Tell us about yourself and your brand/company
My name is Sarah McCarthy and I am the owner of STUDIO Dress Rental. My background is mainly in human resources, but over the years I have drawn from various areas of the fashion industry. I have loved fashion since a young age and in 2016 I came across an evening course in Personal Shopping and Image Consultancy at the Dublin Institute of Design led by Laura Jordan. I found this course extremely interesting and practical. After the course was over, I offered free personal shopping appointments to women in Dublin where I guided them through the colors and styles that suited them over coffee at the Westbury Hotel. Our next stop was Grafton Street where we would apply our learnings to our shopping. I learned so much about what Irish women like and what we feel comfortable wearing and it definitely stuck with me.
In 2020, I completed a Masters in Strategic Management where I focused my thesis on consumer behaviors and attitudes towards the sustainable fashion industry. Studies have shown that women wanted to buy more sustainably but didn’t know how. It was obvious that education is the key to the revolution. During this time, I felt ready to start my own rental business and then the pandemic hit! I put the plans on hold then in May 2022 I decided it was time to get going.
Now to tell you a bit about my business. STUDIO is an online fashion rental company that is waging war on fashion waste by providing a smarter, more sustainable alternative that’s better for the community and the environment. People will soon have a platform where they can rent, lend and buy second-hand clothes. The platform acts as a marketplace for tenants across Ireland and encourages fashion lovers to earn income from their favorite dresses. We bring the dream of working in the fashion industry to life! We want Irish retailers specializing in designer dresses to also get involved by renting out their stock through our platform. We focused on developing a platform that is both user-friendly and elegant to ensure a smooth experience. We really hope you love STUDIO as much as we do!
What is your mission?
Our mission is to solve the “I have nothing to wear” crisis that many women face. STUDIO’s goal is to provide seamless, guilt-free access to designer fashion at lower cost and to reduce the amount of clothing used for one-off occasions before being thrown away. Our goal is to take the stress out of trying to dress up for a wedding or your best friend’s birthday.
What kind of items do you stock?
We focus on dresses for special occasions. Our collection has been curated to cover options for weddings, graduations, birthdays, and more. We stock brands such as Rixo, Self-Portrait, Zimmermann, Rebecca Vallance and many more.
What new brands or items are on your radar?
We love Aje and will be adding many more of this brand to our collection over the next year. As we grow we would like to add pieces from The Vampire’s Wife and Rachel Gilbert. As a customer-centric brand, we want our customers to be involved in the buying process. Our customers will steer the direction in which STUDIO moves.
Was money/funding a concern in the beginning?
Absolutely. This has been our biggest challenge to date. We are self-funded and this limits our ability to scale quickly. We are confident that the funds have been invested wisely so far and when the time comes we will look for investments.
The best business advice you’ve ever received
Never stop thinking about how you can delight your customers. Not to satisfy but to delight. This should be focused throughout your working day to ensure the customer is truly top of mind.
Favorite sustainable style accounts to follow online
My favorite accounts are HURR and By Rotation. I like the way they interact with customers and potential customers. A real buzz is created that encourages rental. They emphasize diversity and all shapes and sizes are celebrated. This is something that we believe is extremely important.
Best Fashion Buy
Our best fashion buy has to be the Rixo Eleanor Lily Metallic Mint Midi Dress. There was so much demand for this dress, and it was also the first dress I bought for STUDIO!
Other sustainable Irish brands you love
I love Chupi. Their designs are truly breathtaking and are based on the unique beauty of Ireland. Each of their pieces is designed, handcrafted and finished in Ireland. Chupi is truly a remarkable brand.
We recently teamed up with Sinead B Millinery for the ‘A Day at the Races’ photo shoot ahead of the Galway races. Sinead’s pieces are amazing and are all available for hire. We had so much fun putting together fully commendable outfits.
The inspiration behind filming Day At The Races was…
I have grown up with horses throughout my life and a memorable day has always been Ladies Day at the Galway Races. It is by far one of the most glamorous days for women in Ireland. As we focus on sustainability, I would like this to be incorporated into all Women’s Day events in Ireland. The Irish have an incredible eye for fashion, and it would be such a shame if these outfits weren’t worn. Instead, they should be celebrated!
Most useful learning since starting a business
Organization is the key. Create a process and stick to it, especially in the beginning. There are so many moving parts at the start. You may have a strong area of expertise, but you’ll quickly be thrust into the worlds of marketing, operations, finance, customer service, and sales. Keep calm and breathe, it’s all part of the journey.
Proudest moment so far
The day we had our first photo shoot was surreal. It really felt like STUDIO was coming to life and becoming a reality. I worked with a really fantastic photographer Evan Tsapatoras, models from Holman Lee Agency, Laura Mansbridge, Aine Dwan and Ceiline O’Meara and hair and makeup by FMN Studio in Limerick. Everyone worked so well together. A dream team has truly been formed.
I want my brand to be remembered for…
To be a friendly brand that goes above and beyond for every customer. Our customers are extremely important to us and they are such an important part of the journey. Without our fabulous customers, STUDIO would not have been born.
If I could dress anyone, it would be…
Laura Whitmore. I love the way she has fun with fashion. She is not afraid to take risks and she is also a very positive role model. She’s been a fantastic advocate for the sustainable fashion industry and I think we can all say she’s been amazing on every Love Island appearance this season.
The circular economy is so important because…
There are so many benefits to a circular economy. From a fashion point of view, it allows us to wear the brands we’ve always dreamed of wearing for a fraction of the price and from an environmental point of view, we’re hearing about rising temperatures across Europe at day by day. If we don’t act, this situation will only get worse. It’s such a progressive time and it’s time to integrate sustainability into our daily lives.