Donielle Brooke on the sustainability of Designer Wardrobe

Donielle Brook interview July 2019

Donielle Brooke, founder of Designer Wardrobe. Image supplied.

Designer Wardrobe has changed the way Kiwi women handle fashion with the popular online marketplace focused on clothing rentals as well as selling second-hand clothing. The platform has amassed tens of thousands of members online with the woman behind it, founder and creative director, Donielle Brooke, excited for its future. What began as a small Facebook group and hobby for Donielle in 2013 has evolved into an entrepreneurial business that is now at the forefront of the clothing rental market in NZ. That’s no small achievement and with some veteran investors and a talented team on board Designer Wardrobe’s future is very bright indeed.

We caught up with Donielle to find out what Designer Wardrobe is up to now, where she sees the clothing rental market heading and how important it is to her to support local brands.

Can you tell us about where Designer Wardrobe is now in 2019 and what your favourite thing about it is?
Designer Wardrobe is now not only a marketplace for women to buy, sell and rent off each other – but also a place where you can rent from us! We decided it was time to start our own rental offer and now we have a beautiful range of 1,200 pieces available for rent (and we are adding to it every week). We also have an Auckland store where you can come in and try it all on.

My favourite thing about Designer Wardrobe is probably how our business ties in with sustainability – it’s not something people perhaps connect us with straight away – but it’s a big motivator for us!

The thing is, if more of us buy second-hand where we can (and sell what we no longer wear) and then rent the items we only want to wear once – this reduces waste. It’s all about moving people away from a ‘make, use, dispose’ attitude – and instead encouraging behaviours that extend a garments lifecycle – such as second-hand sales and rental. We actually estimate that our pre-loved marketplace has already saved around 150 tonnes of clothing from going to landfill, so that’s something I am super proud of.

What does an average day at work for you involve?
I have my hands in all sorts of things at Designer Wardrobe. One day it might change and my role could be full focus on one thing but at the moment we are still in “startup” mode – so as a Creative Director and Founder that involves buying, social/influencer marketing, photoshoots, dealing with designers/ brands, signing off creative or copy and of course dealing closely with planning the feature with our investors/ directors, CEO and our amazing team. It really never stops and is always super busy!

Where do you get your creative inspiration from?
It honestly comes from within. I am not the type that looks at what other people are doing too often and I do think I should do that more because when I do, I am always very inspired. But, I have always had so many creative ideas in my mind and kind of get caught up with that – whether it was when I was a hairdresser (and obsessing over doing the most perfect colour), or working on the jewellery label I used to have with my business partner Aidan – to dreaming up ideas like Designer Wardrobe!

How do you balance the creative and admin demands of your role?
I feel like my role offers a lot of creativity with a side of admin, so I never feel like I need to!

What has been your career highlight so far?
I feel very proud of my team and our investors – having such incredible people involved in Designer Wardrobe is really a highlight for me.

Donielle Brook interview July 2019

Interior of Designer Wardrobe’s Auckland rental store.

The designer rental market has gotten increasingly popular year on year, where do you see it heading and what makes it so appealing to customers?
I see Designer Wardrobe raising the bar for rental – we have big ambitions for the future! We really want to have stores around New Zealand, team up with more beautiful designers and work with them to create the perfect way to shop for women. We want to see more women buy second-hand where they can, splurge on those beautiful designer pieces they’ll treasure – but rent the items that they love but know they’ll only wear once.

Eventually we want to move toward a subscription service, which is a super exciting move for us. This will be where you can have a number of stand out everyday-wear outfits, that you can add to your wardrobe for the “wow” factor. We love this as it will give people the opportunity to perhaps try a trend they’re not sure about yet, or have that power piece for that big meeting. We imagine lots of people will end up buying pieces they’ve rented and fallen in love with, it happens a lot!

Designer Wardrobe opened a rental store in Auckland in 2017, how has the feedback from customers there influenced changes in your business?
The feedback has been incredible, we see an average of 200 beautiful faces a day in our store and it’s only growing. It’s popularity motivated us to put even more focus on rental but we’ve seen that it helps increase sales too – and because of that second-hand marketplace is still growing. They work so well with each other.

What is your advice for anyone who wants to start a business of their own?
Don’t do it, unless it comes from a place of passion – because when it gets tough, it’s the only thing that keeps you going. Also it’s really important to surround yourself with people who you know will add value and support you on the journey. Some people think they have to do it all – and do it alone – but I feel it’s really important to have incredible people around you that share the same goal of making the business as successful and doing whatever is best for it.

How would you describe your personal style?
I think a bit of my buying comes from my personal style, I have never been a super edgy dresser – I like a pretty dress, ha ha! Although day-to-day at work I like to be comfortable. To be honest if my everything wasn’t going into Designer Wardrobe I would have a lot more time and money to put into my personal style. At the moment I am living in Georgia Alice jackets and grabbing a pretty dress from Designer Wardrobe rentals when I need to go out.

What wardrobe item should everyone invest in?
I feel like everyone should have a beautiful jacket in their wardrobe. A classic black cut that will be on trend for all seasons – you can wear them to work, or for a fun night out – you can never go wrong spending a little extra on something that is the perfect add-on to any outfit.

Do you have a style rule you always obey?
Be yourself but have a little fun! I often see people putting so much pressure on themselves to be something they have decided they feel they need to be. I think it’s important to have a style that is fun and not taken too seriously. That’s why I love rental, I love that I can pick an outfit without too much attachment to – and if I completely fall in love with a piece, I buy it.

Donielle Brook interview July 2019

Interior of Designer Wardrobe’s Auckland rental store.

What is your all-⁠time favourite purchase?
It changes every season, at the moment I am obsessed with my Balenciaga Triple S white sneakers. I have always picked sneakers over heels, so I am loving these!

What are your beauty essentials?
I can’t live without Osmosis – I swear by it! Osmosis also has make-up range that’s made up of such nice ingredients, you can even sleep with it on (not that I would though!). I also love YSL lippies and highlighters, the foundation when I go out, GHD hair tools, Moroccan Oil hair product and of course Jo Malone Perfume – yum! I am a bit of a beauty lover because of my hairdressing background, I used to work at Stephen Marr and they had a beauty salon, that’s where I fell in love with Osmosis’ collection.

Who are your favourite New Zealand designers/brands?
Ruby, Trelise Cooper, Maggie Marylin, Georgia Alice and I love jewellery labels like Beau & River and Monarc Jewellery.

How important is it to you to support local brands? (not just fashion but in general)
It is so, so important to me – it is also a part of the reason why Designer Wardrobe is here today. I love uplifting people, supporting local, working with beautiful people and Designer Wardrobe is all of that in one. What you give also comes back, I love that renting helps introduce new brands to people that they might not otherwise have discovered. I love supporting women, and making people feel good about what they do. It saddens me when others can’t do that, and sometimes I don’t understand why – but over time I have learnt to just focus on the people that are this way back and keep going forward.

Finish this sentence – you would never catch me wearing…
A skin tight dress, ha ha.

Images supplied.

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