I hired the high life! On Saturday, the Mail revealed it actually takes 10m to live like a millionaire. But, says MARIANNE POWER, there's a much cheaper way
13:18 GMT, 26 June 2012
The paparazzi go mad as my chauffeur opens the door to my Rolls-Royce and I step out onto the red carpet. In a designer outfit worth thousands of pounds, and gems dripping from my ears, I feel a million dollars. I must look it too because I hear someone in the crowd whispering, ‘Who is she Is she off the telly’.
Photographers are shouting ‘Here! Here!’ and I pose and pout for them like I’ve been doing it all my life. A young Japanese girl asks for a photo and for my name. I tell her, and she nods as if to say ‘Yes, of course!’.
As I walk down the carpet, I think of the fabulous Georgian pile that I’ve just left, and silently thank all my staff — my butler, my cook and my PA — for helping me get ready for this star-studded night on the town. I couldn’t have done it without them.
For I’m as A-list as they come . . . or am I
High roller: Marianne Power looks to the manor born – for the budget price of 4,800
When I got up this morning, I was in the dingy two-bedroom flat I share with my sister, wearing my Topshop jeans and battered M&S shoes.
My only mode of transport was the bus and my only contact with celebrity was my weekly date with Graham Norton. On the telly.
So what’s happened in the intervening 12 hours Have I won the lottery Found a sugar daddy No, I have simply hired a whole new life. It used to only be possible to rent things like floor sanders and carpet cleaners by the day, but now there’s a whole new industry that allows you to hire the high life — be it a country manor, a chauffeur-driven Rolls or a designer dress — just for the day, the week or even a month if you can afford it.
And business is booming. According to online hire specialists Erento, the high-end rental market — of anything from Porsches to handbags, yachts to shoes — is thriving in the recession, growing by up to 25 per cent a month.
Thank you, my good man: Marianne takes a drink from dashing butler Jesse
The Mail revealed at the weekend that you now need at least 10 million to live the lifestyle of a millionaire. And while the current economic climate means most people are less able to buy lavish status symbols, it doesn’t stop them wanting to look the part — so they’ll rent their props when they need them to impress business acquaintances, friends or a new love interest.
So, I wondered, is it really possible to spend 24 hours living like a millionaire — and how much would it cost I decided to find out. First, my outfits. Right now my (Ikea) wardrobe is more H&M than Hermes so I set out to get the look and the lifestyle without breaking the bank.
A quick internet search reveals a whole host of businesses that allow you to rent everything from evening gowns and day dresses to designer handbags and Jimmy Choo heels.
I log on to wishwantwear.com and am spoilt for choice. Alice Temperley, Roberto Cavalli and Chanel — creations by all of them can be mine for an absolute fraction of the price.
I pick three designs which I can keep for four days. First is a floor-length gown in red, by Halston, which retails at 1,050 but is mine for 107. It’s the kind of dress I could never justify buying (because, alas, this Cinders doesn’t go to many balls) but at this price, I can afford the fairy tale.
Next is a drop-dead gorgeous gold sequined gown by US designer David Meister, a red carpet favourite for everyone from Kate Winslet and Sigourney Weaver to Andie MacDowell.
To buy the dress would cost 670, but instead I pay 100.
Finally, there’s the hot pink brocade dress by achingly-hip designer Theia, which sells for 575 but gets into my grubby mits for just 90.
Three designer dresses for under 300 It’s such a bargain, I decide I may as well throw in a Chanel handbag just for good measure. It’s 3,375 to people walking down Bond Street but just 150 to rent.
I start to lose my head a bit when I throw in another clutch bag for the evening — a little lizard number that retails at 1,045 (110) — and a pair of costume earrings (360, mine for 50), just for fun. It’s all too easy.
Dressed to impress: Marianne inspects her staff, left to right, Jesse the butler, Sergio the chef, Khan the chauffeur and Mariela the PA
Head buyer Polly Noel-Storr says people are flocking to the website. ‘We get women who hire a new dress every weekend. While high-end boutiques and department stores are struggling at the moment, we are growing.
