HOW I STARTED MY DRESS RENTAL BUSINESS

Backstory: I am a flight attendant and elopement photographer, as well as owning this dress rental business. In the summer of 2019, I started building my elopement photography portfolio. I was flying to Utah with other flight attendants who were also photographers, bringing along dresses to photograph in epic locations like the Salt Flats. We were planning our own styled photo shoot to build our portfolio. We were at the cusp of a trend that we all wanted to be a part of which was photographing adventure elopements.

Photos of the Andres dress by Destination Anywhere Photography

At the same time, I started to dream of taking my husband to Greece for our own photo shoot. Walking barefoot in Santorini around the white-washed caves, up and down cobblestone stairs and the famous domes with crosses is what I envisioned. With the Mediterranean sea as a viewpoint, I wanted an epic vacation with the most dramatic photoshoot for myself and my husband.

So, I searched for months for the perfect outfit and finally came across a gorgeous skirt, now known as Skye. The color was sky blue, hence the name, with a gorgeous full tulle skirt and long train. She had a painted layer on the underlayer, and unlike any other skirt that I’d ever seen. She was unique and full of dimension. I booked our trip almost a year in advance and lined up another photographer friend and her husband to meet us there in October 2020. This was going to be a trip of a lifetime!

Skye is an epic blue-painted tulle skirt with a long train. What makes her unique is the extra “painted” layer on blue and white satin that brings added depth and dimension.

Skye is an epic blue-painted tulle skirt with a long train. What makes her unique is the extra “painted” layer on blue and white satin that brings added depth and dimension.

Photo of Skye skirt by Shana Bailey

AUGUST 2020

The entire world has been shut down, in the middle of a pandemic. 2 months prior to our intended vacation, our flights cancel. I was devastated. I must have posted about my disappointment on social media. Out of nowhere, an event planner reached out to see if she could rent the skirt. I said, “why not” totally hiding under my disappointment that it was a skirt meant for “our photoshoot!”

She used it for a styled shoot off the coast of Rhode Island, and it was such a hit, that my skirt literally went “viral!”  Photographers and other event planners started reaching out to me to find out what “other” dresses I had in my closet. Since I was building my own portfolio, you bet I had some! And when I recognized that I may be the only dress renter on the East Coast, I built an IG page to show off my dresses. My original name was “Rent The Loft” because I had an amazing photography loft. It then morphed into The Wild Love Collective, for my love of all things “boho,” but especially boho-style wedding dresses.

THAT is exactly how my dress rental business fell in my lap. Literally, it started with a styled shoot and a need for epic dresses!

At any other time in history, it may not have been so simple. As the pandemic took hold, people were leaving their jobs, looking for work they enjoyed. Many people left their jobs specifically to become a photographer while part-time photographers became full-time. A new generation of photographers started finding me and renting my dresses. They needed epic skirts, boho wedding dresses, and couture gowns to build their portfolios, and I had what they needed and wanted.

Photo of the Gatsby gown by Alyssa Rae Photography

As time progressed, other dress rental companies started cropping up, and I started working specifically with my own seamstresses to be sure that my dresses were always different. I found my niche in epic skirts and boho wedding dresses.  Not copying, but being completely different in my offerings of dress choices is how I differentiated myself.

I can’t tell you HOW many people have reached out to me to ask “how do I start a dress rental business?” So I’m going to tell you how I got started. Keep reading…

But before I do, know that YOUR journey will be completely different from mine, for reasons that neither you nor I have control over. In 2020, the job market was shifting drastically, people were becoming photographers in droves while losing their full-time jobs, there was a huge trend on the horizon called adventure elopements ready to burst onto the scene, and the pandemic lead to social distancing where large weddings weren’t allowed. Seriously, those elements aligned. My first year was fast and furious, not having a website, doing all of my contracts by hand, and using social media to communicate.

Phoenix dress is a bold lace boho wedding dress with a unique front slit and low back

A gorgeous bride holding a bouquet to her chest, wearing a bold lace boho wedding dress

Photo of the Phoenix dress by Emily Arwine 

Want to read more about my business? Click here for 14 reasons why my dress rental company is different – and how it will benefit you!

