Rent Frock Repeat was born in 2010 out of an all-too-common dilemma: having a function to attend and nothing to wear. The concept is simple — customers surf from a selection of designer dresses online then, having pre-registered their measurements, have the garment shipped straight to their door. They “rent” the dress, return it to RFR where, after being professionally laundered, it’s ready for the next customer.
Founders Kristy Wieber and Lisa Owen wanted to spare Canadian women the financial burden and aggravation of dress shopping. What they didn’t realize was the considerable impact their business would have on the retail industry — and the environment. With every dress rented, RFR is sparing the landfill and reducing our collective fashion carbon footprint. But in an industry that values fast fashion and pushes women to buy more, more, more, a rental business was bound to face some backlash. We spoke with mom and Chief Merchant Sandy Silva about what it’s like to work for RFR and how she deals with the naysayers.
What’s so appealing about this business model?
It just makes sense all around. Living spaces have been decreasing in size, and social media use is increasing. Women are very hesitant to wear the same item more than once. Landfills are filled with apparel waste. This addresses all of those points in one go. When we find the right pieces that can hold up to our vigorous cleaning standards and can be rented more than 20 times, the math just works.
Do ever you feel any judgment within the fashion industry (or from consumers) for working with ‘second-hand’ clothes?
Sometimes, yes. In life, there are always people that get it, and those that don’t, with anything you do. Those in the know realize that NOT buying a $4,000 dress — and renting it for about 15% of that — leaves a lot more money in your wallet for fun. Men have been able to rent a tuxedo judgment-free for years, so it’s about time women do the same. I believe that this pivot in the industry will take time. In the 2.5 years I’ve been here we’ve already seen increased awareness and acceptance.
As a mom, how do achieve work-life balance? Is there such a thing?
Yes, there is such a thing! Some days are better than others when I don’t sleep much, but in the end, it’s all worth it. I know many women who have devoted their lives to raising their children. And women who have dedicated their lives to their careers. Both are great things, which is why I make it my mantra to do both to the best of my ability.
At the end of the day, the more organized I can be with setting my priorities before I go to bed, the better off I am. The days where I’m too lazy/tired to organize myself are the days where I am far less productive the next day. 24 hours is A LOT of time. I realized how much time I used to waste before having a child — when I thought I had way too much going on.
How has your work for RFR impacted your family?
Those who know me know I’m always up to something on the business side of things. However, I hope they see that RFR has prompted me more than ever to weigh all sides of a problem and put myself in another person’s shoes. I would say those are the two key things that come up here, and we have always found a way to look forward in a positive direction. That mindset shift has spilled into my personal life, and I hope that my family has benefited.
My five-year-old son, Xavier, always tells me how pretty I look when I wear an RFR dress (like the one pictured). There’s no better feeling than that.
Julie Green is a freelance writer, artist, and autism advocate. She lives in Toronto with her husband, son, and bulldog. Learn more at http://www.juliemgreen.ca.
The Whole Family Happiness Project is a group of moms exploring our connection to our individual purpose, our family happiness, and the happiness of the world around us. Got a story to share? Come chat with us on Facebook.