The dress rental phenomenon is taking off across the world as a great way to consume clothing more sustainably. Editor In Chief Julie Leslie sat down with one of the pioneers of the movement in Perth, Faith Choularton, owner of frockfinder to ask that very question...

Circular Style: What is frockfinder?

Faith Choularton: frockfinder is a designer dress hire business, located in the Perth CBD, catering to sizes 8-14.

CS: How did you arrive at the concept?

FC: My friend and I were having a rubbish day at work and bemoaning the lack of variety of shopping available in the CBD. We thought, “there must be something out there we can do together”. We were (are!) both avid shoppers whether it be in store or online. I went off to read the paper and there was an article about another dress hire business, who catered to a younger and standard sized (read: size 8) demographic. I thought, “‘bingo’, we can do this for, how shall I say it, the “every day” person.” My friend couldn’t commit at the time so I just started by myself. It went from us and we to I and me. Voila, frockfinder was born.

CS: Why do people hire? Why do they hire over buy?

FC: All sorts of reasons. From not wanting to be seen in the same dress twice (thanks, social media!) to not being able to afford a designer dress to being time poor. There are no pushy sales people - well, at least not at frockfinder. The sustainability movement is a factor for some - I think this will gain momentum over time – it’s just a matter of getting it out there.

CS: Who hires?

FC: Who doesn’t? I’ve had mothers of the bride (and groom), wedding guests, bridesmaids. Girls/ladies attending hens’ parties, 30th’s, 40th’s, 50th’s. Guests attending gala dinners, balls, black tie events, cocktail parties, the races. I’ve had politicians’ wives, “perthonalities”, influencers, mums – you name it. I tend to steer clear of the school ball market, though – they’re tough customers!

CS: What sets you apart from other dress hire businesses?

FC: I think the fact I stock larger than size 10 and cater to ladies over 30. I would say the average age of my client is between 38-45. Generally, this age has had kids and bodies are starting to change again. I try to buy accordingly. Sleeves, age appropriate, able to wear a bra – that sort of thing. Sizing is inconsistent – a size 12 for a 20 year old is different for a 40 year old or someone who has had children. Traditionally, the dress hire/rental market was run by and aimed at a younger demographic. Gradually the rest of us are catching on. I have a healthy repeat client base; clients become friends. They even bring me chocolates!

CS: Where do you source your stock?

FC: Anywhere and everywhere. I’ve bought in-store, online, overseas, locally, new, second hand and eBay. I like to buy pieces that not every business will have. Of course, there are those “it” dresses that rent really well and are must haves. As a friend said to me once, “you’re not here for a haircut”. I learnt pretty quickly that sometimes you just have to suck it up and stock things you may not like (but I do draw the line!)

CS: What do you do when styles go out of fashion?

FC: I try not to buy things that are obviously in fashion, rather items that will last and not date. As Coco Chanel said “mode passes; style remains”. Or, as most probably know it – fashion fades, style is eternal. My clients tend not to bother about what the label is or what season it’s from. They want a dress that looks good, feels comfortable and won’t be on someone else at the same function! Saying that, I am a bit of a hoarder and get attached to particular dresses. I used to love a book, Fabulous Nobodies by Lee Tulloch, about a girl Reality Nirvana who would name her dresses. I haven’t gone quite that far, but I have been particular about who gets to wear what! When it’s time to go to dress heaven, I’ve tried a few options: swap meet (never again!), second hand stores, Facebook groups, eBay, markets and donating. Something is only worth what someone else is prepared to pay for it. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose..

CS: How can people hire from you?

FC: The best way is to flick me an email as I am by appointment only. I am pretty flexible and can work around the client, whether that be week day or weekend, including Sundays.

CS: How can readers find out more?

FC: I’m always more than happy to have a chat to those who have questions, whether by phone or email. There is good ‘ole social media; Instagram or Facebook. Otherwise, more information can be found on my website which also has my contact details.

Happy hiring!