Renting out my clothes has made me over £32K in a year – and helped the planet

The pyjama set by Sleeper, featuring pearl buttons and detachable feathers, is always in demand. Kelly Chamney rents it out for £43 per four days. (Supplied)
The pyjama set by Sleeper, featuring pearl buttons and detachable feathers, is always in demand. Kelly Chamney rents it out for £43 per four days. (Supplied)

When Kelly Chamney, a 32-year-old mum-of-two from Warwickshire, first started renting her clothes, she had no idea it was going to change her life. Now, she’s made more than £32K in just over a year and quit her full-time job in digital advertising to pursue clothes rental as a business.

I first discovered fashion rental in September 2021. I was in the middle of planning my wedding in the height of the COVID-19 crisis and had to plan my big day quickly, in case restrictions changed again.

My wedding dress stayed the same, but I had my eye on an evening dress: a sequin RIXO dress that I knew I wanted to rent. It was something that I only planned on wearing for a couple of hours on my wedding night, so I didn’t want to fork out hundreds of pounds for it.

I discovered a clothes rental app called Hurr and remember wondering why I hadn't heard much about it before. I already had a few designer pieces just sitting in my wardrobe and decided to put them up for loan too just to see if anything came from it – if nothing else, the dresses might end up paying for themselves.

Kelly Chamney (far right) put her RIXO bridesmaid dress on a fashion rental platform to see if she could make back the money spent on it. She hires it out for £47 per four days. (Supplied)
Kelly Chamney (far right) put her RIXO bridesmaid dress on a fashion rental platform to see if she could make back the money spent on it. She hires it out for £47 per four days. (Supplied)

When I went to put a few of my dresses on loan, I had no idea that it was going to change my life completely. Up went a RIXO dress I had previously worn as a bridesmaid to my friend’s wedding. Then another RIXO dress I had bought off eBay but never got the chance to wear. And finally, a beautiful silk dress by the designer Roksanda that I ended up wearing on the evening of my wedding since I couldn’t find the sequin RIXO anywhere.

Read more: Borrow not buy to save the planet: 5 best fashion rental sites in the UK

To my surprise, all three dresses were booked within the first week of me joining the app – and they continued to get booked repeatedly.

My RIXO dresses were renting for just under £50 each, so I was able to quickly make back the few hundred quid that I had spent on them. The Roksanda silk dress was also in great demand too. It retails for £1.5K, so was definitely an investment piece, but I was able to rent it out for £200 per four days and make back that money spent.

Kelly Chamney rents out her evening wedding dress, a silk Roksanda, for £197 per four days. (Supplied)
Kelly Chamney rents out her evening wedding dress, a silk Roksanda, for £197 per four days. (Supplied)

At the time, my maternity leave was about to end. My children – then aged one and three – would go off to nursery, and I’d go back to working my full-time job in AdTech… or so I thought.

The cost of nursery for two children was insane, and when I started to factor in how much money I’d actually take home and how much time I’d get to spend with them, it didn’t make any sense.

That’s when I started questioning exactly how much money could be made on the app. If people can buy and sell things on eBay and people can make money on Airbnb, there’s no reason I couldn’t do the same.

I'd made £500 in my first month of using the app, and by Christmas I was making thousands. It felt so exciting to know that money could be made from my own wardrobe – something that I already knew and loved – but I knew that if I wanted to make a living from it, I needed to treat it like a business.

I never went back to work after either maternity leave and started treating the fashion rental like a proper full-time job from October 2021.

Kelly Chamney rents out her Hilda Venture dress by Reformation for £54 per four days. (Supplied)
Kelly Chamney rents out her Hilda Venture dress by Reformation for £54 per four days. (Supplied)

It completely changed the way that I shop for clothes. I’ve always tried to be smart about how I shop. I absolutely love a bargain and will buy things in off-season sales or will search through eBay and other second-hand sites for items on my wish list. I still do the same, but now, I only shop with intention.

I’ve always had a love for fashion, but over the years I’ve noticed more and more the amount of clothes that I would go through and give to a charity shop, or the number of dresses I’d wear once then leave sitting in the back of my wardrobe.

Now, I stop and think about every single one of my purchases. I’ve stopped shopping on the high street and instead invest in high-quality pieces that I know will last forever and that I will love for a lifetime.

Read more: What is greywater – and how can it save you money?

Of course, it’s great when the items are rented out, and I can make some money off it, but the most important thing I’ve learned is to stay true to myself when I shop. I want to love every single piece in my wardrobe. And I want everyone who borrows them to love them as much as I do!

I enjoy treating the app as if I am a personal stylist. I always try to get a good sense of who’s borrowing something – are they dressing up for something special? Will they be comfortable wearing this? Is there anything else I have that I think they might prefer?

I love seeing customers come back and say, ‘I got so many compliments.’ It’s the most rewarding feeling to know that my wardrobe has made so many people feel special. And I love that the app makes designer or expensive pieces more accessible.

Actor Emily Atack wore the Rat and Boa dress, which Kelly rents for £38 per four days. (Supplied)
Actor Emily Atack wore the Rat and Boa dress, which Kelly rents for £38 per four days. (Supplied)

Turning fashion rental into my main career seemed like the perfect combination of things that I’ve done in the past. My mum was a dressmaker, and when I was younger, I always worked in shops.

After I had my kids, at first I also set up a small business making baby clothes. So although I’ve never worked exclusively in the fashion industry, I know making clothes and sourcing fabrics has a massive benefit in terms of what’s made well and going to last. There are some brands I completely avoid because the quality isn’t there.

Read more: Why you should never wash your jeans – and how to keep them clean

Using the app Hurr has transformed my life. It reminded me that clothes should go beyond just a single wear – and that things are repairable. Now I’ve got a great relationship with my dry cleaner and a great seamstress in case of any mishaps.

Kelly Chamney has made more than £32K so far by hiring out her wardrobe on a clothes rental app. (Supplied)
Kelly Chamney has made more than £32K so far by hiring out her wardrobe on a clothes rental app. (Supplied)

It's changed my family’s life too. I feel like the power is in my hands now that I’m able to work from home and work around my children’s schedule. And if I want to spend some doing research into trends, I can also do that on my own time while the kids are in bed. I love that I can grow and scale my business on my own terms.

Read more: Are we washing our clothes too often?

I can’t wait to see what the future of renting looks like. I think that as sustainable fashion and circularity becomes more talked about, fashion rental apps will only continue to grow more and more. Ultimately it’s good for the planet (and your purse), and it feels so good to know that these pieces are getting the love and attention they should.