Designer Wardrobe has opened its debut store on Boston Road in Grafton after a number of members requesting to try on garments. “We thought it was time to give it a go. We are still firmly an online business, but we feel it really complements our marketplace,” explained founder Donielle Brookes. “So far it has been a great success, and we have loved seeing our members in the store.”

Having a bricks and mortar store felt like the next step for their rental category on Designer Wardrobe she added.

Brookes’ father is a builder and has created an array of fit-outs around Auckland like WORKSHOP in Newmarket and Made in CBD. Their new location was chosen so they could be closer to their investor and the opportunity came up to convert a lower apartment into a store. “Naturally, we all got brainstorming and decided to jump at the offer.”

Most of their customers are renting garments for one-time events and want the option to see how it fits and feels before the day. “We want to create a welcoming and relaxed place where they feel like they are in a friend’s wardrobe picking an outfit to wear for the night.”

Brookes created Designer Wardrobe in 2012 when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She was off work and had to think fast to pay bills; she started with a Facebook page where users could buy, sell and rent designer items. “I had a wardrobe full of designer items but really wanted people to buy them that knew how special they were so that it would hold the value. Within weeks, she had thousands of members trading their pre-loved items and shortly after 14,000 when she was recovering from cancer.

Aidan Bartlett, now CEO of Designer Wardrobe, joined Brookes to transform the Facebook group into a website and on the night of the launch, the site crashed due to too many viewers. After that, they got investors to take their brand to the next level. “We decided to join lighting lab business execrator that we pitched Designer Wardrobe to investors after three months. That’s when Simon Moutter and Shane Bradley got involved and are now both directors and on our board.” After raising $1.7 million in May this year, Designer Wardrobe is launching a new website and app.