2017, and last Sunday she had quite a coup when a gold sequinned dress she rents for €200 for four days ended up on the Oscars VIP carpet.
“It was a pinch-me moment,” said Rhoda, who has a selection of 500 designer gowns in sizes 6-18.
“The rental sector has grown so much in the last five years. During the pandemic, I had to pivot to running a pre-loved platform, but people are back dressing up again and I now have 40 to 50pc repeat customers who see my showroom and website as their extended wardrobe.”
Her average rental is €200, and the most expensive dress, a yellow Erdem that cost €3,500 originally, rents for €250, including dry cleaning.
Rhoda said the reaction to actress Kate Nic Chonaonaigh, who played Mam in An Cailín Ciúin, wearing a Mac Duggal gold gown to the Oscars has been phenomenal and she has been inundated with requests for appointments.
“I specialise in dresses for black-tie events, gowns women could be wearing for four to six hours and you can really see the shift in attitude, how consumers have picked up on circular fashion and are conscious about spending on big ticket items that they might wear only once or twice,” Rhoda said.
Accountant Rachel Hennessy has seen her figures climb since she opened her Happy Days online rental business and Leopardstown store 13 months ago.
The sustainability factor is a huge factor in people’s decision to rent
She sold her Google shares to build a business in the fashion rental sector, where revenue worldwide is expected to increase to over €6.55bn by 2026, according to data firm Statista.
Next Thursday, Rachel will open a pop-up on Dublin’s South Anne Street as rental increasingly becomes a “badge of honour” with consumers.
“The sustainability factor is a huge factor in people’s decision to rent,” she said. “People realise they are not wearing what they own. I think in the past people might have been embarrassed to say they rented something or bought second-hand, but that has completely changed in the last couple of years.”
Kate Middleton endorsed rental when she wore a green Solace London dress rented from British fashion company Hurr in Boston last December.
Carrie Symonds wore a £2,870 (€3,273) Christos Costarellos dress, rented for £45 from My Wardrobe HQ, for her 2021 marriage to Boris Johnson,
Rachel’s most popular rental brands last year were Rixo and Self Portrait, which rent from €70 to €80 for three days, with rates for five and 10 days also available.
“Blue and pink were last year’s most rented colours,” she said. “Sequins will continue to be popular, and I think shorter will be popular for summer weddings. An orange Karen Millen dress still remains our top rental. There is just something about this dress, it’s just lovely on, it suits lots of figures.”
It is 12 months since Brown Thomas introduced Rent it! when its Dundrum store opened.
Over the past two years, I’ve spoken to many brides to be and there is definitely a market for a pre-loved or vintage dress, not a new one
Shelly Corkery, group fashion director of BTA, said making considered fashion choices is “the new norm and customers are enjoying the concept and mix of special pieces from contemporary brands such as Aje, Rebecca Vallance and Rachel Gilbert with the typical rental being four days.”
In Listowel, Co Kerry, Sarah Fitzgerald’s Sustainable Bride has a collection of 15 vintage and pre-loved dresses available from €350 to €550 to rent.
“Over the past two years, I’ve spoken to many brides to be and there is definitely a market for a pre-loved or vintage dress, not a new one,” she said. “They like the great price point versus a new dress, they try to live a sustainable life and this idea fits well. They love the idea of the dress having a past and future and they want to spend money on other more important things, like a good band.”
Roxanne Parker, the Sustainable Stylist, said: “When people are buying for themselves, they tend to think about the cost-per-wear, but when you rent a one-off for a wedding or party it’s an opportunity to have a bit of fun with an outfit and to do something more out there, and I think that’s one of the strong points of the rental industry.”
Another growth area has been in peer-to peer rentals, where you can rent out your clothes and accessories through platforms such as Greens Are Good For You. The development has proved to be a handy source of extra income wrapped around clothes and accessories already in your wardrobe.