Would you spend £1.5k on clothes you’ve never seen? RACHEL CARLYLE tests the new trend


Who doesn’t love a surprise box in the post? Even better when that box contains clothes worth far more than what you paid for them, or brands hand-picked by a stylist for you to try.

Too good to be true? Well, not necessarily. The fashion mystery box is a burgeoning trend, and the luxury surprises inside are guaranteed to have a higher retail value than the price paid.

What customers are generally buying is unsold stock that would otherwise end up destroyed — and there’s no shortage of that following the pandemic.

It’s a win-win, says Joe Wilkinson, the 24-year-old Brit behind the wildly popular Heat mystery boxes beloved of celebrities including model Jourdan Dunn and Premier League footballers. Customers get discounted clothes and brands tick the sustainability box.

Rachel Carlyle gives verdict on a selection of fashion mystery boxes to suit all budgets. Pictured: Heat Luxury Fashion Mystery Box

Rachel Carlyle gives verdict on a selection of fashion mystery boxes to suit all budgets. Pictured: Heat Luxury Fashion Mystery Box

What mystery boxes are doing is replacing the buzz we’ve lost from in-person shopping, says Dr Joan Harvey, expert in consumer psychology at Newcastle University. ‘By making it a surprise, they’re increasing the level of stimulus to the brain,’ she says.

But with prices reaching a staggering £1,500 for an ‘outfit box’ with U.S. company Scarce, is it really worth parting with hard-earned cash for clothes you haven’t chosen yourself?

HIGH FASHION HAUL

Heat Luxury Fashion Mystery Box, from £299, heat.io

The first monthly batch of 1,000 Heat boxes sold within 20 minutes. There are 60 brands on offer including Givenchy, Balenciaga, Missoni and JW Anderson. You give your size then choose a £299 or £500 box.

Each will contain two or three items with a guaranteed retail value higher than the box price: £500-plus for the £299 box and £850-plus for the £500 one. You can send the whole lot back if you don’t like it (but you can’t return just one of the items), though that rarely happens.

My £299 box contains a gorgeous Nanushka vegan leather cropped bomber jacket and a black leather Balenciaga coin and card purse. A quick Google reveals the jacket was around £450 and the purse £275.

Joe says his current audience is twentysomethings, but he is planning more timeless boxes aimed at older customers.5/5

SECRET STYLIST

Stitch Fix clothing box service, prices vary, stitchfix.co.uk

Rachel said Stitch Fix clothing box service (pictured) made her braver, as she kept everything in her box except a dress

Rachel said Stitch Fix clothing box service (pictured) made her braver, as she kept everything in her box except a dress 

If you’re in a style rut, Stitch Fix could help. Fill in an online quiz about your size and shape, likes and dislikes, your budget and your usual brands and an algorithm will sift out things you’ll loathe.

A stylist then either sends you a mystery ‘fix’ of five items from the pool that’s left, or they’ll email you ten possibles. Choose up to five and they fill in the rest to make the five-item ‘fix’.

There are 140 labels on offer in sizes 6-18. You only pay for the items you keep, plus an additional £10 for the stylist, redeemable against a purchase. If you buy all five you get a 20 per cent discount, and returns are free.

When my choices arrive, there’s a £60 olive v-neck jumper from Thought, a striped jumper, £49, from Stitch Fix’s own brand Editor’s Cut and a stripy olive and white top, £49, from Whistles. There were also high-rise jeans, £85, from Liverpool Los Angeles and a black Editor’s Cut shirt-dress, £52.

Normally, I’d grab just the black dress, but seeing everything made me braver. I kept everything except the dress.5/5

BRAVE NEW BRANDS

Lookiero Box (prices vary, lookiero.co.uk)

Rachel said Lookiero Box (pictured) has a strong European bias among its 150 brands

Rachel said Lookiero Box (pictured) has a strong European bias among its 150 brands

Lookiero is an online personal shopper site with a similar set-up to Stitch Fix, but because it’s Spanish, it has a strong European bias among its 150 brands. Sizes are from 6-20.

You start with a quiz but you can add photos of yourself to help the stylist. Then choose your delivery date and wait for your box of five items to arrive. You can choose a monthly box, one every two or three months or just an occasional one.

You pay £10 for the personal shopper, but it’s offset against any item you keep. Keep all five and you get 25 per cent off. 4/5

STYLISH BLOW-OUT

Scarce (from £290, scarce.us)

Rachel said Scarce (pictured) is a ridiculous amount of money, but promises the value of the goods inside is always way higher than the price paid

Rachel said Scarce (pictured) is a ridiculous amount of money, but promises the value of the goods inside is always way higher than the price paid

This U.S. newcomer offers monthly box drops after weeks of frenetic social media hype. They’re generally ‘overstock’ from past seasons, but still covetable.

Prices go from $198 (£145) for a streetwear box right up to $2,000 (£1,465) for a designer ‘outfit box’. Yes, it’s a ridiculous amount of money, but Scarce promises the value of the goods inside is always way higher than the price paid. Unlike Heat, you also get to name your favourite brand. If you don’t like what’s inside, you can return the whole box no questions asked. 4/5