Meeting Sarah is a joy- she’s the life and soul of her business- cheerful, hardworking but glam and incredibly openminded, cooperative. It takes a whole lot of strength and character to set up a business from scratch and this lady is not short of strength or grit. Growing up in Chicago, she’s adopted the city’s hard working ethics as well as it’s original repute for old European charm in Beauty (Art Nouveau) and style (fashion). Chicago continues to maintain it’s high end luxurious sense of style, but not everyone can afford it.. so what does one do? They share designer! If you’re blessed with friends that have a variety of stylish items and are willing to share…well, you’re blessed. But if you’re not, DesignerShare has you covered… meet Sarah Perkins, co-founder of DesignShare on how she plans to make sharing your fashion her priority.
A bit more about Sarah
I grew up in Lake Bluff, about 30 miles north of Chicago. I loved exploring, playing outside and writing as a child, but much of me has also always loved fashion and glamour. I would dream of the women I would become, the types of outfits she wears and events she goes to. My role models have been my parents for their work ethic and kindness, but also my grandfather for his entrepreneurial spirit. I aspired to be like the powerful women I’d read about in books and the ones I watched in movies—quick, assertive, while always being impeccably dressed. I studied marketing and English at Santa Clara University, and received my masters in journalism from DePaul University.
I’ve lived in the Chicago area my whole life. I’m still so enchanted by this city—the shops on Michigan Avenue, the beauty of the lake and green spaces, and the unique architecture continue to take my breath away. But most importantly, this city has so much heart and tenacity. That pride and strength has been apparent from the Great Fire to today. Chicago has contributed to DesignerShare’s success by giving us an incredible community of supportive fellow entrepreneurs, mentors and investors. We also have the unique perspective of being in the Midwest—we have less competition in the fashion tech space, and we’re able to expand from the heart of the country outwards.
Her Chicago Hotspots
There are too many to count, but I’ll narrow down my top few: Intelligentsia Cafe on Broadway for the friendly staff and amazing hot chocolate, 3 Greens Market in River North to work, North Avenue Beach and the Lakefront Path to exercise and relax, Foursided for gifts, Henry’s for a great cocktail and sliders, Velvet Taco and D.S. Tequila.
Describe the Fashion- Tech niche
We are the first truly peer-to-peer marketplace for women to rent their designer clothing and accessories to one another. What we mean by this is that we are the connector and the women are the ones acting as entrepreneurs and consumers with each other—DesignerShare as an entity doesn’t own any of the inventory available for rent on the site, but our team members love to be users, as well!
Why decide on fashion lending?
Women naturally bond on sharing clothing and accessories. This was something I constantly did with my girlfriends in college—when we’d have big events coming up, we’d borrow mid-level designer dresses from one another. My business partner was thinking of a similar idea, and we came together on this at the end of 2015. I was inspired by my love of fashion, sharing with my friends and wanting to make a difference in the fashion community by bringing women together, instead of having them pitted against one another.
So does the shared economy apply to luxury retail?
Absolutely! We have chosen the niche of luxury as it makes sense to want to rent pieces at a lower cost or earn money back on them. We read in an article in Forbes last year asking where the “Uber” of fashion was. Our answer—it’s us!
How do you tackle competition?
Our smaller peer-to-peer competitors reside in New York, such as Humm and Style Lend. These businesses don’t have the exact same model as we do, in that we don’t hold on to any of the shareable inventory pieces on our site. We are also the low cost option in the space. The largest competitor is Rent The Runway, but we differ in that we are peer-to-peer (not a corporate face), have a wider variety of inventory and are much more streamlined in our costs.
Reasons why DesignShare contributes towards good
Our ultimate goal is for women to be empowered. We are also environmentally friendly in that we tout the importance of wearing high-quality pieces that don’t fall apart easily, reusing and recycling pieces in your wardrobe instead of buying new fast fashion items that end up in landfills.
Your daily mantra?
Taking things one step at a time and keep things in balance—if I’m not at my best, I can’t serve anyone else well. And if I’m overwhelmed, I try to take a step back and look at things with a different lens.
“She grinds from Monday to Friday, works from Friday to Sunday.”~Beyoncé