We are no strangers to collaborative consumption. We share Ubers and Airbnbs with like-minded strangers, while we download our favourite tunes and films from online streaming services. Long gone are the days of owning items for ourselves as sharing seems to be the next step across many innovating industries. Consumers don’t necessarily want possessions, rather than the experiences they fulfil.
So isn’t this a rather natural step for fashion to take? After all, the idea of us consumers sharing clothing isn’t all that new. Charity shops have been around since the 1940s and the concept of purchasing an item of clothing which was once worn by another individual is totally conventional, and in certain social groups, seen as a trend to conform to.
The arrival of Rent the Runway over ten years ago meant that consumers in the US could rent high priced clothing and accessories without paying the high price tags. Designer clothes are sent to those with a membership to rent for a period of time before being returned to the warehouse to be cleaned and inspected before being sent to the next customer. The concept is ideal for those attending a glamorous event and know their outfit would end up lost in the back of their never-ending wardrobes, or even for the social media influencers that require clothing for content and don’t want to repeat a look. For those wishing to reduce the environmental damages of the fashion industry, incorporating a circular economy approach by extending clothing lifespans means rentable couture benefits the world as well as our wardrobes and bank accounts.
This week Selfridges announced Project Earth. An initiative to reinvent retail and to close the loop on fashion industry waste. They launched three campaigns: Shop Pre-loved With Us, Rent With Us and Repair With Us after growing consumer concern over the ecological impact of fashion which has caused retailers to step up their game.
Following in the footsteps of Rent the Runway, the luxury department store has collaborated with HURR, an online fashion rental platform, offering items from over 40 brands for hire up to 20 days at a time. The project has put a spin on the idea of clothing rental by focusing on the experience which the clothes will bring: encouraging experimentation with looks, featuring exclusive Selfridges archive styles and emphasizing earth-conscious shopping, all while making it fun, easy and inspiring. By extending the lifespan of clothing which already exists, the environmental impact of our wardrobes will be reduced.
Why rent the trend?
Consumer motivations differ as to why rentable fashion is as advantageous as it is. One of the most attractive aspects of brands such as Rent the Runway and Selfridges’ HURR collaboration is the lower price point. For example, via HURR a £1,690 Valentino dress can be rented from £99 to £335 depending on the time frame you wish to lend it. Creating a lower price to experience luxury makes couture brands more accessible and affordable to the general public.
The average consumer buys 60% more items of clothing than in 2000, yet each garment is kept for half as long, as items are being disregarded at an alarming rate. The arrival of fast fashion combined with these buying habits contribute to the 40 million tonnes of textile waste generated worldwide every year. With global apparel consumption predicted to rise by 63% within the next decade, rentable fashion may contribute to a much larger solution. By renting clothing rather than purchasing, the quantity of items disregarded per year is suggested to diminish.
Practicality and Convenience
Ease and accessibility are the principal ways to catch the attention of potential customers. With extensive options online, quick delivery, simple returns and ensured sanitation of clothing, renting may be more practical than struggling to find wardrobe space for that outfit you wore once.
The fashion industry was traditionally based on a set calendar revolving around a two-season approach to product ranges, SS and AW, yet brands such as Zara have ramped up their speed-to-market, producing collections with expiration periods of four weeks. Although this is great news for us shopping addicts, this is bad news for our bank accounts, as keeping up with owning the latest fashion trends is a tiring and never-ending job. By renting the latest trends, you can simply return them before they run their course.
Of course, the idea of rentable fashion doesn’t come without faults. With the recent pandemic increasing the public awareness of contact and sanitation, it is debatable how consumers may feel towards bringing an item home which has been worn by many others. Plus, there is the issue of devaluing brands with the potential of decreases in luxury sales as consumers wait for couture items to be available for rent.
It seems that everybody wants a taste of the luxury lifestyle, even if it must be returned in 3-5 working days.