Just like a raid of your friends’ closets, fashion rental services allow individuals to borrow a piece for a variety of occasions, from glamourous events to everyday wear. Once rented and worn, you can simply return garments, thus satisfying the urge to feel beautiful and special in new items of clothing, without the need to own it.
So, is this the answer to fast fashion and excess clothing waste?
Johanna Moonan, founder of OpenClosit a designer dress rental service based in the USA, 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.”
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.
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 their 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 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.
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.