‘We are rushed off our feet — especially for Royal Ascot and the summer season. We started the business in September and got the timing right — the recession means that people are much more inclined to rent a great dress for a special occasion than go and buy something for hundreds that they might never wear again.’
The website already has more than 10,000 members and has seen a 70 per cent rise in customers each month.
Any celebs Alas, Polly won’t say.
While I’m waiting for my dresses to arrive on a courier bike — which costs an extra 14 — I decide to get hair and make-up to complement them.
But who needs to pay for a make-up artist and personal hairdresser when you can blag it, dahling
I book an appointment for a free make-over at the Dolce & Gabbana counter in the Harrods beauty hall —they’re offered for nothing in the hope you love it so much, you buy what they’ve used on you. It’s a haven of shining gold compacts and high-end glossiness.
My make-up artist is a charming man by the name of Ozan. A Turkish born, Milan-trained make-up artist, he gets to work with an ‘opulent palette of bronze and gold’ on my eyes, and a gentle pink shade on my lips.
I ask if he has made up lots of A-listers and he says he once served someone from Girls Aloud.
Cheryl I ask. No ‘One of the others, I don’t know their names,’ he says.
Me neither. Oh well. I leave looking a bit more Arabian nights than my normal ‘barely there’ (read non-existent) style but no matter, I reckon he’s applied about 500 worth of different products — for nothing. Result.
Gratis: Resourceful Marianne managed to blag a free makeover at the Dolce & Gabbana counter at Harrods
I dash across the road to the Sassoon training academy. Since Vidal launched his hairdressing empire in the Sixties, Sassoon has been the place for students to learn their craft.
For just 19, you can get a cut, colour and blow-dry by a trainee.
I hit the jackpot and get the teacher, Joshua Gibson — who does models’ hair for catwalk shoots and magazine shoots — and leave with a perfectly swishy, expensive mane for a pittance.
When I walk out of the salon, my driver is waiting. A-listers don’t take the tube, so I’ve called on Black Label Chauffeurs — the posh version of Hertz rent-a-car. For 1,200 a day, a driver will pick up you in anything from a Ferrari or Lamborghini to a much more stately Rolls or Bentley.
An old-fashioned girl at heart, I opt for the pearl white Rolls-Royce Phantom. My driver Khan holds open the door and calls me ‘Madam’. People stare. Three very smart businessmen come out of the nearby Mandarin Oriental hotel and give the car an approving look. I am really loving this.
‘I feel like a star,’ I tell my driver.
‘Well, you are a star today, Madam,’ he says, before asking if ‘Madam’ is happy with the temperature, the music and the speed. Madam is very happy indeed. I ask Khan who his usual customers are — and again, he is the model of discretion. Damn him.
Apparently many houses you see in glossy
magazine photo shoots don’t actually belong to the stars, they’re hired
to create the right impression
He says that they can be famous people, and businessmen who want to make an impression. If you want to get dropped at a meeting, prices start at 120 an hour. That’s a lot of money, I say. Khan shrugs: ‘It’s making a statement, isn’t it This car is worth 250,000 — so being seen in makes you look very powerful.’ Indeed.
We glide through London traffic to my country pad — a breathtaking ten-bedroom Georgian house in four acres of lush Surrey countryside — where I’m going to reside for the rest of the day. The Old Rectory was found for me by Lavish Locations, which specialises in finding glorious homes you can rent by the day.
Apparently many houses you see in glossy magazine photo shoots don’t actually belong to the stars, they’re hired to create the right impression. I’m reminded of the Celebrity Come Dine With Me TV show specials — in which Z-list celebs always seem to be ‘borrowing’ a friend’s apartment to entertain in because their own house is ‘having work done’. Could it be the soap stars and musicians actually live in a shoe-box, like I do
Stepping out of my Rolls, I meet Trudie Proctor, the lady of house. Charm itself, she shows us around her pile as if it’s the most normal place in the world.
