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Anna Bance

‘Have a one-night-stand with a dress’ Guardian feature

If you picked up any of the weekend papers last week, you will notice that the topic of renting is everywhere once again. The Guardian wrote a feature called ‘Have a one-night-stand with a dress’: the fashion rental revolution, written by Jess Cartner-Morley.

Jess has been writing about Girl Meets Dress for the past 10 years so nothing new to the topic herself, and the sentence “Hiring clothes, until now limited to fancy dress and morning suits, is being rolled out on to the frontline of fashion. It is too early to know whether this will catch on…” may not entirely be true… as it has ‘caught on’ all over the world a long time ago. The United Kingdom was in fact the first country to use this way of shopping since we launched in 2009. And Rent the Runway in the US the same year. In other countries, Australia, China and India, services followed and being used by millions of women all over the world every day.

…but with many brand new companies now launching here in the UK, the subject is inevitably once again being written about.

Read the article below:

“Instead of buying a new dress for each event, join the sustainable fashion movement and hire your outfit instead”

“Late in 1876, William Orton, then president of Western Union, received a proposal from Alexander Graham Bell. Bell offered to sell Orton the patent for his new invention, the telephone, for $100,000. Orton turned him down. “Why,” he scoffed, “would any person want to use this ungainly and impractical device when he can send a messenger to the telegraph office and have a clear written message sent to any large city in the United States?”

Hmmm. My point is: things that you don’t think will catch on sometimes do. Keep that in mind, for a moment, while I tell you that this season’s most daring party dressing trend is not a hemline, nor a designer – it is renting your dress, rather than buying it. Hiring clothes, until now limited to fancy dress and morning suits, is being rolled out on to the frontline of fashion. It is too early to know whether this will catch on, but it is an exciting possibility for anyone trying to square the circle of fashion and sustainability. And, well, stranger things have happened.

There are other logical ways to address fashion’s eco problem – we could just keep wearing the clothes we already have, or invest in a capsule wardrobe of ethically produced pieces that will last – but they require us to forsake fashion as fun. And fun is a crucial part of fashion. A rental model has the potential to include all the dopamine-hit elements – the thrill of the new, the joy of getting dressed up – while ditching the environmental wrecking ball of fast fashion. The cliche about millennials spending their incomes on brunch instead of houses may be just that, but it is true that our zeitgeist prizes experiences over belongings. And while we care as much as ever, if not more, about how we look at parties, weddings and even those salary-sapping brunches, the clothes we wear might well be rethought as an expense associated with an event, rather than an investment. Sequined dresses and dramatic LBDs are the most-wanted pieces on most rental sites. File alongside a blow dry, or ombre nail art, or your drinks bill, or taxi home.

The idea for rental platform Girl Meets Dress was born when former fashion PR Anna Bance realised that the practice of loaning designer dresses to celebrities to wear once for an event could be rolled out to civilians. Ten years on, Girl Meets Dress has a “wardrobe in the cloud” of more than 4,000 pieces to hire. “Sometimes you want to take an Uber, sometimes you want to drive the car you own,” says Bance. In the same way, she predicts “half of women’s wardrobes are going to move into the cloud”. Girl Meets Dress is simple to use: no need to subscribe, you can try on up to three dresses and only pay for the one you wear, and two-night dress hire costs between £19 and £119 depending on the retail value and popularity of the dress.

Just one month after launch, newbie My Wardrobe HQ, which draws on clothes sitting unused in brand warehouses and the closets of fashion collectors, already has a 70% repeat user rate. My Wardrobe has put thought into the logistics: cleaning, which research found was a psychological barrier for would-be renters, is taken care of, using eco-friendly methods. Cofounder Tina Lake, former head of buying at Monsoon, “wanted to right the wrongs that have been done in the fashion industry. I felt this could be the perfect time to make up for any damage done in my earlier career,” she says. “When we came up with ‘cashmere touch’ knitwear we thought we were democratising fashion – we didn’t realise that those millions of acrylic jumpers that sold for less than £12 would end up in landfill, and be there for generations. With My Wardrobe, our aim is to extend the lifecycle of luxury items.”

