I Rented an Hermès Birkin Bag From This New Chicago Start-Up

A Chanel bag. A Birkin bag. That sounds like a dream closet. Just like you can live in a dream house for a week with Airbnb, you can walk around with a thousand dollar bag – or like I did –  with a $19K Birkin Bag for two weeks with the new Chicago startup, DesignerShare.

“Women love to bond over this idea of sharing their clothes and accessories with one another,” Sarah Perkins, Co-Founder of DesignerShare, the first peer-to-peer marketplace for women to rent their designer clothing and accessories in Chicago.

We’ve all envied our friends closet at one point or another – or borrowed a friend’s shirt or a sister’s earrings. But, it becomes another level when that closet includes Chanel and Hermès.

Windy City Cosmo sat down the Co-Founder of DesignerShare to learn about how some of the most coveted items in fashion are now being shared with other women in Chicago. And then, I share my experience with the service and what it was like to rent a $19K Birkin bag for a two-week vacation.

I’m ready for the weekend! Who’s with me? 👋

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The Story Behind The Chicago Start-Up:

DesignerShare started with a problem, as most startups begin. In college, Sarah Perkins had too many sorority formals to attend and not enough outfits. So, she borrowed from her friend’s wardrobes – something that resonates with a lot of women.

Rent the Runway was actually starting when Perkins was in college and she thought “I’ve done this. I just haven’t monetized it yet.”

There are other places you can rent handbags and shoes and clothes from – but all designer, and all from your peers? Nope.

Monetizing an Idea:

Having an idea is great, but finding an idea to fund it is another story. Windy City Cosmo has spoken with a bunch of female entrepreneurs. Some reach out to their network and alumni like this 3D printing jewelry start-up and some do a mix of e-mail outreach and venture capital funding, which is what DesignerShare did.

For pricing, they looked at their competitors and other sharing economy companies. They did a heavy pricing analyst.

Sarah shared the mentality, “We want everything and we want it now. We want it cheap. But people will pay for the convenience. We really focus on being fast and efficient and wanting to make sure the experience was everything she wanted.”

The start-up had an office in 1871 and used some of their resources to grow their business. They also did rounds of venture funding and used PR to gain exposure. So far, they have several articles on sites like The Chicago Tribue and DNAinfo.

They even held a  runway event at the rooftop at The Godfrey Hotel in October 2017 with other entrepreneurs like makeup and hair startup for employee perks, The Lisa App. 

Finding Balance as an Entrepreneur:

Business wise it’s always a journey. How do you grow your brand and also stay sane?

“I was raised to have a lot of balance,” Sarah Perkins shared, “I go to bed by 10 pm and I wake up at 6 am to work out. I am non-functional if I don’t get enough sleep. I take the longest naps on the weekend.”

“I haven’t gone on vacation in 8 months. I think January I’ll have a few days.”

GirlBoss Was Right: Customer Service is Important:

“We don’t want to be mean girls. We want to be the friendliest shopping,” Sarah Perkins shared.

“No one wants to leave home. I’ve delivered to a girl at happy hour,” Sarah Perkins shared. “I walk into Monks Pub in the loop. It’s a very old bar. It’s one of those places with peanuts in the bar. And I show up and say ‘here’s your clutch for her friends birthday party this weekend.’ The customer said, ‘look at this customer service, you’re delivering to me while I’m having beers!'”

And the craziest part of the story is that Sarah is allergic to peanuts. So, she literally had to find the client, deliver the designer item, and leave before having an allergic reaction.

The customer said look at this customer service, you’re delivering to me while I’m having beers!

It’s not always delivery that equates to great customer service. Sarah Perkins describes a situation where one client was unhappy with a bag and within 2-3 hours they got her a new one.

The Dream Closet:

DesignerShare has expanded to 800 users and 700 pieces. Some notable items include Dyanasua bag from Gucci and two Birkin Bags.

Women Using DesignerShare:

“We really want women to look and feel great on a regular basis. We focus on the problem of people feel scrutiny in how they look, ” Sarah Perkins shared.

Clients use DesignerShare for a number of reasons  – sometimes it’s a birthday party or a vacation where women want to rent a bag or a dress.

Today, with the need to constantly go out and do photo shoots for blogging and business, it can get overwhelming (and expensive) to constantly update your closet. Chicago fashion blogger, Caitlin Patton shared in a recent blog post, “Personally, I don’t have the time or money to be spending thousands of dollars on new clothes just to take pictures in…”

It goes beyond photo shoots – sometimes it’s having a nice bag for a corporate event or an interview that can help give women a confidence boost.

