Being successful in a competitive market is all about finding a niche, adding a good dose of hard work, self-belief and a tone of passion. Elise Barker, founder of Urbn Gray, has this formula down pat with the launch of Urbn Gray – Canberra’s first boutique dress hire business.
Urbn Gray stocks incredible designer dresses and offers rental cocktail-wear at a fraction of the retail price while providing exceptional service and styling along the way.
I sat down with the lovely Elise to talk all about the launch of Urbn Gray, her style, where she draws inspiration from and what spurred the idea for this fantastic business.
Tell me about the idea behind Urbn Gray?
I have always been interested in small business, my family have been small business owners for the last 30 years and I have always had an interest in fashion. I have seen garment hire businesses in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth and so I really wanted to bring this concept to Canberra to get women to rethink the way they buy and wear cocktail dresses.
Was the launch of your business been a snap decision or was it a more gradual process?
About two years ago, I discovered designer rental boutique website, Something Borrowed, when I was looking for something to wear to a 50th birthday party and I couldn’t find anything. The event was two weeks away and I was finding myself getting stressed and ended up looking into dress hire. I realised this was actually a pretty big industry and I decided I wanted to learn more about it, with the thought of pursuing this idea as a business myself. At that time I was really busy working full time and it wasn’t until about four months ago that I really decided to go for it and put my all into this.
The process over the last few months has been full on! I have worked a lot with Katey from 180degree marketing, brainstorming ideas together on exactly how Urbn Gray was going to run, website creation, organising photoshoots, selecting stock and working on the social media and marketing side to things.
What can Canberra women expect from your service?
It will change the way that they shop for events! Customers can browse the styles on my website, then make an appointment to come in and try on the designs. They will pay roughly 20 per cent off the retail value of the dress, so essentially they are able to enjoy a beautiful dress, feel special for their event minus the big investment of purchasing a designer gown.
You collect the dress on Friday and return it by Monday, all of the cleaning costs are covered by us and we aim to ensure the entire process is as easy as possible – we will provide styling advice to suit each piece in the collection and can arrange drop off of items if the customer is unable to come and collect their dress.
What labels are on offer?
Sass & Bide, Asilio, Alice McCall, Manning Cartell, Bec and Bridge, Mischa Collection, to name a few.
Define your style…
I wear a lot of black, I am not a huge colour person. I am casual but I like to have a statement piece, so that might be a statement necklace or nice shoes. I am pretty pared back, I would love to be more adventurous!
What is your go-to outfit?
Distressed denim, black blazer and a grey T-shirt and black sunnies.
What is your favourite hang-out in Canberra?
Probably Akiba, or Shorty’s for a good drink.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
I love Alicia from Rebel Muse, I think she has done really well with the branding of Rebel, from the Instagram through to the store fit-out, she has done an amazing job. I would also say my dad, he has been in business for 30 years and he has taught me almost everything I know.
Finish this sentence: Success is….
Working together, especially in a small place like Canberra and we need to work together to build each other up and support one another.