As the rental fashion trends begins to take off, Drapers road tests four platforms offering consumers the chance to hire their wardrobes.
Whether it is for sustainable motivations or frugality, rental fashion is having a moment. Over the past year, a range of platforms have stepped into the spotlight, offering consumers the opportunity to rent clothing rather than buy.
The concept is not new – bridal, occasionwear and tailoring brands have offered this service for years – but a wave of tech disruptors are bringing rental to a new audience. Most focus on cult premium womenswear brands, which they loan to shoppers for a limited time and for a fraction of the item’s original price.
Rental has boomed in popularity with millennials, and the trend seems to be set to continue. Market research company Mintel’s UK Fashion and Sustainability Market Report, published in August, found that more than half of millennials had either rented fashion or considered doing so. Mintel also found that the percentage of those millennials buying clothes every two to three months declined between 2017 and 2018.
Drapers put four names in the rental sector – Hurr, My Wardrobe HQ, Girl Meets Dress and Hirestreet – to the test. Each site was marked out of five for their website, the ease of use and their product (encompassing range, price and quality) and these were combined for a total out of 15. Items were ordered in mid-November.
Ease of Use: 4
A strong mix of brands and a slick website makes Hurr stand out from the crowd
Set up in 2018 by Victoria Prew, Hurr badges itself as the “Airbnb” of fashion, and offers peer-to-peer rental of premium womenswear. Drapers tested the rental side, rather than listing items.
The process is simple and clearly explained. Users can select items to rent for either seven or 14 days. Products can be exchanged and returned in person – the site includes the lender’s location – or posted, paid by the lender one way and the renter on return. Hurr provides reusable packaging. The renter selects the day they need their item and must trust the lender to send it on time. If it does not fit, it can be returned for a refund. Late returns incur a £25 fee each day after the deadline. All accounts are verified with photo ID for an extra level of security.
During November and December, Hurr has been hosting a pop-up in London’s Belgravia, which acts as a showroom and rental location – a clever decision ahead of the party season.
My experience with Hurr is extremely positive. I visit the pop-up and, ahead of my trip, I browse the website. Its appearance is sophisticated and premium, although the mobile site is not so responsive. It is also user-friendly. I am able to search and filter by size, type, designer, price and availability date, which allows me to quickly refine my options.
I can also browse by “occasion”, which is a nice touch. The section offers item and styling options for different events, ranging from brunch to beach to weddings. The sections are nicely styled and feature a good range of brands and products.
There is a strong mix online, offering both luxury and contemporary names – Rixo, Ganni and Ghost sitting alongside The Vampire’s Wife, Cecilie Bahnsen and Temperley London. Most dresses are priced £60 to £150, depending on the brand, retail price and season of the item. A few go up to between £300 and £500, but I find in-season items from popular brands for less than £100, and a Gucci dress at £114.
At the pop-up, the offer is more limited but, after ascertaining what I am looking for, a stylist brings additional items from the stockroom. Some outfits show small signs of wear, such as loose sequins or threads, but overall the quality is surprisingly good.
My seven-day rental costs £116. Given that it is a dramatic evening gown that retails for £490 and I only want to wear it once, this feels like decent value.
I am not required to clean the dress after wearing it, but Hurr offers the option of paying a £5 fee to protect against minor stains and damage. Renters are liable for any damage if they do not take this out. If the item is lost, not returned or damaged beyond repair, the charge is the estimated market value.
The return tracked postage costs £11 – this seems expensive in a world where free returns are the norm but, given the overall ease of the experience, I am happy to pay to ensure the dress is returned safely.
Ease of Use: 5
A lack of date search means finding what is available for a particular event is tricky
Most rental companies stock high-end and premium brands, but Hirestreet, founded in 2018, offers items at a slightly lower price point, albeit still with a focus on event and party dressing.
The process is simple and feels like the sophisticated set-up of a more established player. The site is neatly designed, and photos showing other renters wearing the items are a nice touch. However, I am unable to refine by date, so when browsing I do not know if something is available on the day I need it: I have to click on to each item to find out. I can filter by brand and size, and the site also offers occasion edits for “black tie”, “date night”, “New Year’s Eve” and other categories.
A lack of variety is a little disappointing. There are recognisable names, such as House of CB, Ghost and Never Fully Dressed, as well as many I am not familiar with, and I enjoy browsing, but many of the styles seem quite samey. Still, there are a huge number of products and I eventually find plenty of options available for my date. The rental period ranges from four to 16 days, and once I select that and a delivery date, I click through as I would on a regular website. The checkout is simple and swift.