As a spokeswoman for Extinction Rebellion and the founder of fashion rental platform Higher Studio, Sara Arnold is the poster girl for the crossover of clothes-for-hire and environmentalism. As well as putting a brake on shopping, “a rental model incentivises design for longevity”, she says. Higher Studio’s clothes skew alternative in their aesthetic – think Comme des Garçons, Junya Watanabe, Molly Goddard and Phoebe English. “What we hear most from customers is that we allow them to experiment and have fun with clothes in a way they hadn’t before,” says Arnold.

For her university ball, recent fashion graduate Lotti Martin-Fuller spent £20 on renting a dress worth £100 from Hirestreet, an accessibly priced platform renting mostly high street pieces. “I’ve always felt guilty about consuming fast fashion,” she says, “but also wanted to be up-to-date with trends. As a student, I didn’t have £100 to splurge on a dress I might never wear again – and I live in an Instagram generation where it’s almost a faux pas to be seen in a garment more than once. So this was a win-win.” Hirestreet’s founder Isabella West reports that youthful clients are proud to tell people their dress is hired. She notices clients’ shopping habits are evolving to fit a rental model – by planning outfits well in advance in order to book dresses, for instance.

Hurr Collective launched this year as “the Airbnb of fashion”, says cofounder Tori Prew, with a peer-to-peer rental model. This calls for a more significant mindset adjustment. It feels more like paying a friend of a friend for the loan of a dress, than a rental version of online shopping. But there is a significant advantage, as I find when I browse the Hurr site and find a dress from cult label The Vampire’s Wife – a perfect minor-key party dress, in Liberty florals, with gold lurex trimmings – in my size. It’s a doable £114 to rent, in contrast to a prohibitive £800 retail pricetag. What’s more, when I click on the dress I am taken to the page showing its owner’s other clothes – including a Rixo sequined dress I’ve often admired (£84 to rent, retail £335). The sizes are subtly different across various labels in a way that precisely reflects my own experience of how big or small those labels come up, so it’s like stumbling across an edit preapproved by someone who matches my taste and body shape. Another early arriver on the peer-to-peer space is By Rotation, an app aimed at generation Instagram which is a treasure trove for of-the-moment labels (you can hire a leopard-print Ganni party dress for £9 a day) as well as designer staples (a classic quilted black leather, gold-strap Chanel handbag is £50 a day).

Of course, once you’ve sent it back you have nothing to show for your money. The maths takes some adjusting to if a bulging sack of Zara loot is your benchmark of value for money – although it is worth reminding yourself how infrequently those last-minute party buys turn out to be great long-term investments, and becoming a lender upturns the financial odds in your favour. Tania-Claudia Berresford, who rents out clothes on Hurr, says one of her dresses “has more than paid for itself” in fees already. By Rotation claims you can make money back on an item worth £100 in between three and five rentals, depending on the listing price you choose.

Right now, renting is a victim of its own success. Demand outstrips supply, and Hurr currently has a waiting list of 10,000 – although you may be able to skip the queue if you can get a referral from an existing member. Even then, you are likely to have a better user experience if you are a size 10 and London-based, than if you are a size 18 and live outside a major city. What’s more, detractors point to the environmental impact of the miles travelled by clothing zigzagging between wearers. To combat this, Hurr Collective items can be delivered – within London – using the green cycle courier service Pedals; Higher Studio has a subscription model that steers users towards keeping pieces for longer, rather than exchanging them after one outing.

Event dressing for parties and weddings is just the test case for rental. Already up and running is Cocoon, a “members’ club for handbag lovers”. For £99 a month, you can hire one handbag at a time, keeping it as long as you want, or swapping as soon as you want. Stock includes the Bottega Veneta new-season squishy intrecciato leather handbag that the entire fashion industry is lusting over, as well as modern classics like the Loewe puzzle bag and timeless icons from Saint Laurent. The next frontier will be brands launching their own rental channels, a development that My Wardrobe’s Tina Lake describes as “inevitable. Retail pundits are predicting that by 2025 20% of contemporary and luxury revenue will be from rental.” The new collection from hot London label Farleigh.io will be the first by an emerging British designer to be available on a direct-to-consumer rental model. The more expensive, event-orientated pieces – think 70s-style ruffled party dresses in inky velvets – will be available both as click-to-rent for four-day periods, and as click-to-buy.

For now, renting a dress still feels adventurous; even – when the dress arrives still-warm from someone else’s wardrobe – daringly intimate. But it’s party season, after all. The time for brief encounters, for living in the moment, with no commitment and no baggage. Have a one-night-stand with a dress. The planet will love you for it.”