7 ways you can get started on your dress rental business… or ANY business, for that matter!

  • Research, research, research, and dig deep within yourself! Find the Who, What, When, Where, and Why to get started, the same way you’d start ANY type of business!
    1. Is there a need? if so, WHAT is that exact need? Have you done research?
    2. Do you know your target clientele? WHO are you trying to rent dresses to? Research, research, research your ideal clientele. The more you narrow this down, the more success you will find.
    3. What is your WHY, the vision of your business, and the motivation behind your service? Your “why” is the mission that you stand for.  Want more info on this topic? I recommend the book – Start With Why by Simon Sinek. 
    4. Do market research – research the current trends in fashion, your niche, or what you’d like to sell/rent for gowns. What niche speaks to you?
    5. Ask yourself – what is happening in the world and would it make sense at this time? Sometimes timing is everything. Not always does a worldwide pandemic mean you can’t start a business… don’t let it hold you back, but be smart about what is truly going on in the world and calculate WHEN is the right time?
    6. Find wholesale providers. WHERE are you going to get your products from? Research, research research!
    7. Your brand:  YOU are your brand, not the logos that you create.  What can you do with a dress rental business to make it stand out differently from the other dress rental companies?

 

Rain, named for her silver mirror sequins, is the perfect dress rental for photo shoots. Why? This gown rental is so different from any other dress you’ve photographed. You won’t truly understand until you see her in person. Rain is an off-the-shoulder dress with “tuckable” spaghetti straps, and a sweetheart neckline, and comes with detachable matching lantern sleeves.

Elopement inspiration in Alaska, a bride wearing the gorgeous silver mirror sequined dress, Rain.

Photo of the Rain Dress by Connor David Photography

A few more pieces of advice specific to dress rentals:

  • I originally had dresses that I purchased “off the rack” before I even rented my first skirt out – not for a dress rental business, but for my elopement photography business. I was “up” on current trends in the wedding industry and knew what I wanted to photograph myself. But I was also always digging deep, looking for dresses that NO ONE ELSE had to could easily get their hands on.
  • Honestly, having a handful of dresses let me understand what types of dresses were in need. So I think it’s okay to buy a few dresses “off the rack” at the beginning. Just don’t buy what everyone else is renting. Make it unique. If you can’t find it, that’s when you’ll get good at building relationships with seamstresses and dressmakers and have a totally unique closet to rent out.
  • As with a photography business, remember: inspiration is one thing, but copying is another, and won’t get you any points (or business) for originality. Not being original will instead water your efforts down and leave you frustrated. Check out a book that was recommended to me before I started my business: Badass Your Brand by Pia Silva

It’s just a start, but exactly where you need to be! Good luck with your journey! Send me a note if you start YOUR dress rental business! Mentorships are on the way!

XO Sherry

Feature image at top of page: Photo of Skye skirt by Destination Anywhere Photography

ABOUT THE WILD LOVE COLLECTIVE

The Wild Love Collective is a dress rental company based in Boston, MA. Sherry is an international flight attendant who takes her dresses to photograph in her travels, and rents for photoshoots ONLY. Her rental clientele is comprised mostly of photographers, event planners, venues, models, influencers, and other wedding industry creatives like florists, wedding venues, and jewelry designers.

Other uses for these dresses include models and social media influencers trying to build their portfolio, Sherry’s clientele also includes mama’s looking for an epic maternity shoot; brides-to-be looking for a couture gown for an engagement shoot; or high school seniors for senior portraits.

Sherry’s dress rentals are NOT intended to be used for any type of event, including but not limited to: real weddings, real elopements, birthday celebrations, baby gender reveal parties, or any other type of events. Again, these dresses are NOT TO BE USED in a real wedding or event. Use them, instead, as a handy resource to help you save money on building your photography portfolio YOUR way!

Thank you for understanding! For more information, please read the Terms & Conditions listed on the website before you rent!

QUESTIONS?

If you have any questions while browsing my dress rental website, please reach out and ask! I am very accessible by email (sherry@thewildlovecollective.com) or IG messaging.  Sherry

Need a photographer? I photograph a limited clientele(Destination Anywhere Photography) but I can also refer you to someone amazing in your area.