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The way we shop for clothes is changing. From leisure wear to back-to-work basics, we’re looking at how we shop as well as what we buy, while also increasingly conscious of the waste of fast fashion. We're trying to shop smarter, and more thoughtfully.
Step forward, the fashion subscription, or ‘club’. These will send out a style package at agreed intervals, either to try at home and buy, or to rent and return. It’s a great way to shop if you need a bit of inspiration.
Perhaps you find it difficult to try new trends or have an event coming up you’re struggling to buy for, without the time to browse for the perfect buy or skill to style it up.
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Hardcore fashionistas are welcome too: it could be that your sartorial skills are so on-the-money that it’s impossible to afford everything you’d like to get your hands on. There’s a service out there for everyone’s fashion needs.
We tried a range of fashion subs, putting their service and styles to the test. Although we’d like to see more of these companies include tall girls, petites and plus sizes too, it has to be said that a well-chosen handbag always fits - and luckily, we’ve got that covered too.
How it works: Complete your Style Profile (size, fit and style preferences), then fix a delivery date. Stylist selects items and they’re couriered, with a useful tip sheet on how to style them, to try, then buy or return. There’s a £10 styling charge, refundable against your final purchase.
Sizes: UK 6-18, shoes 3-8 with a new petite range about to land
Delivery and returns: Free Courier/Royal Mail pick up and drop off.
With almost four million customers in the States, Stitch Fix launched last year in the UK, using algorithms and real-life fashion experts to recommend a choice of five pieces (clothes, shoes and accessories) for you try at home.
With 140 brands including the likes of Boden, Mint Velvet, Hobbs, and Whistles, they work hard to get it exactly right.
First up, use the site or app to log your likes, sharing everything from the colours you love to the bits of your body you don’t like showing off. You’re shown a series of outfits and accessories, your swipes to the left or right will give the stylist choosing your items more steer on what suits.
The combination of tech and our brief notes resulted in a spot-on selection being delivered just a few days later. We asked for classics with a twist, bright colours for a drab-feeling forty-something and dresses to be worn with chunky ankle boots.
After a fabulous trying-on session, we wanted everything, once we’d seen how it could work with our own wardrobe staples. The following ‘fix’ built on our feedback on that success, with more items we may not have pulled from the rails for ourselves but looked fantastic on.
How it works: Choose from three different levels of membership, each stage allowing you to borrow from additional collections and with extra ‘swap outs’ when you can exchange bags. You can hold on to favourites for up to six months. Repairs for normal wear and tear included.
Deliveries and returns: Free next-day delivery and collection from your home or office.
What it costs: £50 refundable holding fee. Choose Light (£49), Premium (£79) or Deluxe (£99) membership, which allow access to different bag collections and numbers of items you can access in a month.
In these tough financial times, a designer handbag investment you may not be at the top of your list. Why not rent instead? Cocoon allows you to choose anything between and for designer devotees it’s kid-in-a-sweet-shop stuff – you won’t know which one to pretend you bought first.
Choose from three levels of membership and you’ll receive your choice of (sanitised) bag beautifully wrapped, having chosen from a library stuffed with everything from Fendi Baguettes to Prada pouches – and you can keep some choices for up to six months if you get attached.
We tried the Deluxe membership and picked a classy black Balenciaga B cross body bag, which arrived looking box fresh and every penny of its nearly-a-grand RRP.
Mid-month, we ‘swapped out’ and got first dibs on a hotly-in-demand Gucci x The North Face bum bag that – even if we had the readies to snap up - had sold out at its very recent launch.
This was the type of statement piece we’d balk at buying retail – flash and pretty impractical, it was a fashionista’s fantasy made real.
Cocoon is great fun and if you love bags, this is a brilliant way to get your hands on the very best.
How it works: Choose two or four items per month from the extensive choice of designer separates. Wear and return; your next delivery will be despatched on receipt. You’ll be charged every month and will make choices online for fast delivery. Love something? You can continue to use membership to rent it for continuous months. Garment cleaning and repairs (after return) included.
Delivery and returns: Free courier delivery, then drop off your returns at a pick-up point reusing the same delivery pack.
What it costs: £69/month for two pieces. £99/month for four pieces.