In today’s Daily Mail there is an article about fashion rental, quoting Girl Meets Dress founder Anna Bance. By TOM WITHEROW BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT FOR THE DAILY MAIL

Read the whole piece here. Or see below.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.’

Analysis: Where do retailers stand in the rental revolution?

This week, Retail Week published a feature about the current rental market, including quotes from our Founder Anna.

Read the whole Retail Week article here, or below >


“Across many sectors, consumers are shunning buying in favour of renting products. Against this backdrop, where do retailers stand?

Instead of buying a record, we stream our music through Spotify. Rather than purchasing a car, many of us are content with relying on Zipcar for occasional road trips or booking a cab on Uber.

DVDs have been disregarded in favour of gorging boxsets on Netflix. As the sharing economy has boomed over the past decade, so too has consumers’ preference for renting over ownership.

This kind of behaviour is on an upward trajectory and is infiltrating many sectors, including furniture and clothing.

“Part of the reason behind the slightly different model of consumption is that many households lead much more transient lifestyles,” says Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail. “They move regularly and don’t necessarily want to buy stuff like furniture as it’s too much of a hassle to transport it when they change where they live.”

Ikea’s rental experiment

Whether it’s down to our more transient nature, economic necessity or our desire to lead more environmentally friendly lifestyles, this shift in mindset is causing retailers to sit up and take notice.

Enter Ikea. Last month the retailer revealed plans to lease furniture, starting with office furniture such as desks and chairs to business customers in Switzerland, as part of a wider company strategy to create a fully circular business by 2030.

A spokeswoman for parent company Ingka Group says: “We have an ambition to inspire and enable people to play an active role in making the circular economy a reality, which we can support by developing new ways for people to buy, care for and pass on products.”

Ikea isn’t the only furniture retailer making inroads into this burgeoning space. This month West Elm revealed plans to partner with Rent the Runway, a clothing rental service in the US, to offer a selection of pillows, blankets and covers to rent to the site’s 10 million customers.

Launching this summer, customers will be able to choose how long they keep the product and receive a discounted rate if they decide to keep it.

Does this mean renting furniture will become the norm? Harth, a London-based website which launched last year and offers rentable furniture, home décor and art from brands, designers and artists, is hoping so.

“All around the world people are experiencing a similar feeling of having had enough of ‘stuff’ and coming to the realisation that owning things can weigh us down, both physically and mentally,” says Harth co-founder Henrietta Thompson.

“We’re also getting worried about landfill and sweatshops and the growing population, among other things. We are starting to place real value in experiences, and renting gives us a lot more options there.”

Thompson says customers come to Harth for a variety of reasons: it might be a practical solution for a short-term need; they might desire a major statement piece; or they simply fancy a seasonal refresh. But with most people accustomed to owning rather than renting furniture, how difficult is it to change consumers’ behaviour?

“The interiors industry is definitely a very slow-moving and traditional one, but it’s not completely immune to change,” argues Thompson. “Already we’re noticing that people are much more receptive to the concept than they were even just six months ago. And although our approach is still very unique there are more and more brands getting into this space now.”

However, WGSN senior editor Petah Marian believes renting furniture requires a shift in attitude to really take off and also questions the practicality of multiple ownership. “There’s the issue of what happens if an item is knocked around a bit. It’ll require a change in how the product is made. It will need to be designed for longevity and durability.”

Clothes rental

Of course, across some sectors, renting is nothing new. Men regularly hire suits and tuxedos for weddings, events and work, and over the past decade, we’ve seen a wave of online companies renting designer clothes to women.

This is a growth area. Allied Market Research predicts that the global online clothing rental market is set to jump from $1bn in 2017 to $1.9bn by 2023.

Anna Bance set up Girl Meets Dress, which offers access to 4,000 designer dresses and accessories from more than 200 designers for a fraction of the price, in 2009.

“Designer clothing is expensive and a notoriously poor long-term investment and it can lead to a wardrobe full of things you never wear but spent too much on to give away en masse,” says Bance.

“The topic of fashion sustainability is increasingly in the headlines. People are becoming more ethically aware of their environmental footprint. But Girl Meets Dress made it accessible and sustainable.”

But what does it mean for the brands which potentially lose a customer spending at least five times as much at full price?

