Jane Shepherdson’s new fashion rental website My Wardrobe HQ is now open for shoppers.

Jane Shepherdson was once voted the most powerful woman in British fashion. She was the head of Topshop, which ruled the high streets and generated PS100m profit per year for Philip Green’s Arcadia retail company. She was also the high priestess in fast fashion. Shepherdson wants us to stop shopping and rent everything, from shoes and sunglasses to dresses and even sunglasses.

Shepherdson was responsible for the revamping of Whistles’ fashion chain in 2006 after Topshop left. He is now the chair of My Wardrobe HQ. This website offers designer fashion rentals and resale. Next month, Liberty will open a pop up in London.

This tie-up is part a new trend in secondhand and rented clothes that is not only fashionable but also acceptable.

Liberty is the UK’s first department store to host peer-to-peer fashion rental pop ups. This partnership was formed between Nordstrum in the US and Rent the Runway UK. The idea is similar to Selfridges hosting popups by fast-growing vintage vendors Depop, Vestiaire Collective, and Farfetch testing Second Life as a handbag resale platform.

Shepherdson says that people are more comfortable wearing clothes other people have worn, and less inclined to consider it second-rate.

assorted-color clothes

Concerns about the environmental impact of fashion, which contributes more to climate change than the aviation and shipping industries combined, are expected to drive a boom in rentals. GlobalData analysts predict that the UK market will grow fivefold to PS2.3bn in 2029, compared to an estimated PS400m last years. Peer-to-peer lenders such as My Wardrobe HQ and Hurr, where those with an over-stuffed wardrobe rent out items to those on a budget, are expected to lead the way, outstripping traditional players such as Moss Bros or newer online platforms such as Girl Meets Dress or Hire Street.

My WardrobeHQ currently offers a variety of fashion options for fashion lovers. You can choose from a floral satin dress by The Vampire’s Wife for PS110, a Gucci army coat for PS295, or a pair Michael Kors biker boot for PS40, or a Herve Leger sequinned mini bodycon for PS215. Customers who fall in love with their items may purchase them right away. All rentals are valid for one week.

Shepherdson says that she was inspired to start peer-to-peer renting after spending nearly a year living in an Airbnb home in the US.

“I returned at the time when it became more obvious about how polluting fashion was. I thought that I had made fashion more appealing all my life. But there is a lot of back-piling required.”

“I was thinking about peer-to–peer renting. Why couldn’t it be just like Airbnb? People could find each other and purchase into another’s lifestyle.”

“I am not a hypocrite. I want fashion to be enjoyed by everyone. Renting is an easy way to get the most beautiful gown, and it’s affordable.”

She says that a PS1,000 dress could be rented for PS100. This isn’t exactly affordable but it is possible to afford a big night out with cocktails and dinner, as well as a taxi home.

Shepherdson started by trying to create her own website, but then she met Sacha Newall, Tina Lake and co-founded My Wardrobe HQ in June 2018. They combined their experiences in online fashion, car sharing and women’s magazines, and it felt like a business that could scale.

My Wardrobe HQ manages the entire rental process for clients, including delivery, cleaning, payment and photography. Half of the items are from individuals and half from brands.

Shepherdson said that she is currently in talks with brands to produce collections for rent. “Why not?”

This idea is especially appropriate for luxury womenswear, she says. Shepherdson believes that ski-wear, occasion wear and children’swear are all areas that are ideal for renting.

Shepherdson believes it is unlikely that she will return to running a fashion chain, unless it has strong sustainability credentials. However, Shepherdson regrets the troubles at Topshop and other fast-fashion chains, especially the loss of good jobs in the young female workforce.

It’s sad, but it is inevitable. The whole way we shop has changed. Look at the retail stores that are having trouble, many of them are still based in brick and mortar shops.

“I still love shopping, but it is important to create theatre to get people off their sofas.”

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