Arriving in a eco-friendly, RePack sack, our selection from fashion rental company Onloan really hit the spot and made us fall in love with fashion all over again. T
his is not a mainstream choice, with designers like Shrimps, Mother of Pearl and ALEXACHUNG making more of a statement than conservative dressers might be comfortable with. Think the slightly leftfield fashion pieces you’d love to try… if only you didn’t have to spend big bucks to experiment.
Our tissue-wrapped selection arrived clean and crisp, with no hint of previous wear. We went for a varied selection for our monthly £99, four-item allowance. A sculptural organza wrap frock from Baum & Pfergardten was wedding guest perfection, a By Malene Birger jumpsuit the sort of versatile classic that could get both day and night wear.
Wide trousers from Shrimps and and a bright House of Dagmar tunic completed the set, making the retail value of our loan total over £1200.
Onloan’s choices are going to get you noticed for all the right reasons. Perfectly curated and highly wearable, every month could bring a surprising adventure around a more stylish world.
Monthly Tee Club
How it works: No membership fee; just sign up for a monthly payment, then answer questions for Monthly Tee to tailor their choice for you or select your own design when the monthly styles drop. There’s no contract and you can cancel at any point.
Delivery and returns: Postal delivery in a custom box. Unworn returns accepted at your mail expense.
What it costs: From £9.99 (one t-shirt) to £29.99 (four t-shirts) per month
If you’re more leisure wear than a lounge suite, a sub from The Monthly Tee Club will give you a fresh shirt or hoodie every month with something to say. They are officially hooked up with brands such as DC Marvel and Harry Potter and come up with their own designs that have more than a dose of wit.
The intriguing thing is that each t-shirt is a surprise – they take on board your likes and dislikes in the online ‘Tee-Picker’ to tailor a shirt relevant to your interests; you can prioritise everything from music to spirituality to dogs and they’ll find your perfect graphics.
If you’d rather choose your own, that’s fine too. A new collection of tees and hoodies goes online every month for you to browse and the shirts come in standard and skinny fit and are in a nice weight of pre-shrunk cotton.
This is a great gift too – guaranteed smiles every month.
How it works: Subscribe, choose five items, and wear them for a month before returning. Dry cleaning of items on return is included, as is accidental damage insurance.
Delivery and returns: Free courier delivery and collection.
What it costs: £79/month for five items.
The Devout works on a monthly membership plan, so payment comes out automatically and allows you to select five items to wear and enjoy. The brand bills itself as a more ethical way to enjoy staples, statement pieces and vintage finds, and with fast fashion filling landfill sites, they do have a point.
This is a great way assuage the guilt eco-conscious fashion fans have about their consumption as renting extends the use of every single item. They’re also laundered on return using sustainable ‘wetware’ tech that doesn’t involve harsh chemicals and uses less energy.
Scrolling through the catalogue of items for inspiration, there were lots of functional basics as well as ‘wow’ finds and treasures, such as vintage denim and American designers (Vanderbilt, Hilfiger, Lauren) and classy day wear from People Tree, Ganni, Damsel in a Dress and All Saints.
There were a few frustrations when sizes had already been booked out, but The Devout has such a wide selection that, in the end, there was a problem trying to whittle our choice down to five items.
The hit of our delivery was a brand new super-soft Beaumont Organic sweatshirt dress that was difficult to say goodbye to. No problem – we could arrange to hold on to our favourites for longer.
The Tights Club
How it works: Sign up for a delivery of tights at monthly, two-month or three month intervals; you choose the size and denier. You can change, cancel or pause at any time.
Delivery and returns: £2.99, via Royal Mail.
What it costs: From £7 per pair, with £2.99 postage. Returns and replacements via customer services.
The Tights Club was founded to give women ‘one item off the to-do list’ and it’s certainly handy to have a supply of tights landing on the doormat. You can, after all, always rely on a pair to ladder spectacularly just when you don’t have time to replace them.
Choose black or sheer and the weight of tights you like (from 15 to 70 denier) and you will be sent a pair of tights through the post on the same day every month.
There’s nothing complicated about the set up for this subscription, and you can feel good that your choices are probably be more sustainable than your usual brand – these are top-notch Charnos Recycled tights which use offcuts that would have gone to landfill.
The process uses 90% less water is used and emissions are cut by 80% too. We were delighted with the quality although it might have been good to have more ‘nude’ shades available.
We’re assured The Tights Club is currently working on stocking an inclusive range to suit everyone.