One Fit Hire owner Kahu Henare dressed in the Beca Plisse ensemble. Photo / Provided
Public interest journalism funded by NZ On Air
A Maori-owned clothing rental business is leading the way in the change from plus size fashion to wāhine.
Kahu Henare is the 24-year-old business owner of One Fit Hire, a clothing rental service that offers quality, event-worthy clothing in sizes 6 to 26.
Not only does Henare run her own business through a storefront in Newmarket and an online platform, but she is also a full-time occupational therapist working in mental health.
The young entrepreneur says she is passionate about both professions. Bringing what she’s learned to the practical side of her business, Henare sees the intersection between mental health and plus-size fashion all the time.
“I see it in regular people coming in. I think seeing the confidence of girls and even girls walking by and being like ‘oh my god, I was just broke down at home and now I found this dress and I feel so much better.”
“I always make a big deal out of the girls how amazing they are because I’ve only met them for half an hour, I never know what’s going on with them. As long as they had an adorable experience finding dress “.
Henare started OFH 5 years ago after a bad shopping experience trying to find a school prom dress.
“I’ve always grown up with a tall girl since I was younger and I’ve grown up with girls that are shorter than me. I didn’t really think it was a big deal until I went to the my school prom in 13th grade and I couldn’t find a dress”.
The rental shops were a failure. Henare was unable to find a dress that fit her body type and says she felt inadequate because of it. With the experience etched in her mind for the next two weeks, Henare realized, “oh wow, these stores aren’t really suitable for my body. I’m 17 and if the stores aren’t suitable for my body at this age so what’s out there for people who are taller than me?”.
With the lack of good quality, plus-size options in New Zealand malls or through other clothing rental companies, Henare’s mother suggested renting the clothes she already had to help out. other women like her.
She says her motivation is driven by the way other people treat women over 16. She thinks women tend to be misinterpreted when it comes to what they wear.
She also thinks there’s a stigma behind the fact that if you’re over size 16, you shouldn’t wear clothes that show a bit of skin.
“I try to incorporate very ‘risky’ pieces to encourage other wāhine to feel like they can wear whatever they want, it looks good and they feel good too. We talked about the way the options available in the stores don’t really reflect what women should be wearing, so if I can be that person who has some clothes that women would like to wear, that’s a bonus for me.”
The company’s social media presence continues to grow, with over 7,000 followers on Instagram.
Henare acquired store space earlier this year through Facebook Marketplace on Broadway in Newmarket alongside many popular boutiques. She says the opening of the store has changed everything about her brand as she is now able to attract more people.
Longtime client and model of OFH, Angel Lerm, says it has changed her life and taken a huge weight off her shoulders.
“As a more curvy girl, it’s not always easy to find your size in every store you go to or even just something flattering for your body type… She (Kahu) saved me from constant curls around from the mall looking for something to wear to an event, she saved me from ordering something online and being disappointed because it didn’t fit.”
Lerm says these types of businesses are important because we’re not all built equally, their inclusive range has provided a platform to remind women that “we all deserve to feel good about ourselves and feel good about ourselves.” ‘to have confidence with whatever body we are in’.
Henare moved from Wellington to Auckland before starting his business. She says access to high-quality women’s clothing can be more difficult in other parts of New Zealand, especially in rural areas.
Tiana Foua, customer and owner of her own online plus-size clothing rental business Curvy Girl Hire, says there aren’t many stores that cater to taller women in her hometown of Taupō.
“I’ve always had anxiety walking into a store looking for something to try on only to walk away with nothing because I couldn’t fit it! Renting dresses shouldn’t be hard as than plus size women, we need more stores that do what One Fit Hire and I do,
we have to cater for all shapes and sizes.”
With OFH’s Instagram filled with photos of ecstatic clients in their rented outfits, Lerm says it makes a huge difference for people to see the dresses on a real body instead of a professional model.
Henare says social media can have a big impact on people’s mental health and influence women’s perspectives of themselves. As such, she strives to incorporate body positivity and self-love messages on the company’s social media pages because of it.
When asked what change the country needs to make to see the impact she is creating, Henare says retail stores need to be more accessible, not just online, and they need to offer dresses that have the ability to s fit a range of sizes, not just one. Affordability and quality style options are also important.
“I believe fashion is a true expression of yourself and what you stand for and what you feel and love, if people don’t understand that it kind of translates into self-confidence and then your sanity, and it just comes back to sanity again, you know?”.