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A dress war is brewing between Perth’s fashion designers and hire boutiques after Only One Ashley founder Kate Watts opened fire on social media over the weekend.

She claimed boutiques were “killing designers” by buying dresses with the sole purpose of hiring them out, without seeking consent first.

“Please do not hire out garments if you see them for hire. This does not support us. There will be no label to hire if this goes on,” Watts pleaded.

“To have companies take my stock that I hit rock bottom to produce — kills designers.”

Only One Ashley founder Kate Watts claims dress hire boutiques ‘killing’ designers

Camera IconKate Watts at Ascot Racecourse in 2019. Credit: John Koh/ The West Australian

The Only One Ashley brand is stocked in Myer and is a favourite for Fashions on the Field events across the country. Spice Girl Mel B and Sunrise’s Edwina Bartholemew have also been spotted wearing the label.

In a now-deleted Instagram story on Monday, Watts said she had been flooded by direct messages since going public — some supportive but others with questions and criticism.

“Thank you to most and to others I only hope you consider this us my label, my business, my financial commitment, my life. What right does anyone else have to profit from it.”

Only One Ashley founder Kate Watts claims dress hire boutiques ‘killing’ designers

Camera IconPaul and Kate Watts at a Only One Ashley pop up at Enex. Credit: John Koh/ The West Australian

But Watts’ strong stand does not sit well with everyone, with a story in The West Australian drawing a fierce response.

“Once you sell something it’s not yours to then dictate what happens to it. Dresses, lawnmowers, carpet cleaners, cars, whatever. It’s all for hire. I wouldn’t buy a lawnmower I didn’t need more than once or twice, so why would I buy a designer dress to wear once or twice and leave it hanging in the wardrobe?” wrote one hire fan on Facebook.

“Sounds elitist to me,” wrote another commenter. “There are a lot of women that cannot afford the high prices of these garments. Maybe Kate Watts needs to either copyright or trademark each and every one of her garments and then try and enforce them. I am all for the dress hirers giving access to the garments at a realistic price point.”

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