Sarah also eluded to other times you want to look your best for – “like when you see your ex for the first time, you’ve got to turn it up.”

My Experience Renting a $19K Birkin Bag:

I rented a Birkin Bag – something I learned about from Gilmore Girls about and was like – who can afford a $19K Birkin bag?

Well, for two weeks, I got to be that person. And I couldn’t believe it. It’s fun to play dress up when you’re a kid – I use to make clothes out of sheets and wear clip-on earrings. But to actually play dress up from a dream closet as an adult was surreal.

I got to take it with me to visit my family in Boca Raton, Florida and then on a mini vacation to Orlando Florida for Mickey Christmas. And then I went to the Bahamas and took it with me as I had a few drinks with friends at the Bah Mar Resort. It was really nice to dress up my casual sundress and beachy vibes with a designer purse. But it also felt weird. My entire life and business worth cost less than this bag – so I tried to only take it out to classy places.

Let’s be real, a Birkin bag costs anywhere from $12,000 – $223,000, according to Fortune. I am so not used to walking around with something so valuable – it was a gift as much as it was a curse. There’s something different about renting an item from a person rather than from a company. It’s like when you spill coffee on your sister’s shirt – you know she’s going to be mad because it’s her favorite shirt. Well, I felt that liability when I rented this handbag.

The best part of my experience was customer service. I was speaking at a conference in the morning. Sarah had texted me about renting a bag. I literally got off stage and she found me a Birkin bag. On top of that, I was only home for an hour to grab my luggage and get to the airport. DesignerShare was able to work out all the logistics and deliver the bag on time so I could catch my flight.

The service was so personal and fast-paced. DesignerShare acts as a middleman between the borrower and the lender. They coordinate drop-offs by hand – without a scheduling app. They partner with Lyft to drop off and pick-up the luxury item and then they partner with Tide Spin for dry cleaning to return the item in the best shape back to the lender.

DesignerShare Empowers Women to Be Entrepreneurs:

What’s great about DesignerShare is that the women lending their items are like entrepreneurs. DesignerShare can help women take photos and they offer a suggested pricing model, which is 10 percent of the original worth of the item. But ultimately, a lender can deny or accept a request and they price their goods.

Lenders enjoy putting their closet to good use and earning money when they’re not wearing the items. We all can’t wear all our clothes at the same time.

Learn More:

To learn more about DesignerShare, you can visit their website here. 

DesignerShare had an office at 1871, an incubator in Chicago. 1871 offers events regularly and spaces for start-ups, you can learn more about their weekly events here. 











Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.


Meet the Business Woman Behind Chicago-Based BellaRosa

Meet the business woman, Jasmene Bowdry,  behind the chic, fashion store, BellaRosa.  

This Chicago-based shop was created with one goal in mind – to provide that extra boost of confidence, like knowing how to dress for your body type, every woman needs to step out into the world, no matter her personal style. Bowdry got her start in New York City where she was a successful retail buyer and fashion stylist with over 10 years of experience in the fashion industry.  As a buyer, she advises on current market trends and purchases relevant brand lines for Fortune 500 companies such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co., Sears, and more. Bowdry’s fashion expertise also extends beyond the boardroom as she has styled top celebrities, with her work appearing in magazines VIBE, People, XXL and Forbes.

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Windy City Cosmo sat down with Bowdry at a pop-up event, Summer Time Fab – Fitness, Fashion & Beauty at Coalition Impact to learn more about her style and her success in the fashion world.

How did you learn about styling? Was there someone’s style you appreciated? 

Bowdry: By living in New York City and constantly being around and working in fashion. When you live in the fashion capital there’s always work, so you hear about different opportunities by remaining in the know of who’s who.

How did you build up your clients and following?

Bowdry: Most of the site traffic is driven by Instagram and Facebook. However being able to allow customers to see, touch and feel the clothing is important so I try to vend at popular events that fit my target audience.

Your site is for trendsetters – how does one start a trend?

Bowdry: A majority of trends come from the runway and then trickle down to the masses. But it’s really more about your confidence and you rock that trend. And you do that by being true to you. Rhianna started a trend by wearing exposed bobby pins to the AMAs. But that style isn’t new, ask any girl that lives in New York City about a doobie wrap, been doing it for decades. However, Rhianna took something and made it her own.

