The concept sounds oh so romantic and maybe it is. Cinderella had her fairy Godmother who went “bippity, boppity, boo” and now you have fashion rental companies who do essentially the same. Don’t worry, you don’t have to live with two horrid sisters and an evil stepmother, the process is much simpler. Fashion rental companies have very accessible and easy to use websites with a diverse range of products to offer. Ever dreamt in Dior? You might J’adore this.
Who are these companies and what do they do? Fashion rental companies bring you clothes, shoes, bags and other accessories, let you enjoy the joy of consuming these products for a specific time period and take them away when your demand is satisfied to clean and pass on this baton of joy to other customers. Big names include, Rent the Runway- who have been in operation for almost a decade now, By Rotation, Girl Meets Runway, Front Row and My Wardrobe HQ to name just a few. These companies have specialized in renting out high end and designer items.
Ways to access the dream wardrobe: These companies usually have various packages and deals you can choose from. A deposit is paid for the clothes for a rotatory period. Rent the Runway for example offers an unlimited rentals plan for a ‘subscription’ fee of $159 (£127). Single articles can also be rented out. By Rotation offers a range that varies from £15 for a Reformation dress to £75 for a Birkin bag. The fantasy of wearing a (faux) fur coat to channel Cruella de Vil for a day or sporting a vintage Vuitton no longer requires you to cash yourself out.
There are special occasions like a holiday party that requires you to wear a slinky, sparkly dress or a business interview where you need a pantsuit and other such events, but it doesn’t exactly feel appropriate to wear these outfits on a regular basis making fashion seem like a grim investment rather than a fun experiment. The same can be said about trends. Baguette bags, the return of the 90s, tiny framed sunglasses, all neon everything and Balenciaga dad sneakers is all well and good. But trends are fleeting. No matter how much you can enjoy them, it is never a long-term investment. Which is why rental companies have this dreamy appeal.
Rental companies have often been interpreted as one of the keyways to make the world of fashion more sustainable. The textile industry is responsible for 1.2 billion tons of carbon footprint alongside 35% of microfibers of plastic in the oceans from abandoned clothing materials. Rental companies do provide a more environment friendly approach and also reduce the space taken up in consumer households. There are however more facts to consider. The carbon footprint created by logistics in delivering clothes and dry cleaning is a big drawback. There also exists the risk of overconsumption as a result of increased appetite for clothing.
From a student’s perspective, there are pros and cons to be considered. Prom, internships and wedding guest duties are some of the main occasions where a student would be required to dress extravagant. In situations like these rental companies can play a huge role. In terms of everyday clothing, thrifting, charity and vintage shopping would be a more cost-effective sustainable path to choose.
For this concept to be popular with students and still be sustainable, brands who specialize in everyday wear need to step into the game. Rental companies have so far been restricted to high end brands and renting them out is cheaper but still not student’s budget friendly. There has been talk about an ‘airbnb’ concept where users own inventory and run it like a C2C business. So far Urban Outfitters have decided to launch in the United States Nuuly, launches in the US in part to mitigate the high level of returns the retailer experiences. H&M has said it is looking into the renting model as part of its sustainability agenda. The Westfield Group has run trials of rental services.
These initiatives seem more applicable to students while maintaining a good sustainable business. There are a few battles to be fought and more brainstorming required on the part of businesses. There is more talk about sustainability now more than ever. Sustainability could be the future of fashion if executed effectively.
Image: Carla Oly via Flickr