Every girl should have something on her arm, and if it can't be 6 feet tall, blond and have the ocean for eyes, then she should at least carry a purse to be envied. Most of us have had to dream of owning an "it" bag (or two), given the price of the things, but now we can ask ourselves: "Why buy when we can rent?"
Bag Borrow or Steal and From Bags to Riches have taken the Netflix model from DVDs to arm candy. Clients pay a small fee to rent designer bags that are shipped directly to their homes. There are no late fees, and when a lady and her purse decide to part ways, she simply mails it back to be replaced by the next bag in her queue.
"We were founded by a guy, if you can believe that," laughed Brenda Kauffman, director of merchandising and fashion at Bag Borrow or Steal. Lloyd Lapidus and brother-in-law Greg Pippo saw the women in their lives fretting to find the perfect clutch, so they launched a site that brings hundreds of purses to bag-aholics worldwide.
Starting at $19.95 a month (the Trendsetter), clients can rent bags like the highly copied Coach Signature Demi Pouch (retailing at $138). Customers are crowned Princesses by paying $30 more, giving them access to brands like MICHAEL by Michael Kors and BCBG Max Azria. At the top tier sits the Diva, which comes with a $99.95 price tag and this season's "it" bag, the Chloe Paddington (retailing at $1,380), coveted by "Superman Returns" star Kate Bosworth. Some bags in the Diva bracket, however, carry an additional fee, which could be an extra $100 or more.
"We help women avoid a closet full of bags that will go out of style in two weeks that they honestly can't afford," Kauffman said. But if clients nab a bag that they can't bear to lose, they can steal it (a.k.a. buy it) for a fraction of the retail price. But Kauffman said customers are never satisfied with just one and keep coming back to rent more.
Likewise, From Bags to Riches founder Kara Richter is addicted to designer accessories.
"The Betsey Johnsons and Nine West bags are nice," she said. "But you're renting luxury here."
Her company features a smaller selection than her competitor's, but what she lacks in quantity she makes up in quality — although she has stocked a few Baby Phats just for fun. Other than that, she won't tolerate anything retailing under $120.
FBTR works like a tanning salon. There's a free trial involved, and girls can rent individually or join "Club Diva," starting around $50 a year. The three tiers of Club Diva (Diva, Gold and Platinum) simply allow for greater perks like renting more than one bag at a time and free shipping.
Unlike BBOS, clients' choices of accessible handbags are not limited by a membership fee: Christian Dior is available to all who seek him. The handbags are divided into five categories based on price range: Madison Avenue ($19.90), Palm Beach ($19.90), Rodeo Drive ($39.90), Beverly Hills ($39.90) and Monaco Runway ($79.90). They also cater to guys with messenger bags and pocket totes, although this hasn't proved as popular, but Richter cites the new trend in men's luggage on the runway. Think Louis Vuitton, who she's partnered with for next month.
And Richter's always uncovering the latest trend. "I didn't find out until recently that Starbucks sells more CDs than anyone," she said. "Who knows? We could have a handbag dropoff in Starbucks."
One tall caramel macchiato with a Fendi Spy Bag, please.