Donielle Brooke is the founder of Designer Wardrobe, a marketplace for women to buy, sell and rent pre-loved clothing. Having recently launched in Australia, Designer Wardrobe has been going from strength to strength since launching in New Zealand seven years ago.
We had a chat with Donielle about her professional journey, why she chooses to live by a circular fashion mentality and believes shopping pre-loved and renting garments is so important for the fashion industry.
Tell us a little bit about yourself - who are you and what you love?
My name is Donielle Brooke, I am 32 years old and recently engaged to my amazing partner Blair - we have a little fur baby called Beau, and I would describe myself as a true creative. After high school I got into hairdressing and did this for 9 years, during this time I would often dream up different business ideas, and the finally, 7 years ago I founded Designer Wardrobe, a marketplace for women to Buy, Sell and Rent preloved designer clothing. I work alongside Aidan Bartlett, who joined me on the DW venture right at the beginning, and our CEO Ruby Morgan who recently joined the team a year or so ago! We have 200k members - mostly women in NZ but we have just launched our Buy + Sell marketplace in Australia and have loved getting to know our members over there!
Can you share a little bit about your professional journey with Designer wardrobe - how do you get started? where did the idea stem from?
I started Designer Wardrobe when I was 25, I live by a circular fashion mentality, I love keeping clothes in use rather than them end up at the bottom of my wardrobe not being worn or worse in landfill. I found often found myself selling, donating or swapping outfits with my friends to keep my clothes in use. I eventually found selling & buying preloved items online a little dull and I would often wish there was a marketplace like DW, I just didn't think I would be the person to start it!
It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, that the idea became a possible reality. I remember sitting in my bedroom wondering how long I'd be unwell for, how long I’d be off work and how I could pay my bills - so I decided I needed to make money fast and I felt the best way to do so was to sell my clothing. I starting a Facebook group and from there if it did well, I would look into creating a real business. Months later, I had fought cancer, my FB group had thousands of members and they were very active and so I decided it was time to create the website and knew I wanted to do it with my partner of 7 years - at the time, Aidan who is still my business partner and best friend today. Together we have taken my idea to where it is and because of my history of going through cancer I know how to celebrate positive moments and feel proud of where we are today.
You have worked closely with your family throughout the whole designer wardrobe process - how has that been mixing personal with professional?
Yes, I work with my Mum, my Aunty, family friends and friends as well as mentioned above my ex partner and it works wonderfully. We have never had any issues, we all support each other, celebrate the positive moments and work extra hard during the hard time - we love achieving the goals we set for DW and have worked together for years. It's often warned about not working with family and friends but we honestly couldn't have gotten to where we are today without doing so!
You are such an amazing entrepreneur - what does a typical day for yourself look like?
Oh that's so nice, thank you! Every day is different for me currently at DW when I am not working on the overall day to day business with our CEO and COO I am a buyer alongside my Mum, the marketing manager. Asan entrepreneur you really wear so many different hats in your business, so it’s hard to say what a typical day looks like as they are often all so different, but exciting at the same time.
Since Auckland and Melbourne are both stuck at home right now - what are your favourite at home activities to do?
I have been super focused on work, during the weekends I have been doing a spring clean and getting out for a long walk and fresh air with my partner. I think it’s really important to make sure you have time outside each day to get some fresh air and a change of scenery.
You have opened a store in Christchurch and are now expanding in Auckland - where else do you see designer wardrobe going in the future?
As mentioned DW was created on Facebook, so I am super passionate about what social media can do for businesses. We put lots of time and effort into our social presence and recently in level 3 lockdown something that came up for our team was putting even more into Instagram. If you are a business owner who does not use social or use it in a low level way, who might be feeling the hit from Covid - I can't stress enough it's so impactful. To those who are not working alongside ambassadors I couldn't recommend it enough. Follow some people who you think align with you and your business (and don't just work with ambassadors with a big following as some people can stand for so much but have a low number following) you can team up in many ways, paid posts, gifted products or a long term partnership! This is the time that businesses need support so if you find people who you feel represent your business on social, go for it!
If you could give someone wanting to start their own business, one piece of advice: what would it be?
I am a big believer in owning your strengths and working alongside people who have your weakness as their strength! I see too many people dwelling on their flaws and letting them become a roadblock - for me, being dyslexic I have many weaknesses but I focus on my strengths and get on with it! If you have an idea, talk to people around you, get advice and you never know someone might be interested in doing it with you - if it feels right go for it - it's a fun ride!
We so love the philosophy of designer wardrobe - why do you think shopping pre-loved and renting garments is so important in the fashion industry?
I think it's important as it's a great tool to be smart when it comes to shopping, not only with spending but also for our environment. By buying Preloved items, renting when its a one off wear - helps you cut out fast fashion and consider buying from beautiful well made designers - like Lois Hazel!
How can people find you and be a part of DW even if they are based here in Australia?
We have just launched our buy & sell preloved marketplace on Aus - rental is still only in NZ, but we are so excited to be building such a wonderful community across the waters in Australia. You can check our Australian market place HERE