Rent-a-bag website aims to let women keep a grip on fashion

Many women would jump at the chance of trading in last season's red Italian leather Miu Miu bag for the latest hot seller from Fendi if their finances would allow them.

Now an American website which rents out desirable designer-label bags is giving financially embarrassed fashionistas a chance to impress their friends with the chicest pouch of the season.

The website, Bagborroworsteal.com, has proved a success in the United States since it began in April and its founders are soon to open a British branch. The site has more than 50 designer brands, ranging from glamorous flower-print Vivienne Westwood evening bags to top-of-the-range backpacks by DKNY.

Bought in a shop, the lines would cost anything between £200 for Prada's Zucchino design to £1,000 for a Bottega Veneta white woven leather shoulder slouch. Online, the bags can be rented monthly for between £11 and £55. The fee varies according to the value of the bag rented, with the "Diva" membership carrying the most privileges.

If a woman cannot bear to hand back her handbag at the end of the month, there is an option to buy it.

Lloyd Lapidas, a co-founder of the site, said that he wanted to expand to Britain at the earliest opportunity. "There has been a tremendous outreach from customers through the Web who are aware of our website and we are constantly getting requests from UK citizens about when it will be available to them," he said.

Mr Lapidas insisted that it was not only fashion-conscious urbanites who were joining the site. "Some live in rural environments and sign up for the convenience of having a designer bag delivered to them. Others join because it is a thousand times more economical to rent instead of buy.''

He added: "And there are some who sign up for the sheer novelty. Fashion is a very fickle business and we are giving women the choice to always be at the cutting edge."

Retail figures show that British women have an increasing appetite for accessories such as bags. A Mintel survey recently found that women spent £201m on them last year. Neil Mason, a senior analyst at Mintel, said rising disposable incomes and aspirational attitudes meant more designer label accessories were being bought.

But some in the British fashion industry remained unconvinced by the rental scheme.

Rebecca Lowthorpe, fashion features editor for Elle magazine, said that while the website might meet the needs of New York's fashion set, it might not adapt to British tastes. "I imagine it works in New York brilliantly. Fashion is much more prescriptive there and they tend to follow what's in verbatim. We are not as voracious about following fashion here," she said.

She added that the scheme would not meet the emotional needs of women who bought accessories on the basis of "falling in love" with them. "Many women definitely feel an emotional attachment to bags or shoes they spend hundreds of pounds on and would not want to give them back," she said.

Vanessa Gillingham, fashion editor of Glamour magazine, felt the range was conservative. "Looking at the website, they are not the most innovative bags," she said.

DESIGNER STYLE FOR HIRE

Burberry classic check petite

Burberry classic check petite sling-bag, with burgundy-leather strap and matching piped trim, with the signature check pattern in vinyl-coated canvas and Burberry nameplate. Retail price is £125. Rental price is £27.

Gucci Brown GG logo

Gucci brown GG logo monogram on beige jacquard fabric, with a 19-inch leather strap. Decorated with Italian leather, and has brass hardware. Retail price is £295. Retail price is £55 a month.

Fendi 'Oyster' handbag

Fendi "Oyster" handbag. Dark-brown large print on brown jacquard fabric with a 19ins calf-leather strap. Buckles are silver and the interior is lined with fabric. Retail price is £120. Rental price is £27.

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