India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
December 13, 2016

The Perks of A Rotating Wardrobe

Text by Nittal Chandarana

A new era of luxe is here, claiming to fulfil every material girl’s dreams

The first time I spotted fashion on rent was in the first Sex and the City (where else?) movie. When Carrie’s assistant Louise whips out a designer bag waxing eloquent about her love for New York and everything designer, all eyes were on the former. We learned that the prized item had been borrowed from an online portal. Would one judgemental eyebrow rise up accompanied by a scrunch of the nose? Would the customary high-pitched “Oh no, sweetie!” leave her disapproving lips? The eager Carrie headshake appeared instead, sealing the deal for generations of women to access luxury they had only ever dreamed of possessing. This was 2008.

Cut to 1990, a millennial is born. Millennial, noun: a reckless entity, born sometime between the mid ’80s and the early ’90s, who attaches practical rather than emotional value to material possessions, as defined by the OED (Obnoxious English Dictionary). Also known as echo boomer.

A few years down the line begins Millennial’s bratty childhood. Meals are eaten while being bribed with tales woven around maharajas and their fleet of Aston Martins or elephants, depending on the mood. There were even bath-time stories play-acting as an indulgent maharani who cleanses herself with milk. The ultimate measure of luxury then seemed to be royalty.

Moving on to 2005. Millennial grows older and wiser. Palatial dreams are put aside, only to be replaced with aspirations of accessorising with Louis Vuitton, Hermès, and Prada. Copies of fashion magazines are painstakingly read and 100-shade make-up kits are coughed out of foreign relatives.

Milestone event in 2010. Millennial’s best friend gets married. The mind skips a few years forward to own wedding while showering the happy couple with flowers — I want to be standing there on my big day in a resplendent Sabya lehnga. As the pheras ended, a reality check interrupts the reverie. It says: ‘Start saving today’.

Till I realised I didn’t have to. I could rent it off Flyrobe, SwishList, or any such site. There was everything: lehngas, saris, anarkalis, and jewellery to match. Cocktail events were covered as well, with pages of gowns and evening dresses appearing on the screen. Impressive certainly, but wearing rented apparel on my big day? “When are you going to wear your shaadi ka joda again?” chimes in a wise and well-meaning aunty. Maybe that’s what a practical millennial would do. But being on the old-fashioned side of the owning-versus-renting debate, it just didn’t seem right to me. As the years passed, the coveted Aston Martin may have turned into an Uber and the palace into Airbnb but there will always be a soft spot for clothing and accessories. I imagine buying couture gives the same rush as buying a Mac, the hautest of all computers.

I believe in the charm of vintage clothing — like a cashmere coat that has made its way down the line as a family heirloom. Once wrapped around a Kashmiri princess enjoying kava on a particularly snowy day, it also comforted her granddaughter studying in the windy scenery of Scotland; then after minor wear and tear, to me. But sharing clothes with everyone and their neighbours is another story. Even with insurance, dry-cleaning and smell tests (you know, when it smells like a new product), this would take time coming to terms with. And I thought everyone felt the same.

An evening spent with a dear fashion blogger friend and a pitcher of melon sangria had me thinking otherwise. “It’s all about owning everything and buying nothing,” she quipped, quoting a famous rental site. This was interesting because up till now, everything revolved around owning the finer things in life. The rush of wearing that first Rolex, carrying the first Birkin or driving the first Audi. How things have changed. “I can’t spare the space for a lush wardrobe. All my money is eaten up by rent even if your crowded city grants me half a room for the price of a villa,” she complained, biting into a stray piece of melon. But doesn’t her profession demand a certain fetish for clothes, accessories and all that sparkles? “Not really. I, more than anyone else, cannot afford to be photographed wearing the same outfit. Even if it’s a personal post on Facebook or Instagram. And when I can get Masaba, Sabyasachi and Quirk Box all together for a nominal price, why would I limit my options to just one prized outfit?” she replied sagely. Maybe it was the era of multiple choice, I pondered. Echo boomers care about making each rupee count for much more. And if these portals do have the turnovers that they boast about, it can’t only be us dratted folk that endorse them. “You know, I’ve got my flatmates hooked on it as well. There are times where we end up sharing our goodies, sticking to the ‘what’s mine is yours’ mantra. And loads of celebrities routinely rent their red carpet looks from these portals. Everyone and their mothers are on it. What’s stopping you?” she questioned.

I wasn’t sure. A rotating wardrobe sure has its perks. There’s no scope for shopaholic confessions, but it carries with it the attractive proposition of never having to repeat an outfit. High fashion has now become an affordable indulgence but when exclusivity, the snobbish twin of luxury, is subtracted from the picture, does the designer handbag still make a statement? Luxury at its democratic best may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But, if good things really do come to those who wait, I’m going to patiently start saving for that Sabya lehnga.

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