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Thanks to By:Fashionaholic’s couture-for-rent business model, Chicago women can have their Cinderella moment without breaking the bank.

By Elise Hofer Shaw

Photos by Nikko Salgado

April 03, 2019 10:00 AM

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Janet Mandell is on to something. At her By:Fashionaholic showroom in River North, the fashion and lifestyle blogger turned retail renaissance woman has amassed a collection of couture that will knock your Manolos off—and it’s all available for rent.

But By:Fashionaholic isn’t your average rent-wear-return outfitter. Here’s the difference: Everything, from the Chanel Gabrielle handbags and Hermès Collier de Chien bracelets to the gold-button-studded Balmain dresses and mesh Fendi slingbacks, is from the latest collections by A-list designers. And they offer only one of every look in just one size (ranging from 0 to 10), meaning you’ll never show up to a high-profile event to find someone else rockin’ your same ensemble. Each rental—which starts at $100 for accessories up to $600 for, say, a hand-beaded couture gown—equates to a seven-day ownership period and includes a one-hour styling session with a By:Fashionaholic stylist, pickup and drop-off services, and dry cleaning. 

“I wanted to be able to create something that fills a void,” says Mandell. “I love Rent the Runway. They’re genius. But they aren’t a fashion company. We are, and we’re full service.” And by fashion company she means that only the best of the best are on her racks (think luxury labels like Gucci, Saint Laurent, Roksanda and Roland Mouret, as well as a mix of interesting contemporary brands like Johanna Ortiz, Magda Butrym and Alessandra Rich).

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The By:Fashionaholic showroom

It’s not hard to wrap your head around the savings if you do the math: Most high-level stylists charge about $150 an hour, and then you have to actually buy the bag, the shoes and the dress that you’ll likely wear only once or twice, especially if the look is for a see-and-be-seen event or special occasion like a wedding. For an entire formal look, you’re looking at upwards of $4,000 if you’re shopping the designer labels at the department stores. And when you want to update your look, that’s another big hit to your wallet all over again. 

And there’s no pressure to do the whole shebang. If you want to pop in just for accessories to update a dress you already own, By:Fashionaholic can accommodate that, too.

“For seven days you get to own a handmade piece of couture or one of the world’s most covetable handbags like a Birkin bag—it’s yours. And if you don’t know what you’re looking for or what will flatter your figure, my team is happy to help and is always genuinely excited about where you are going and making you look your best,” says Mandell. “Our clients not only get access to this one-of-a-kind closet, they become part of the By:Fashionaholic family.”

From quilted crossbody bags by Chanel to covetable Birkin bags by Herms, By:Fashionaholic’s accessories vault is a label lover’s dream.

“For whatever reason, people tend to have a negative association with the word ‘rental,’” adds Mandell. “At By:Fashionaholic, we’ve flipped that notion on its head. It’s not just about renting; it’s about having access to something that most people don’t have access to unless they save up for months and months—and the flexibility to change it up on a whim. Having that access, and that sense of satisfaction that makes you feel happy and confident, is really what it’s all about.”

In February, Mandell updated the By:Fashionaholic website to feature the more than 1,800 pieces rotating through the showroom so you can browse before you rent. And coming soon, the company will be taking its glamour on the go, offering at-home styling where they bring the designer goods to you (expect a $100 up-charge for at-home service). “People are busy, and a lot of our clients are working moms,” says Mandell. “Time is the one thing we don’t have the luxury of. Our stylists will come to you with a package of dresses and coordinating accessories and help you pull it all together. Uber, Postmates, Glam on the Go… and now By:Fashionaholic!” 

By:Fashionaholic, 311 W. Superior St., Suite 216, 312.624.8803. byfashionaholic.com

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One of By:Fashionaholic’s chic (and spacious) fitting rooms. Every client receives one hour of styling services from their on-site stylists.