‘Wow, it must be amazing to live here,’ I gush. She tells me that she feels like she has spent the last 20 years fixing things. She looks out her immaculate lawn and shakes her head, ‘so much to do . . .’ she mutters. But it’s not all bad — she gets to meet some interesting people: ‘Billie Piper did some filming for Secret Diary Of A Call Girl here a while ago — it was a sex party. We got quite a shock when we realised they were a lot of naked people in the drawing room!
‘And that Dr Who chap, Matt Smith, was here yesterday, for a photo shoot. He was very nice. My sons were quite excited.’ But you don’t have to be famous — Trudie’s happy to rent her home out for dinner parties.
In the 14-seater drawing room, with old family portraits dating back to the Elizabethan age, you’d certainly impress your guests.
But such luxury comes at a price: namely 1,000 a day. Gulp. Lined up by the entrance to the house is my staff — in true Downton Abbey style.
Apparently these days, ‘help’ is not the preserve of the upper classes, you can hire assistance by the hour, the day or the week . . .
I’ve called on Off To Work, an agency which provides staff for A-list celebs, royalty, heads of state, high-flying businessmen. . . and now moi. They can send a personal assistant, chef and butler for the day. The butler is 140 a day. The PA and the chef each cost 200.
Dish of the day: Marianna's private chef, Sergio, serves up duck in the dining room of her rented stately home
My unfeasibly handsome butler, Jesse, asks if there is anything he can do for me. I admit that I’m not exactly sure what a butler does. ‘I service your every need, Madam.’
The mind boggles, but I settle for requesting a glass of champagne and within a minute Jesse is by my side with a cut crystal glass on a silver tray. I am in heaven.
My chef, Sergio, asks me what I’d like to give my guests for lunch. Seeing as my idea of gastronomy is cheese on toast, I ask for his advice. He suggests smoked duck on a bed of black lentils, garnished with decorative flowers — and I tell him that, yes, that would be acceptable.
Meanwhile, Mariela, my PA, has just completed her first job — finding me some jewellery to wear. Believe it or not several jewellers will let you borrow your bling for the night. Susannah Lovis, in London’s Burlington Arcade, rents out vintage jewellery at 350 a piece for the day.
She says it’s now a large part of her business and her clients include Martine McCutcheon and Elton John — who asks Susannah to provide the tiaras for his annual White Tie and Tiara event.
She kindly lends me two bracelets and two sets of earrings — including a ruby and diamond band (worth 12,650); a gold, diamond and emerald bangle (15,300), an exquisite pair of Art Deco diamond drop earrings (7,500) and a gold and diamond pair of earrings (4,200).
I hold them in my hands and shake with fear. How on earth is anyone allowing me to be responsible for almost 40,000 worth of jewels
Unsurprisingly, for security purposes, Susannah takes your credit card details and if the item is not returned, the value of the piece is charged. Now I look the part, I’m ready for my champagne reception in the drawing room followed by lunch in the dining room.
After bottles and bottles of bubbles (Morrison’s, 19.99, don’t tell anyone), I’m not quite ready to stop living the high life.
I ask my PA to get me into the hottest party in town and, after pulling a few strings, I’m back in the Rolls heading to the annual Women's Tennis Association pre-Wimbledon party where I rub shoulders with Joanne Froggatt — appropriately from Downton Abbey — loaded socialite Tamara Ecclestone and tennis ace Maria Sharapova.
Incredibly, I actually feel I belong
there. I smile and pout for the cameras — and for a second, in my head
at least, I am a star
Wearing the David Meister gold gown, we arrive at Kensington Roof Gardens in London, and paparazzi and fans are everywhere.
The Rolls purrs through the crowd, which parts like the red sea — and I get out. A million flashes go off and hundreds of eyes look at me — trying to figure out exactly who I am.
Incredibly, I actually feel I belong there. I smile and pout for the cameras — and for a second, in my head at least, I am a star.
Who cares if, like Cinderella, it’ll all vanish at midnight
Right now, I feel fabulous and the 4,800 I’ve spent living like an A-lister today suddenly seems worth it. It’s a tiny fraction of what the real thing would have cost.
And anyway, looking around the glamorous party, I reckon at least 50 per cent of the other celebrity guests are probably faking it, too.