Former Topshop boss heralds ‘enormous’ trend of women renting designer outfits3 min read

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Former Topshop boss heralds ‘enormous’ trend of women renting designer outfits from retailers to save cash and cut waste

  • Former Topshop boss Jane Shepherdson is director of London Fashion Fund
  • A weekly rental price is typically a tenth of the price of a new designer outfit
  • Main focus is women in 50s and 60s looking for outfits for weddings and work
  • Miss Shepherdson started renting when invited to event at Buckingham Palace

Jane Shepherdson, a former Topshop and Whistles boss, hails renting clothes as the 'obvious thing to do'

Jane Shepherdson, a former Topshop and Whistles boss, hails renting clothes as the ‘obvious thing to do’ 

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.

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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.

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

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) 

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.

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

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.’

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