Prices are relatively low, from as little as £12 for a Topshop dress retailing at £49. At the top end is a gown by One Fell Swoop for £75 retailing at £300.
I imagine this service will be popular with those hunting for a one-off dress to wear for a night out.
I pay £5 for the delivery of two dresses, which I am happy to do, as returns are free of charge and the fee also covers a cleaning cost. My items are delivered on my selected date and I also receive a pre-paid returns package. The items are in good condition, and there are no signs that they have been worn before. Two days before the end of my rental, a helpful email reminds me to return my items, which I do with no hassle.
My Wardrobe HQ
Ease of use: 3
The need to cover the purchase price of items up front limits my range of choices
Describing itself as “the UK’s premier destination for luxury fashion rental”, My Wardrobe HQ was launched earlier this year by Sacha Newall, the former head of sales and marketing at collapsed retailer My-Wardrobe.com.
At the end of last month, My Wardrobe HQ announced that it had appointed former Whistles chief executive and Topshop brand director Jane Shepherdson as its chairman – her first role in fashion since leaving Whistles in 2016.
Unlike Hurr’s peer-to-peer model, My Wardrobe HQ cleans, ships and stores users’ garments itself. Clothing is kept in a temperature-controlled storage facility, and designer items are authenticated by an internal team.
Every order covers the cost of dry cleaning and minor repairs – such as loose threads – up to a value of £10. Delivery costs £8 and includes a range of different services, including parcel delivery brand DPD and a greener option that uses electric vehicles for those living within the area of London’s North Circular Road. Returns are free.
Items listed on My Wardrobe HQ have two prices – to rent and to buy – and customers can opt to purchase the product if they wish. Users are required to register with My Wardrobe HQ’s payment provider, ShieldPay, but it is easy to do and my account is approved quickly.
To rent an item, users must have the funds available on their card to pay the buy price should they decide not to return it. This safeguards My Wardrobe HQ and makes it easier should you fall in love with an item, and want to keep it. However, it also dissuades me from choosing some of the pricier items available. Renting a Gucci dress for £235, for example, would require me to have £1,000 available on my card.
The modern, well-designed website is easy to use. Customers can either browse by their chosen product or by brand. There is a good mix on offer, including contemporary brands such as Needle & Thread, Self-Portrait and Rixo.
Luxury labels include The Vampire’s Wife, Victoria Beckham, Miu Miu and Roberto Cavalli. Bags and shoes from luxury names including Saint Laurent, Chanel and Valentino can also be rented. My Wardrobe HQ’s offer includes some new-season product, which gives renters access to the latest trends. I opt for an autumn 19 sequinned Self-Portrait dress, which costs £91 to rent for seven days (retail price £380). This feels like good value, given the season and its excellent condition.
[Note: My Wardrobe HQ’s policy to require the full purchase price on the card being used has been amended since this review was published.]
Girl Meets Dress
Ease of use: 4
The “Advance Try On” option and showroom provide stand-out service
Anna Bance founded Girl Meets Dress in 2009 after becoming frustrated that the existing rental market was geared towards menswear. Customers can now rent more than 4,000 designer pieces from 200-plus brands. Similar to Hirestreet and My Wardrobe HQ, Girl Meets Dress holds its stock centrally in its own warehouses.
The service shines. There is a showroom in Fulham, west London, where customers can try on dresses with a stylist. Online, as well as a live chat function, it offers an “Advance Try On” service, whereby users renting for an event more than
30 days in advance can try on items at home ahead of time, and then have them redelivered closer to the date. This costs £30, and Girl Meets Dress will refund the user for items that do not fit.
As the name suggests, Girl Meets Dress focuses on dresses, but it also has a selection of bags, hats and jewellery. As well as items from Ghost, Rixo, Self-Portrait and Perseverance London, shoppers can choose from luxury labels Marchesa Notte, Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen.
Next-day delivery and returns are free. Same-day is £20.
Although the website is easy to browse – users can shop for different occasions or by brand – it is not as polished and modern as Hurr or My Wardrobe HQ in terms of aesthetics.
I opt to try two dresses from Self-Portrait: a lace midi-dress, and a frilled, printed option. Both of the dresses I choose are a couple of seasons old, but are in perfect condition. Each costs £89 to rent for seven days, and would have originally retailed for about £300 each.
Rental is also available for two nights at a lower price, which is handy for a single event.