Yes, we all love the buzz of a new item of clothing or shiny accessory. But the reality is most of us have more clothes than we need. Many of those items require a huge amount of energy and material to be produced and shipped, and then you set eyes on them and lay out a significant amount of cash, only for them to spend years languishing in your wardrobe.
Most disturbingly, they are usually eventually discarded and add to the growing problem of clothing waste.
Think of it like raiding your best friend’s closet. Except that closet is huge and full of luxury brands, and no one is loaded with the price tag.
Signing up for a clothing rental service allows you to literally “rent the runway” by giving you access to designer pieces without paying full retail price.
They’re perfect for casual occasions or special events where you need a few new items or accessories but don’t want to inflict the impact of your shopping habits onto your wallet or the planet.
All you need to do is sign up for a service (some work on subscription models, others rent by the piece), and browse until you find something that suits you.
From there you make your selection and have the items delivered right to your door (no carpark stress required). Once rented and worn, you simply return the garments, thus satisfying the urge to feel beautiful and special in a new item of clothing, without the need to own it.
Johanna Moonan, founder of OpenClosit, a designer dress rental service based in the USA, thinks so. She is driven by the philosophy that every garment you rent prevents something new from being produced, lowering our personal fashion footprint.
“What feeds my soul now is trying to inspire a new mindset – focused less on outright possessions and more cognisant of the resources that go into each garment,” Moonan says. “Generally speaking, we’ve got a lot more clothes in our closets than we wear and a number of dresses that have only seen the light of day once or twice.”
Copious survey studies have determined the average item of clothing may be worn as little as seven times before it is thrown or given away. “We try to keep each outfit in rotation and available to rent until they are no longer in optimal condition. Then, we encourage the owners to donate them to their local Dress for Success charity or women’s shelter.”
For most people, yes. Clothing rental costs a fraction of buying pieces new (especially if you’re shopping for special occasions). Plus, it fits pretty neatly into the growing rental service market that so many of us are already embracing.
Victoria Prew is the CEO and co-founder of HURR, the UK’s leading (and largest) wardrobe rental mecca. HURR offers rentals in designer clothing, a range of everyday wear, shoes, accessories and bags.
Prew admits that, as a millennial, she’s been raised to embrace shared ownership in many facets of the modern semi-adult woman’s life and this motivated her to explore ways to make clothing rental more commonplace.
“We rent cars and houses, so why not our wardrobes?” Prew says. “We’re pushing to make fashion rental mainstream and become more of an everyday occurrence.”
HURR’s up-and-up momentum as a fashion rental stalwart has been staggering. The rental house now holds over 6,600 items and garners the attention of tens of thousands of users across the UK. But how does Prew ensure its service morals stay within the realm of sustainability, rather than feeding into a secondary fast-fashion fiasco?
“HURR only accepts items over £120 RRP so as to cut out the lower end of the market where fast fashion tends to be rampant. This, combined with the overall massive environmental savings which rental offers versus buying new, will make a considerable difference as we scale,” she says.
HURR’s collaboration with British-based department store Selfridges has bolstered the service’s success. A bricks-and-mortar presence is where rented clothing’s potential to disrupt the current retail fashion model explodes, allowing consumers to fulfil the desire to try before they buy (though in this case, more aptly be content before they rent).
Mikaela Larsell Ayesa, the co-founder of Sweden’s Hack Your Closet, echoes the sentiments of Moonan and Prew. She also notes that their inventory of borrowed frocks stands to make leading sartorial labels hyper-aware of their fabrication, design and production. Ayesa believes that the power of the rental model lies in the onus its sheer existence places on the modern “cool” label to be better.
“Rental companies are making brands wary that they need to produce good quality [garments] for them to be able to rotate many times and wash well many times,” Ayesa says.
“People want to move towards a more sustainable wardrobe, even though they might really like to update their closet,” she continues. “That’s why I think rentals are on the rise – consumers are still able to update their closets in a fun but more sustainable way.”
It’s all about changing consumers’ mindsets: shoppers can still love and enjoy the clothes they wear, without having to own them. A beautiful piece can serve its short-term purpose, and be returned or swapped for a new temporary fix, rather than sitting at the back of the wardrobe or ending up tossed into landfill.
It feels like every week there is a new clothing rental service, but they’re not all created equal when it comes to luxury brands. OpenClosit stands out for its great selection of “it” pieces that you’ve probably been coveting since you saw them on the runway.
Hurr’s selection is so huge you’ll feel like you’re entering the expansive belly of a digital retail giant. Except you won’t have to deal with the thousand-dollar shopping cart at checkout, or feel guilty about the environmental impact of your fashion binge.
If you’re going to trust your sartorial identity to anyone, make it a Swede. These Scandinavians live up to their country’s stylish reputation but also go above and beyond when it comes to demonstrating their whole brand’s serious commitment to sustainability.
Harboring more antipodean tastes? Try Rntr., the new Australian clothes rental site that focuses on beautiful brands whose values are as enticing as their designs. You can already find a selection of bags, including from beloved responsible brands Simétrie and A_C. Soon they’ll be joined by some of our personal favourite clothing labels – we’re especially excited to see Arnsdorf and Esse in the mix.
This Berlin-based service offers a clothing membership for fashion-enthused individuals, giving them access to a shared wardrobe of garments to pick and choose from, renting pieces for however long they like, before swapping them for something new.