Luxury On Loan: Fashion for Rent


Luxury on loan — the very idea seems contradictory. We tend to think of luxury as a way of life, a mode de vie that isn’t borrowed, but owned; an opulence we possess, live, breathe, practice.

But the most luxurious commodity of all is a thing that can’t be bought: time. And rental companies that provide clients with high end, designer garments offer just that — time and efficiency. And, of course, a killer outfit.

In the world of men’s formalwear, tuxedo rentals are a tried-and-true model. But in the cosmopolitan hubs of the world, new formalwear rental services for women are proving to be a booming business. There are services operating out of England, Australia, Toronto, and in New York — just to name a few. This niche market trend seems to be sweeping across the western world and reinventing the way we shop for high fashion.

So — how exactly does it work?

For those who dress strictly in haute couture, money is generally no object. The appeal of garment loaning isn’t necessarily about the savings; it’s about the ability to constantly reinvent oneself. It’s about the ability to dress your best at any event, and not worry about those knockout pieces gathering dust in a closet, retired after one event. It’s about building a wardrobe straight from the runway, with all of the glamour and none of the commitment.

The business model of these services vary from company to company; in some cases, clients attend fittings at a brick-and-mortar location, where they make their selections. Some companies offer a ‘wish list’ of sorts, allowing women to build a dream closet. The client makes a list of outfits and that list is then reserved on file, allowing for easy shopping in future. Last minute cocktail party? No problem — that little black Chanel dress is waiting. You already know the fit and the feel, and thanks to this hassle-free road to glamour, you know you’ll arrive in style.

When prospective clients don’t live near a show room, some companies offer consultations via Skype. Of course, there’s nothing quite like the reassurance of having tried a garment on, so for those who can’t, a ‘back-up’ size can be ordered — just in case. No need to lose beauty sleep, worrying that those cute Manola Blahniks will be too small; you’ll have options.

Another bonus of renting over buying? No after-care. Forget tedious trips to the dry cleaner; once you wear the garment, simply return it. And if you happen to spill a drop of red wine on the gown, don’t panic. Many rental services charge a small insurance fee so that the client isn’t saddled with the costs of normal wear and tear.

Many personal shoppers or concierge services are now partnering with these “rent to wear” companies to round out their list of luxury services, often hosting event gatherings to make the experience even more social.

One thing is certain: these companies take very special care of their clients. If multiple clients are attending the same event, they will cross-reference rentals to ensure that no two of the same dress appear. It’s the details that matter most, and these concierge services will go the extra mile to help a client arrive in a showstopper — and that this showstopper is the only one of its kind on the floor!

So when you’re planning your wardrobe this season, don’t think about buying the runway — rent it! It’s time to organize those closets and stop filling them with one-wear pieces. Fashion can be fleeting, but by changing the way we shop for haute couture, it’s easier than ever to arrive at that next gala dressed to the nines.