Admittedly, I had followed the rise of Larissa Walsh before we ever had a conversation.
As someone who hails from Melbourne, and girl with a relatively sound interest in fashion, it’s been pretty hard to escape. Rent a Dress, the business that does exactly what it’s name purports, gives young women unparalleled access to designer clothes when their bank accounts aren’t quite as generous.
The business model is a simple one: provide a platform for women to advertise the designer dresses collecting dust in their wardrobes, charge them a minimal cost for the exposure and watch as dress after dress is rented out.
For those in a particular university-aged demographic, it makes sense. Why buy when I can rent? Or, on the flip side, perhaps I will buy on the proviso that I’ll later rent it out.
Now 21, Walsh’s business is booming. Her social media following is far-reaching (her combined Facebook and Instagram reach is nearing 50,000) and her website well-crafted enough to separate herself from rookie competitors. From my research, Rent a Dress, which she carefully defines as a ‘shared rental platform’ (ie. Walsh doesn’t own the clothes but instead the platform they’re advertised on) is the biggest of its kind in the country.
But by her own admission, building the business to how and where it stands now wasn’t always her intention. In truth, the business wasn’t born from a light-bulb ‘this is brilliant’ moment but more out of a desperate grab for cash.
“The business started in the middle of my first year of uni which was June 2014,” Walsh tells Mamamia. “I had just started a new job in Elwood [in Melbourne] but it was seasonal. Earlier in the year, my boss had told me come winter, I’d need another job.
“I obviously didn’t listen to him and when June rolled around and the work dried up I found I had about $300 to my name and needed money quickly.”
So she grabbed a couple of dresses, threw them online and asked if people wanted to rent them out. The response was swift.
“I had seen a few girls selling their stuff through social media, so I thought, why not try renting them? At the time, I had this hatred for the dodgy way they uploaded photos and advertised their clothes, so I tried to make mine look as professional as I could and source the best photos I possibly could.”
If investing in the aesthetic of Instagram sounds wanky, if not a little shallow, perhaps you need to take a peak at Walsh's page. Crafting the aesthetic of a social media page has proved to be the foundation of her business. She had a brand from the outset. And there's no doubt - a slick, well-curated Instagram account makes you want to keep scrolling. It plays into our innate desire to look at nice things.