The best fashion rental sites London has to offer
Fashion rental services are suddenly everywhere, but what are they really good for?
The dependency on fast fashion in this country is hard to ignore - the proliferation of that Zara dress is a near-constant reminder. And many of us own clothes that have been worn once and then left to languish in the wardrobe until the next house move or KonMari session leads us to a clear out.
Often these are items bought for a special occasion - a black tie event, a wedding, a job interview - but are then too formal to wear again. Or perhaps once your outfit has been seen by all the other attendees and everyone who follows you on Instagram, you feel the need to retire it for a while.
Thankfully, a host of fashion rental services are cropping up in London in order to ensure that those one-and-done dress purchases are a thing of the past.
Renting your clothes might take a while to get your head around, especially if you're not old enough to remember the joy of browsing Blockbuster Video on a Friday night.
But if you've ever UberPooled home to your Airbnb you'll know that embracing the sharing economy can enable you to live a lifestyle that might otherwise be unaffordable. And though services like Rent the Runway are successful in America, London has lagged behind.
Frankie Graddon, fashion journalist and co-founder of The Wingwoman, trialed some of the new fashion rental sites this summer and was pleasantly surprised by what she found.
'Whenever I’d looked into fashion rental services I’d found the selection on offer wasn’t hugely stylish so it never really appealed,' she explains. 'I wanted to rent the clothes I’d put in my Matches basket but couldn’t really afford - or pieces that plugged gaps in my wardrobe.'
It turns out that the brains behind the new generation of rental sites offered just that, and Graddon was quickly sold on sharing. She even found herself making much more adventurous style choices than she would have done when shopping.
'Suddenly I could wear clothes I couldn’t afford,' she says, conspiratorially. 'I wore an embroidered Vilshenko dress to dinner and felt a million dollars - there’s no way I could have justified spending that amount of money on a dress normally.'
The events of the summer - weddings, hen dos, holidays, festivals - can easily lead to last-minute fast fashion splurges followed by instant guilt. But renting your wardrobe can have year-round benefits.
Christmas party season and New Year's Eve, for example, will see many of us sprinkling our wardrobes with sequins and sparkles never to be worn again. While the end of the year is also littered with work award ceremonies that call for cocktail attire or formal gowns that are expensive and can be daunting to shop for. Maybe your weight fluctuates and you find you can't fit into something you already own.
But renting your wardrobe is about more than statement pieces and big occasions. Perhaps you're planning to change jobs soon, and want to make a great first impression.
But with multiple rounds of job interviews the norm today, you might quickly cycle through your smartest attire.
'I’d definitely wear rented clothes to an interview or meeting. I have a horrible habit of spilling things so I was really conscious of this when wearing rented clothes. There was a beautiful white dress I rented which I was going to wear to a barbecue but decided against it as I couldn’t handle the stress of it all.
But I’d happily wear rented clothes to a more formal event where everyone is on best behaviour - and I am only drinking clear liquids.'
The need to look after the clothes you rent is a given as many sites will charge you the full cost of replacing a damaged item, although you can usually take out insurance against minor damage for a small fee. But as 'well-loved clothes last' adopting a careful attitude is all part of ditching so-called disposable fashion and building a more sustainable future.
The UK fashion rental market has exploded somewhat over the last few months, enabled by technology and social media, as well as public demand. All of which have helped shape the user experience on different platforms, each of which has its own style identity, rental process and subscription model.
'Hurr Collective and Mywardrobe HQ are fabulous for cult and designer brands,' says Graddon. 'The shopping experience is straightforward and the customer service is attentive. I love the curated edits of Onloan too - it takes the hassle out of browsing.'
Currently many of the rental sites are invitation only or have a waiting list but there's no harm in applying to a few. While you wait to get accepted, the best way to get to know which might be right for you is to interact on social media: many use Instagram to share new stock and craft their brand image.
The focus appears to be on straight-sized fashion at the moment, but services that offer or specialize plus-size options need to follow in order to make this an inclusive solution. There will also likely be huge demand for stylish maternity wear to rent.
Graddon plans to continue exploring the sharing economy, and hopes other people will be tempted by the 'straight forward rental process.' Next on her list? 'Cocoon Club offers designer bags on a monthly rental basis,' she says. 'I quite like the idea of having a new designer bag every month.'
A wardrobe update at a fraction of the price without the guilt, could this be the future of fashion? Scroll down for the fashion rental sites to know about in 2019.
The best London fashion rental sites
This peer-to-peer site that allows you to rent clothes off other users is currently invite-only. All items have a retail price over £150 so expect plenty from the contemporary brands dominating the London fashion scene right now as well as big ticket items.
For a £99 monthly fee (plus £250 holding fee in case of damage) you have access to a treasure trove of designer handbags - think Prada, Miu Miu, Chloe and Chanel - one of which you can rent for up to six months at a time. Perfect if you want to experiment with something fun or need a specific style for a one-off.
My Wardrobe HQ
Pricing starts at 10% of the RRP for an item on this peer-to-peer site. Items can be delivered in two-hours in London, making last minute panic buys a thing of the past. A subscriber service (£9.99 monthly fee) offers member benefits, including 'My Dressing Room' where stylists will deliver up to 50 selected items for you to try on at home.
Rather than a facilitator of peer-to-peer sharing, Onloan owns a curated selection of pieces from cool contemporary labels and rents direct to its customers. Two subscription models are currently available: for £79 a month you will receive two rental items a month with a value of about £400, for £149 you'll receive four items with a value of about £800.
Dubbing itself 'The AirBnB of fashion' this site is another peer-to-peer platform that offers Instagram-approved brands to its customers (nothing high street allowed). Expect to pay about 5% of the RRP per day for your chosen item, with terms on length of rental and final cost being up for negotiation.
For fans of high concept fashion - expect to find vintage Comme des Garcons, Issey Miyake, Junya Watanabe and Maison Martin Margiela pieces for rent from the Higher Library. Offering a subscription model of £140 a month for two pieces of clothing, there are also pay-as-you-go rental options too.
Designer dresses from brands such as Alexander Vaulthier, Dolce & Gabbana and 16 Arlington can be borrowed for four or eight day periods. Offers a shop by size feature that makes the process simple. A concierge service, exchanges on items that don't fit and the ability to select next season looks set this apart.