The latest stage of her sharing economy campaign has taken her to Liberty. My Wardrobe HQ has opened a pop-up within the storied Soho department store, with rails of pieces hand-selected by the Liberty buying team available to rent for a snip of the original price (from £6 per day). Customers can not only welcome a Gucci bag (a quilted cross-body, RRP £1,400, in the launch edit costs £24 per day) into their life for as long as two weeks, they can loan out their own pieces. Take a Loewe dress to the till, list it with My Wardrobe HQ, and it will eventually pay for itself.
“A retail presence will enable us to discuss rental fashion on a one-on-one basis,” Shepherdson tells British Vogue while cutting the ribbon on 11 February. “There’s still a perception that borrowed clothes might be a bit smelly or dirty, but when they feel the quality of the garments (all My Wardrobe HQ pieces are cared for by toxic-free dry-cleaners, Blanc Living) they will be bowled over.”
Shepherdson, who dedicates her time to persuading brands and high-profile industry insiders to list pieces on the start-up platform, is at pains to stress that My Wardrobe HQ and Liberty are not asking people to stop buying fashion. “We’re urging people to make more considered purchases, and think about the fact you can rent your wardrobe in the future,” she explains.
Since former Monsoon buyer Tina Lake and marketing executive Sacha Newell launched the service in June 2018, its main challenge has been changing consumer perception towards rental. “People don’t think of loaning fashion as a viable alternative to owning it,” says Shepherdson. “Once people try it, they question why they haven’t done it before. It’s just getting over the first hurdle.” My Wardrobe HQ takes all the fuss out of borrowing by managing the entire transaction (it pockets 40 per cent of the rental fee). Its partnership with Green Courier means that renters can also have a clear conscience about the carbon footprint of their returns.
“Brands don’t realise the benefits for them,” Shepherdson continues of hurdle number two. “Either they are suspicious and assume rental will cannibalise sales, or they don’t have time to sort it out.” Younger designers, Shepherdson reports, are now considering creating collections purely for rental platforms, so household-name labels need to join in, or get left behind. Signing up brands to list full lines would also solve the inventory issue around sizing. “We’re desperately trying to find more pieces outside the size eight to 10 bracket,” she says.
Shepherdson is aware that by offering up newness (whether to borrow, rather than keep), rental is in some ways still fuelling our appetite as consumers. My Wardrobe HQ is “trying to feed it in a different way”, she counters. “If we can start to slow down our shopping habits, and make people stop and think, then that’s enough for now.” Most importantly, she urges people to simply engage and give it a go. For as little as £6, it could be an interesting experience. Visit her My Wardrobe HQ team in the first floor womenswear department of Liberty now.