What’s been the best part of running your own business? What’s been the worst?

Bowdry: The best part of running your own business is seeing the vision you imagined actually come to life. There’s no worst. It all is a part the process. I look at every experience as a learning opportunity.


Gucci’s New Marketing Campaign Gets Basic

In a high-end world, maybe it’s basic posts that will resonate with your audience the most. 

Gucci started a new marketing campaign on Instagram turning its luxury brand into a cheeky meme.

Using the hashtag: #TFWGucci, Gucci worked with international meme creators and artists including Polly Nor, Amanda Charchian, Goth Shakira and Olaf Breuning to showcase Gucci’s timepieces. Each meme is witty and in the caption, Gucci describes the artist’s intentions as if we were at an art museum.

I think their campaign works because while being amusing and relevant, it also resonated with the Gucci brand of being classy and intellectual. Even Mashable gave Gucci an “A+ for effort” while at this same time the marketing campaign is making people “cringe.”

Below are a few of my favorites. What do your think of Gucci’s meme campaign?

“When you go to spin class to escape time but your glam is infinitely on point.”

#TFWGucci The work of LA-based artist @amanda_charchian is characterized by her uniquely female-focused approach to the Surrealist tradition. With mysterious, witchy characters—think a crystal-incrusted spider sculpture that trembles in the wind, or a circle of ginger women linked together by their braided hair—they’re impossible to forget. It’s no wonder that her career spans both the fine art and commercial fashion world, and has included both gallery shows and editorial commissions for Vogue Italia. Her collaborative memes for #TFWGucci with the hilarious @textsfromyourexistentialist create a feminine duo: sensual, funny, and unapologetic, with an underlying darkness from the eponymous philosophy. – Text by @tatianaberg. Discover more through link in bio.

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Saying No to Brunch and Uber: How to Be Single and Save For a Home
As a single, city girl I am starting to think of my future and that means saving for a condo in Chicago and investing in my career – two things that are harder to do when I don’t budget.
I recently went through all of my tabs with Uber and discovered that from January 2016 to August 2016, my Uber expenditures increased by 70 percent. Seventy. Damn. It hurts to realize that cashless transactions like Ubers and Starbucks re-loads might not be the best life choices.
There’s nothing sexy about finances. Whether it’s admitting that you spent $1000 on food or doubled the amount you spent on Uber riders this month. But if you want a 401K and a home, it’s something to be mindful of.
So where do we begin – purging your clutch or balancing you checkbook?
I met with a lifestyle guru, Grace Keller, Founder of Saving Grace. With a background in corporate finances and life experience of buying the Louis Vuitton bag and purging it from her closet,  she mixes her strengths to help clients have more money in their wallets and more space in their closets.
Grace realizes that it’s more about the emotional attachment than anything else.
She says that everyone has two parts – their professional self and the social self.
Grace mentioned that her and her husband went to brunch every weekend and in doing a financial check realized that they were spending $60+ on basic breakfast foods at and The Goat for breakfast.
People think that you won’t have friends if you don’t go to brunch or that you won’t get an invite anymore if you turn down events to save. This is what Grace calls the “social self”.

Social Self:

Your social self is the pleaser. You think someone will think less of you because you can’t afford to go out or buy a new dress.

Professional Self:

Your professional self serves a purpose. It puts longer term investments like education and real estate above short term gains like mimosas.

Things to Consider When Budgeting:

As a city girl, it’s easy to get caught up in happy hour, weekend trips, and lush dinners. And even more so on new clothes – which we’ll get to in a second.
The problem is deciding if we go to Grad School or take a trip to Paris or spend $200 at the bar.
The fact is that we sometimes don’t decide, we just do – which is why budgeting is so important and yet so hard.

Savings: What You Need in Your Bank Account:

To take care of yourself, Grace suggests that you have $1,000 in your emergency fund. This is for unaccepted occurrences like car repairs or health bills.
Additionally, you need about 6-8 months of savings in case you lose your job.

Daily Spending:

So what about spending – how do you know if you should stay home or go out?
“If you’re not going to remember that $15 drink then don’t do it,” Grace advises.
Overall, she advises that to meet your financial goals you need about 80 percent discipline.

Saving for a Home:

There are some large purchases in our lives. Some are cars, education, vacations, and real estate.
Grace had me question what I thought was vital – like a car. She said that with vacations and cars you want to make sure “you’re not relying on plastic to get you there.”
Depending on what you are budgeting for, it’s important to look at it as a fixed cost so that you will reach your financial goals.

