I Hated Handbags Until I Rented One

Bag, Borrow, Steal: Could this new luxury rental service cure my handbag phobia?

07.02.2020

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a bag lady. Not the chic designer-styles-on-rotation kind (more on that later). I am the kind of person you absolutely don’t want to be stuck next to on the underground, taking up an unsociable amount of space armed with a Sainsbury’s bag-for-life, another canvas bag and the crème de la crème of receptacles: a backpack.

Ah, the backpack - my ride or die. I wear the same black nylon, can-accommodate-up-to-an-13”-laptop style 365 days a year. Unnervingly, I realise it is near identical to my dad’s work bag. It is quite possibly the least fashion thing I own: its purpose is purely practical. To carry things I need. Except, I always seem to need more stuff. More books, more lighters, more snacks…more, more, more!  Like a Mary Poppins complex - to frame it nicely - I pack for a day at work like I’m about to leave the country for a month. I probably only use 10% of what I carry anyway. It's become a burden - not least when it comes to my bank balance, as a good portion of my disposable income seems to go on yoga classes to relieve my sore shoulders these days. To quote one memorable Love Actually character: “Enough…enough now.”

pictures using polaroid originals

After seven years working in the fashion industry, I have kindly been gifted some lovely handbags over the years - but they hold more of an ornamental value. Pretty as they are, most are either too small or flashy for everyday wear (my personal style can be a bit, um, busy - so I need to off-set this). I’ve never found The One.

Which is why new luxury handbag rental service, COCOON, intrigued me. You pay a monthly subscription fee to rotate covetable designer handbags, and there’s no long-term commitment. Also, my wardrobe is largely pre-loved, so this retail model is - double bonus - guilt-free. So, what can you expect to rent? Think rare vintage finds from the likes of Chanel and Dior to the ultimate ‘It’ bags from Bottega Veneta and more (AKA, you will have likely spotted it on the arm of a street styler).

After languishing over some bright, peacock-y, beaded styles I decide it's best not to run before I can walk. I choose a textured black leather Balenciaga tote bag (AW16): a more refined alternative to my backpack which is going on a 30-day hiatus. I worry it’s not going to be big enough to hold my essentials. Which I narrow down to, keys, iPhone, makeup, purse, glasses, keys and a packet of ginger nut biscuits. 

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I pack everything the night before, like the first day of school. I needn’t have worried. For a not huge bag, there’s a surprising amount of space, but not too much that I can’t see anything. Over the course of the month me and my Balenciaga baby are attached at the hip, literally. I feel, dare I say it, more grown up and put-together (a rarity). I also haven’t been late for work once, as my bag-for-hire leaves little room to pack like I’m a cast member in Into the Wild.

The downside is, at £99 for a month’s subscription (covering light repair and service fees) it’s not cheap. However, it’s still less emotionally and financially fraught than shelling out thousands on an handbag you may only wear a few times per season. It’s perfect if you have a specific event in mind – be it a job interview or a wedding. Want to join the COCOON cult? You can sign up here.

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