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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 July, 2004, 09:47 GMT 10:47 UK
Dedicated borrowers of fashion
A model carries a high-fashion handbag
High-fashion handbags are in high demand
Bored with your Bottega? Passing over your Prada? Fancy a Fendi instead? A website planning to open in the UK could have the answer.

Bagborroworsteal.com has been operating in the US since April, giving members the chance to rent handbags from some of the industry's most prestigious names.

For a monthly fee ranging from 11 to 55, customers can borrow the accessory of their choice for as long as they like - and then swap it for another.

The website's founder has designs on a UK franchise, but not all fashionistas are convinced it will work.

The site offers products from more than 50 of fashion's best-known names - and promises there are no fakes to be found.

Customers have a choice of three forms of membership, with the most expensive bringing a selection of the dearest merchandise.

The bags retail for anything from 200 to as much as 1,000 and are either new or what the site describes as "like new".

And if the borrower decides the bag is simply too divine to return, there is always the option of negotiating a purchase price.

Lloyd Lapidas, one of the site's co-founders, told The Independent newspaper that the site already attracts strong interest from British customers and he hopes to open up shop in the UK as soon as possible.

Business booming

Demand in Britain is stronger than ever. A recent survey by Mintel found that consumers spent 196m on handbags in 2002.

This is for mass market people who just want the brand
Vanessa Gillingham, Glamour
The market for handbags has grown by almost 40% in recent years and is still getting bigger, said Neil Mason, a senior analyst at the company.

"People are getting more affluent, they have more disposable income to spend on designer labels," he told BBC News Online.

Mr Lapidas said his site's customers were not just urban fashionistas, but also included rural-based members as well as those signing on for novelty value.

"Fahion is a very fickle business and we are giving women the choice to always be at the cutting edge," he said.

But one fashion doyen doubted that claim.

Vanessa Gillingham, senior fashion editor at Glamour magazine, told the BBC the site lacked the latest designs.

"They're very classic designs, not the must-haves of next autumn. It's the same stuff designers put out year-in, year-out," she said.

Almost 200m was spent on handbags in 2002
Shoppers spent 84m on the latest design handbags in 2002
That equates to almost 4,000,000 individual bags sold
58m was spent on "classic" design bags
The market itself grew by 38% as cheaper imports became available
She said top design houses are always reluctant to sign up to mass market ventures, for fear of the prestige value of their brand being cheapened.

This may prevent the most up-to-the-minute fashions being stocked on the site, she said.

"This is more for mass market people who are not worried about next autumn but who just want the brand. It would give them a status symbol to show people," she said.

But that did not necessarily mean the idea could not catch on in the UK. According to the Mintel survey, almost 60m was spent on "classic" design handbags in 2002.

Amy Purshouse, fashion editor at Cosmopolitan, said the scheme could suit younger women.

She said: "There are always going to be the fashion purists who just have to buy the latest style, but for the average girl about town it is a fun idea."

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