Former Topshop boss heralds ‘enormous’ trend of women renting designer outfits

Jane Shepherdson, a former Topshop and Whistles boss, revealed she started renting clothes when she was invited to an event at Buckingham Palace

Jane Shepherdson, a former Topshop and Whistles boss, revealed she started renting clothes when she was invited to an event at Buckingham Palace

Jane Shepherdson, a former Topshop and Whistles boss, revealed she started renting clothes when she was invited to an event at Buckingham Palace

Shopping for the perfect outfit is so last year, according to a former retail boss who says more women than ever are renting clothes for big occasions.

Companies offering expensive designer items for a fraction of the cost of buying them have sprung up to cater for those who want to save cash and cut waste.

Jane Shepherdson, a former Topshop and Whistles boss who is now a director of London Fashion Fund, which helps new firms get off the ground, said: ‘It’s an enormous trend. Rental has to be the answer, as it allows you to really enjoy fashion without wearing it once and throwing it away. It hasn’t broken through to the mainstream yet, but people are accepting it as something that’s a possibility.’

When bought new, the items range in value from a couple of hundred pounds to thousands for designer dresses by high-end brands such as Victoria Beckham, but a week’s rental is typically a tenth of the price.

Women in their 50s and 60s looking for outfits to wear at weddings, parties and work are said to form a significant proportion of the market, while others just don’t want to add to the piles of clothes cluttering up their wardrobe.

Women in their 50s and 60s looking for outfits to wear at weddings, parties and work are said to form a significant proportion of the market (file image)

Women in their 50s and 60s looking for outfits to wear at weddings, parties and work are said to form a significant proportion of the market (file image)

Women in their 50s and 60s looking for outfits to wear at weddings, parties and work are said to form a significant proportion of the market (file image) 

Miss Shepherdson revealed she started renting clothes when she was invited to an event at Buckingham Palace. 

Mika Simmons, an actress who has appeared in a number of ITV and Channel 4 dramas, is a renting convert after trying the service for a red carpet event

Mika Simmons, an actress who has appeared in a number of ITV and Channel 4 dramas, is a renting convert after trying the service for a red carpet event

Mika Simmons, an actress who has appeared in a number of ITV and Channel 4 dramas, is a renting convert after trying the service for a red carpet event 

She said: ‘I could either wear something I already had, spend £1,000 on something new or I could rent. It was an obvious thing to do.’

The rental firms claim their process is similar to buying and returning clothes when shopping online. Some also offer insurance for damage, such as drink stains.

Mika Simmons, an actress who has appeared in a number of ITV and Channel 4 dramas, is a renting convert after trying the service for a red carpet event. 

‘I’d rather rent than wear a dress that I’m only going to wear once and which harms the environment,’ said the 44-year-old, who hosts the Happy Vagina podcast about women’s health.

The UK’s fashion rental companies are hoping to mirror the success of US firm Rent The Runway, which has millions of users.

Lifestyle blogger rents the clothes she wears as a ‘more responsible’ way of dressing

Mother-of-three Veronica Genest, 42, has been renting clothes for a year. 

The former JP Morgan investment banker turned lifestyle blogger, who lives in Chiswick, west London, uses My Wardrobe HQ because she was looking for ‘more responsible’ ways of dressing.

‘It’s when you want to make a wow impression at a party,’ she said. 

‘It’s great, and it’s roughly ten per cent of the retail price.

‘Last time I rented a dress with a retail price of over £2,000 and it cost £200 for a week. You wouldn’t find anything really special for £200 and you’d wear it once then it would end up in landfill.

‘I would love to get to a point where I never buy new dresses.’

Mrs Genest, who has three daughters aged six, nine and eleven with husband Jorge, also said working women do not want to spend a fortune on dresses for a series of work parties in December, or a conference.

‘I’m sure women who work in professional jobs could benefit,’ she said. 

‘And if you’re a mum there’s are occasions to rent something and feel amazing.’   

Anna Bance, founder of one of the UK’s biggest rental firms, Girl Meets Dress, said: ‘When we launched in 2009 during the recession it was about saving money. Now a key reason our customers rent is sustainability.’

While it stocks many designers, it also features high street favourites such as Phase Eight. Items start at £19 but stretch to £119 for a £995 Amanda Wakeley gown or £149 for a £1,100 Stella McCartney dress.

Other firms cater for women looking for a taste of red-carpet luxury. 

Newcomer My Wardrobe HQ offers a £5,000 Alexander McQueen dress for £500 and a £2,500 Tom Ford dress for £177. 

Founder Sacha Newell said: ‘We offer statement pieces that women are unlikely to wear more than once.’

Businesswoman rents clothes to wear something new each time she goes out to a party

India Sellars has been renting clothes for around five years for parties and work events.

The businesswoman, 34, from Portsmouth, who runs bridal shop Maids to Measure in west London [MUST KEEP], spends £50 to £150 on dresses she rents.

Miss Sellars, who uses Girl Meets Dress, said: ‘It gives a more varied wardrobe, it’s more sustainable and it’s still special having something new each time you go to a party.

‘It’s like any online purchase, you win some, you lose some, but you get to know the brands and sometimes it is a case of ordering a couple and finding the best fit. I tend to go for £50 to £150, if it’s above that you might as well buy. ‘Financially it makes sense.

‘Women are proud and think that renting a dress is cheap, but if we get rid of that stigma then it’s a bloody good idea.’

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