Jaimee Padua knew her priorities for her wedding. A classic lace and tulle ball gown for the ceremony, wedding rings and good food ranked high on her list.
What was way down the priority line, however, was her reception dress. She wanted to enjoy the party, and a puffy tulle gown was not exactly the most relaxed outfit for a night-long festivity. She needed a comfy but reasonably priced dress.
“I was surprised at how much a wedding costs! I don’t like compromising on quality but I had to stick to my budget, since my husband and I paid for all the expenses. I decided to rent my reception gown because we only had an intimate wedding for 30 people,” Padua told Lifestyle.
At her wedding reception, the blushing bride wore a pink asymmetrical top and draped skirt set by Martin Bautista that she rented for around P7,000. It was her first time to lease a designer piece and she enjoyed it so much she started following the designer on Instagram.
Padua said yes to the (reception) dress that she found at Vestido Manila (@vestido.manila on Instagram), a fashion rental house that offers luxury designer goods like gowns, bags and shoes.
“I kept on searching for a reasonably priced dress, or my ‘fun dress,’ as I liked to call it, but it felt wrong to skimp on it. It was our wedding, after all. Enter Vestido Manila. It’s like the Instagram gods knew exactly what I was searching for!” she added.
Renting gowns, even for once-in-a-lifetime events like weddings, has long been the practical choice for many Filipino women. Leasing designer gowns, luxury bags and shoes has also been in fashion in the United States.
Remember in “Sex and the City: The Movie,” when Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) was interviewing applicants and she asked Louise (Jennifer Hudson): “How does an unemployed girl with three roommates afford a patchwork denim Bowly Louis Vuitton bag?”
“It’s rented. Bag Borrow or Steal,” Louise replied. “It’s like Netflix for purses.”
Designer items from Alaïa, Alexander McQueen, Gucci or Dior can be borrowed at Rent the Runway and Janet Mandell. Renting designer clothes has been so mainstream in the US that even celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian, Priyanka Chopra and Bella Hadid have been spotted in borrowed pieces like Chanel and YSL.
In the Philippines, this type of luxury fashion service only became available a few years back, and Vestido is one of the local rentals that offers luxury items for a fraction of the price.
“We founded Vestido with the belief that there’s a better way of dressing up. We wanted to provide a more sustainable alternative to wearing designer pieces without owning them, thereby helping reduce fashion waste,” Cindy Go, one of the owners of Vestido, said in an interview.
Without having to commit to the dress, customers can go to the shop for gowns made by local designers Martin Bautista, Vania Romoff and Charina Sarte. They also have in their closet international brands like Carolina Herrera and Jacquemus. There are also thigh-high leather boots and suits.
Rental costs depend on the pieces, but prices start at P3,000. The most expensive piece in their wardrobe is an P11,199 off-shoulder lace wedding dress by Christos Costarellos.
Women, usually between the ages 20 to 50, come to Vestido for weddings and different occasions.
Cit Sioson, an entrepreneur and former editor and stylist, said she browsed through Vestido’s website and picked out several items, like a beaded white dress by Cecilie Bahnsen, a green leather mini dress with puff sleeves by Ganni and a yellow cutout leather dress by Rokh.
Like Padua, it was also Sioson’s first time to check out luxury fashion rental.
Vestido’s clients can book a 45-minute appointment at their Mandaluyong studio for a fitting. A stylist is on hand to assist the client during the session. There is also a home fitting service where the teams send up to five pieces of clothing to their clients for a fee. The charges will be deducted from the total bill should the client decide to book the garment. (See sidebar.)
Despite a big dip in fashion rentals last year due to the lockdowns and event cancellations brought by the pandemic, Go said they’re seeing an increase in rentals lately.
Vestido also had a steady clientele during the lockdown, thanks to their stylist subscription program that they launched before the coronavirus hit the country.
“(This) allows accredited stylists to pull pieces from our closet as added wardrobe options for projects or fittings without the commitment of a full rental… We’re happy to have a good roster of stylists in our program and fortunately, they have been regular rental clients even through last year’s intense lockdowns,” she said.
Vestido also recently introduced Vend, an online store where one can buy designer clothing from previous seasons, and jewelry line Burlô.
“Burlô is our first ‘add on’ to complete your full rental look with us. This is why we make each piece with timelessness and fun, versatile wearability in mind, with the help of our local artisans,” Go said.
While the trend of renting designer pieces didn’t come to the Philippines until lately, Go said that Filipinos are beginning to make sustainable fashion choices.
“Lately, there is definitely more consciousness about the way we consume things. More people are starting to ask questions, compared to the usual mindless buying. People are starting to question their relationship with the things they buy, and are demanding more quality, better products, in general, that don’t contribute or wear down the planet, and are produced via fair trade,” Go added.
Sioson said that borrowing is a more economical way than shopping while still being fashionable.
“I’ve also become quite frugal since my shopaholic days in my 20s, so renting luxury pieces is a perfect and sustainable way to occasionally wear high fashion pieces without overspending,” she said.
For Padua, leasing another gown is definitely something she will do again.
“I get to wear fun and bolder styles without having to think of when to wear them again. While it’s true that I could purchase a regular dress for the price of a rental, I must say it all boils down to the style. The craftsmanship of a P5,000 rental is far different from getting a P5,000 dress—which I probably won’t wear again anyway,” she said.