Rachel Hennessy founded Happy Days, a fashion rental business, back in 2021 when she was stuck by a stark truth; fast fashion has created a demand for “newness” that has no place in a sustainable future. Hoping to encourage the public to rent, not buy, Rachel is helping to change the behaviours of fashion-lovers everywhere with her new venture. Here she shares more about the concept.
Tell us about you and your business
Just over a year ago, Happy Days was founded. Happy Days is a fashion rental service which is available online and in-store in Leopardstown, Dublin. Our vision is that renting rather than owning will be the first choice for occasion wear.
What is your mission?
The Happy Days mission is to lead in making occasion wear rental a first choice for fashion-conscious, ethical women in Ireland by making the widest range of dresses available in a convenient, accessible and fun way.
Did you always want to work in fashion?
My background couldn’t be further from fashion. I trained as an accountant in KPMG and then went on to work in finance in Google. I always loved clothes and during the pandemic started questioning my own shopping habits. I started buying second-hand clothes for myself and noticed lots of amazing second-hand designer dresses for sale for a fraction of the price. I thought there must be so many dresses hanging in people’s wardrobes unworn and the idea of Happy Days was born!
What kind of items do you stock?
We have over 400 dresses to rent but also have bags, coats and hairbands too! Popular dresses in store are from brands such as Rixo, Self-Portrait and Sister Jane. We currently stock sizes 6-26 and want to have as many styles as possible so that any person no matter their age/size/style can come in and find something to wear that they feel amazing in.
What new brands or items are on your radar?
I absolutely love Celia B and would love to have some of her colourful dresses in Happy Days. There are loads of amazing Irish designers that I admire including SML London, Lia Cowan Design and Sorcha O’Rallaghaigh.
Was money/funding a concern when starting out?
Absolutely. Luckily I had shares in Google to sell so that’s how I got the money to start Happy Days. There were a couple of grants I could avail of from the Local Enterprise Office which I highly recommend anyone starting a business look into. Unfortunately, it is still very hard to get funding as a start-up and with large growth aspirations, this is frustrating. The margins for a rental company are very tight, especially if you want to offer an affordable price to customers. I’m campaigning to get the VAT rate reduced on clothing rental and resale as this could make a huge difference to the circular economy. It’s currently gone to the European level so fingers crossed!
Best business advice you’ve gotten
Businesses fail on cash flow. Don’t take your eyes off the numbers.
Favourite sustainable style accounts to follow online
Fashion Revolution on Instagram is brilliant for highlighting the serious problems in the fast fashion industry and really opened my eyes to the terrible practices going on. Spice Vintage is my favourite for vintage fashion. Fionnuala Jones is a great person to follow for ideas on how to shop sustainably/second hand in a fun/non-preachy way. I also recently discovered Michelle Harrison on Tiktok and I love all of her thrifted outfits. I love that charity shop hauls are becoming a trend on TikTok. If it’s more normalised, more people will do it.
Best fashion purchase
Olivia Rubin Beatrix coat I found on Depop after 2 years of wanting it (for a fraction of the original price!!)
Other sustainable Irish brands you love
I absolutely love Aoife Ireland. Her ethos and values are so admirable. I visited her cottage last summer and it provided a lot of inspiration for the Happy Days store. There are so many new sustainable businesses popping up now which is so great to see as obviously, the demand is there for it. Pat Kane, the founder of Reuzi, is a brilliant voice on all things sustainability. She has been a great supporter of Happy Days since we opened and I love chatting to her about all things sustainability related.
Most useful learning since setting up a business
It may sound cliche, but ask for help. I have so many people in the background helping me and it would not be possible to run and grow the business without them. I count myself incredibly lucky to have a huge support network who are always willing to help out in any way they can. You absolutely cannot do everything yourself and the sooner you ask for help the sooner your business will grow and prosper.
Proudest moment so far
I just love when a customer comes back into the shop or sends us an Instagram message after their rental saying how amazing they felt in the dress and how many compliments they got wearing it. Especially when it’s someone who hasn’t been at an event in a while and was nervous about getting dressed up.
I want my brand to be remembered for…
Making people feel happy and confident in themselves.
If I could dress anyone it would be…
Nicola Coughlan. I adore everything that she wears.