Financial Tips:

Everyone has their own method to saving and budgeting and spending. Grace recognizes that it’s a discipline.

If you’re starting out, Grace recommends the Acorn app. One of her favorite financial books was given to her by her mother, Suze Orman’s “Young, Fabulous, and Broke.”

She also advises that when you do find Mr. Right you want to find someone with the same financial values.

Cleaning Out Your Closet:

One of the biggest investments  – and I think one of the most fun investments – is in a new wardrobe for your work life.
Grace talks with clients about finances, but she also helps them with another emotional aspect of their life – cleaning out their closets.
She spends time with them to understand why we have certain garments to our clients and to really ask ourselves if we wear a piece or it’s just sentimental.
“Sometimes we need that visual cue that it’s not doing anything for you,” Grace says. She advises her clients to do little tricks like changing the direction of hangers to see if you wore them.
While we ditch the trendy pieces, we also ditch clothes as we age. Grace is in her thirties and no longer wears mini skirts.
She also mentioned that The Today Show a did a piece stating that 53 is the age cutoff for buying a new pair of jeans because it’s “not worth the trouble.”
Letting go. It’s a common theme in cleaning out your closet and budgeting for a home.

5 Fashion Trends to Embrace This Fall

Grab your infinity scarf, your saddle boots, and your pumpkin spice latte, because fall has officially arrived. In addition to the beautiful weather and the cozy, fireside nights, there are a few fall styles you can look forward to this season.

A Stylish Turtleneck

Turtlenecks have a bad rep over the last few years, but don’t dismiss this style just yet. E! Online cites Fergie’s turtleneck as the “it” piece that’s missing from most of our wardrobes.

“Up until recently, turtlenecks had a false reputation for being overly conservative, frumpy, and unflattering,” wrote E! contributor, Raleigh Burgan. “But when styled correctly, this cold-weather classic can transform your entire ensemble and—dare we say—make you look incredibly cool.”

Follow Fergie’s fitted, tucked-in style, and you can’t go wrong.


Pleats are another style brought to the forefront of fall fashion, thanks in part to the attachment of a notable name—fashion icon and British royalty Kate Middleton. Middleton’s fashionable pleated skirt featured in Mirror perfectly exemplifies a fall-appropriate style that is sophisticated and fun.

A classic pleated skirt like hers, in a floral pattern or dark, fall colors (think shades of maroon, navy, and reds) can be the perfect way to take advantage of those wistful days and still look flirty and feminine.


Plaid is always a good go-to for fall styles. From button-ups to trench coats to scarves—if you slap a plaid pattern on it, it’s fall-ready. If you’re really feeling bold, a Daily Mail article suggests that you can combine two pieces to really hit the nail on the head.

Binky Felstead wore a ’90s-inspired, plaid shirtdress for her appearance on the weekly British cooking show, Sunday Brunch, and fans were left itching for much more information on her style than her cooking techniques. It might be hard to find a plaid shirtdress similar to hers, but if you can, grab it and hang on tight. A cute ’90s choker necklace and a pair of black booties will complete the cozy, retro look.

Shearling Jacket

If temperatures are already dipping into the 50s in Chicago, NYU Local recommends a shearling jacket. Although they’re traditionally made with sheepskin/lambskin and wool, there are great faux options out there that can help you achieve a similar look.

A suede exterior or fall-appropriate shade of brown, red, or orange can help you easily satisfy the trend. They usually look best over a fitted shirt and classic pair of denim jeans. You can also try the coat over a pencil skirt and boots to change things up a bit.


Black leather to be exact. Jackets are the hottest commodity, but Saint Laurent’s latest line available on Lyst shows that it’s easy to achieve the trend with other pieces. You could try something like the featured leather bustier top, or put a classic twist on the trend with pair of black leather booties.

No matter how you decide to sport the style (and faux leather is always accepted). As long as it’s sleek and black, you can still achieve the chic and sexy look.

Enjoy the weather, and the fashion it brings while you can because winter will be here before you know it!

This article was written by:  Stacy Jameson

Stacy Jameson is a freelance writer and blogger based on the East Coast. She is thrilled to finally be dusting off her fall jackets. When she’s not writing, you can find her shopping or enjoying a cup of warm cider with her two cats, Milo and Chester. She’s been working on knitting her own infinity scarf all summer long.