• Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

A Stitch in the Wrong Direction? The Rise of Rentable Fashion

ByTommy Manning

Feb 6, 2023
still photo from scene in confessions of a shopaholic, Isla fisher surrounded by shoes in her bedroom

An intriguing shift could be underway in the way we approach a now out-of-hand relationship with ownership, in this case, a potential ditching of fast fashion in the wake of a second-hand clothing boom. 

Where once second-hand clothing was bought out of necessity from charity shops and early eBay sellers, the process almost feels hijacked now by scalpers, those who buy up desirable stock to resell with massive markups; fuelled by a wealthy upper class more desperate than ever to reject a look of wealth in a cost of living crisis. Is a sustainable way of consumerism finally on the horizon?

Introduce to the mix an explosion in sites like Rotaro and Hurr; offering a wealth of pieces with an expectation of being returned as the whole deal. For example, in the case of a two-piece party dress co-ord from Monni with a retail value of £200, it can be rented for either £25 for four days or £35 for 12 days – with an incentive there to get a lot more value from the longer rental period, opening up the option to take a whole new designer wardrobe on a week’s holiday.

Clothing subscription services like Stitch Fix even offer boxes of personally curated garments picked out for you by an expectedly matched personal stylist. That’s where things get muddled though; if the purpose of these services is just to provide customers with something new with every delivery, are consumers just partaking in the guarantee of newness for the sake of it?

The concept feels oddly political in its ways. In the sense that more and more of our lives are made of services and subscriptions that we’re only a missed payment away from losing feels both abhorrently capitalist whilst, at the same time, this temporary sharing of goods and products, in theory, leans towards a less materialistic, more accessible and potentially more environmentally sustainable approach on consumerism. Equally, a rise in subscription services across the film, TV, music, and now fashion industries feels symbolic of a world that is no longer keen to sentimentalise prized possessions – no longer having a favourite record or best jacket.

It would be unfair to denote the ability of a service like Rotaro’s to make designer brands accessible to the general public though – the expectation to shed hundreds of pounds on something worn once feels morally wrong. A narrowing of a wealth divide within a classist industry can only be congratulated. When it comes to buying into these services for everyday use, however, I can’t help to see the idea as much more than a glorified approach to bulk ordering on ASOS, wearing everything once on a night out with the tags pinned back – waking the next morning hungover to repack and tape the parcel ready for return.

In essence, it’s hard to see massive benefits of renting fashion as of right now as long as excessive carbon emitting back and forth transport of goods is a factor, as well as the often high prices attached to these services. That said, the benefits of these services when it comes to children’s or maternity clothing where there’s a need for frequent size changes are clear.

It’s hard to know whether we’re turning our backs on fast fashion or hurtling toward it. Personally, there are worries that our growing lack of ownership for our homes, media, and now even the clothes we wear does have an eery feel. I can’t help but feel insecure as though this could all be turned against us one day, with nothing to our name.

Image Credit:Confessions of a Shopaholid” by ahoracine is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.