With lockdowns and government restrictions, it is no surprise that traditional retail went into freefall last year. It would be reasonable to assume that the fashion rental market would follow suit, yet despite the cancelling of any social engagements amid the pandemic, rental platforms have continued to grow.
Fashion rental services have been reserved for special occasions or fancy dress until recently, but now they are becoming a viable alternative to fast-fashion. People are beginning to hail renting as a guilt-free way of exploring fashion due to it being more sustainable. The environmental advantages of a circular rental model of clothes, especially in comparison to the wear-once form of consumption, is one of the main reasons that brands want to be involved in rentals. The pandemic has also given people time to reflect and become more aware of how fast-fashion is being produced. The economic implications of the pandemic also means that people are turning to renting to wear something new because it is more affordable.
Popular rental sites that have recently risen to prominence include the likes of Rent the Runway, By Rotation, My Wardrobe HQ, Hurr, OnLoan and Rotaro. By Rotation launched in October 2019 and soon became a fan favourite, with the app’s users having climbed from 12,000 to 25,000 since March 2020 and the amount of items being listed increasing by 120%. Evidently, renting has taken off in the last year.
Some brands have decided to enter the rental space too, in order to stay relevant. Supposedly, it is a risk to a brand’s reputation to sell old garments to discount retailers, so rental services is a great alternative, especially considering its increasing popularity.
Whilst there are fast-fashion outlets that are still enticing young people, the rental sector is continuing to expand, especially at the luxury end of the scale.
Even Jean Paul Gaultier has decided to take advantage of the rise in fashion rentals, opening up a rental space which allows fashion fans to explore the archives and rent some its most iconic pieces.
Gaultier intends to reach a bigger audience and encourage a new generation to experience the brand with pricing ranging from roughly €150 (£126) for a scarf to €700 for a short-term rental of a cage-style evening dress.
Now that we are making our way back to the shops after a series of lockdowns, rental services are beginning to recognise people’s desire to shop in-person, rather than purely online. Many have launched pop-ups over London to connect with customers and giving them the opportunity to try before borrowing. Rotaro opened a shop on Carnaby Street and By Rotation had a pop-up at Westfield shopping centre.
With renting clothes becoming even more accessible, is owning clothes a thing of the past?