Young S. Korean women opt for renting luxury goods

Won Hee-seon recently switched from a Givenchy bag to a Prada for a "fresh look," but the decision did not result in a big dent in her bank account.

The secret behind the change of designer luxury bags that ordinarily would have cost a tidy sum of money was simply renting the accessory.

Won is one of a growing number of young South Korean women who have signed up for a monthly membership to rent luxury bags and watches.

"I want to carry Givenchy and Prada bags, but buying luxury goods is not easy as they are expensive and fashion trends could change," Won said. "In that respect, rental services of luxury bags are very appealing."

Won's case illustrates a growing trend among consumers in Asia's fourth largest economy who are slowly opting to rent items they want instead of buying them.

Through the rental services, members can choose an item out of about 500 bags from 37 luxury brands, including Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Bottega Veneta and Burberry.

They can also rent Cartier, Omega, Hermes and other high-end watches.

This kind of service is slowly, but surely gaining ground in South Korea as it meets the needs of women who have a desire to carry luxury bags and wear luxury watches, but cannot afford to do so.

Some South Koreans view luxury goods as a tacit symbol of social status in a country where appearance is important. Many here are also excessively conscious of all sorts of luxury brands.

"I would like to make a good impression at an important occasion," said Park Ye-ran, who has borrowed a Saint Laurent crossbody bag for her friend's wedding next weekend. "I think first impressions are important and I do not want to be taken lightly."

   The 25-year-old web designer said she believes that people tend to trust those that have a luxury good on them.

Ordinary consumers like Park point out luxury items are out of reach for many ordinary South Korean women, especially young women, as they are expensive. But rental services make luxury goods more accessible.

"I didn't even think of carrying a luxury bag as I just started my career after graduation. Now, I brag about my bag to my friends," she said. The price of a Saint Laurent crossbody bag can be a burden for those fresh out of college.

The most expensive luxury bag available at the rental services provided by Reebonz Korea, a local startup, is the Chanel Vintage 2.55 large bag, which has a price tag of 7.25 million won (US$6,300). Bvlgari Watch BB26SG, priced at 7.7 million won, is also available for customers.

The company exclusively offers luxury rentals to its' members at prices many young women find reasonable. Those who sign up for a membership can borrow any luxury bag or watch by paying 79,000 won per month, with only one item allowed at a time.

Chanel bags, however, are the only exception to the monthly fee; Reebonz rents them out at 19,800 won per day to subscribers, regardless of size or style.

Kim Sung-hye, a 34-year-old office worker, said she is happy with renting luxury goods and that she will continue to use the service. In fact, she had borrowed her Prada Saffiano mini bag for daily use before buying it from Reebonz.

Luxury goods are also just a mouse click away. The service is also available through Reebonz's mobile app. Consumers can receive and return their bags through a complementary delivery service.

©Yonhap News/TOP Media