Bance argues that brands view Girl Meets Dress as “one of their biggest allies” as they’re introducing them to a new customer. “90% of our customers are trying a brand for the first time when they rent with Girl Meets Dress.

“They start renting £900 dresses and they develop that brand affinity early. We hook them.  We also get approached by lots of smaller new brands, launching a collection and wanting the feedback.”

Alibaba certainly thinks clothing rental is the future. The online giant has invested in Chinese clothing sharing platform Ycloset and US market leader Rent the Runway.

Rent the Runway was founded in 2009 and today has 10 million members and five physical stores. Last year it turned over $100m and is valued at $800m.

Rent the Runway chief revenue officer Anushka Salinas says: “When Rent The Runway launched, we were in the business of helping women get dressed for the most important special occasions in their lives, like weddings, formal events, baby showers – events that would happen around five times a year. Now, our most engaged subscriber is wearing a rental 120 days a year.

“Rental has shifted from being a convenient solution for special events to a true utility changing the way she gets dressed every day.”

To make the process of renting even more convenient, last autumn the retailer launched standalone drop-off boxes across the lobbies of 15 WeWork spaces.

Salinas believes that in the future up to 80% of the wardrobe will be owned while the rest will be rented. “We want our customer to purchase their wardrobe staples like a leather jacket, white button-down shirt and trusted flats from our brand partners and rent the trendy, bold and patterned pieces from us,” she says. “This allows women to experience the endless variety they crave, without the need to buy items they will wear only once or twice.”

Can rental work at lower price points?

If the future is rental, how will that impact retailers? Some are keen to dive in. Young fashion retailer Little Mistress plans to launch a renting service by the end of the year.

“It’ll be a VIP range featuring red-carpet-style garments with a price tag of £300-plus for a £50 hire fee,” says Mark Ashton, founder and chief executive of Little Mistress Group. Is he concerned that it may cannibalise sales?

“It’s a different proposition,” he says, pointing to the fact that products are of higher value. “And if it impacts sales then so be it, but I do believe this customer will hire up to six to eight times per year where she would have only bought one to two dresses over the same period. In time it will prove profitable in many areas and will breed returning customers.”

While Ashton is targeting a more high-end market, analysts are unconvinced that rental will work across lower price points. “People want to rent more of an expensive item,” Marian says. “I could see it working at Whistles level, for instance, but whether it would work at lower high street level I’m not sure it would be cost effective.”

Saunders believes that renting works best across two areas. First, categories where people only want to use a product for a limited amount of time and so don’t want to commit to buying it. “This means products like DIY tools, high-end clothing, jewellery and such are all prime candidates for rental,” he explains.

“Secondly, big-ticket items that people don’t want to buy outright because of the expense or because they don’t need them for the long term. This means areas like furniture will probably see more renting over the next few years. What works less well is everyday items like basic apparel or simple homewares.”

Still, Saunders is cautious about retailers throwing themselves into this new burgeoning area. “A lot of retailers are jumping on the rental bandwagon because of the growth,” he says. “Some will have success but others – mainly those that aren’t in sectors where renting is really needed – will fare less well.”

Rental needs to be carefully managed, he says. “If it helps a retailer expand their customer reach by drawing in new segments, then it is valuable. If it simply cannibalises non-rental sales from existing customers, then it is dilutive to margins and profits. Volumes could also be undermined, which would impact economies of scale and profits.

“We see some retailers like American Eagle and Ikea getting into the game and you have to question how the economies of scale will stack up. Admittedly, renting is only going to be a very small part of their business for a while, but if it starts to grow and become bigger then it will arguably become problematic.”

But retailers should be prepared for change. As Bance says: “Something in traditional retail needs to change. Clearing the shops every three months and telling consumers that trends are changing and you need to buy something new isn’t sustainable.”


Rent the Runway UK


Every day we get many of you wondering if there is a rent the runway in London, and we are happy to help you all find dresses for your events. Some of you used to live in the US, and used the hire service over there. Don’t worry! Thank you for getting in touch! Shopping with Girl Meets Dress is a very similar service so don’t worry about becoming familar with our dresses, designers and How it all works!

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Get in touch with our dress hire UK team, we are based in London and you can either rent a dress in London online or book a dress rental shop appointment by getting in touch: showroom@girlmeetsdress.com

We can also help with US to UK sizing so you ensure the best dress fit for your dress rental order.

Here are some useful dress hire links:





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