I have made a conscious effort over the last few years to buy less, be more considered in my shopping approach and generally step back a bit from the constant sell of social media. I’ve not perfected it and I’m not an eco blogger by any means, but I have a conscience and think about how my position within the fashion industry has affected and influenced how I think and feel about clothes.
I’ve been interested in renting clothes for a while (you can read Emma Slade-Edmondson’s post on rental fashion here) and actually, as I straddle my post and pre partum body I have found that it particularly resonates with me. Back to work post maternity leave, I suddenly had a few events to go to but none of my pre pregnancy wardrobe fitted – did I really need to buy something specifically for an event?
For me, this is where rental fashion really comes into its own. That one wear item, you want to feel amazing in a well-made piece but don’t want to spend £300+ on it. It’s also an opportunity to try and wear previously out of budget items like Rixo, Saloni and Stine Goya.
Like many, I had been hesitant (what if I spill wine…? Don’t worry, this question is answered later in this article!) but once I tried it – I was hooked. The only problem is as it gets more popular and closer to the festive season I have encountered a few hiccups so thought I’d share my experiences so far as I would reeeeeeallly like it to work.
My first time went as smooth as can be. I typed in one of my favourite brands, filtered by my size on the By Rotation app and within a few days, it was on my doorstep (via Royal Mail) ready for me to wear. Thankfully it fitted and when I was finished I posted it back (tracked). I chose By Rotation as my first try as it is peer to peer so it seemed the most ethical to me: it’s not a platform that stocks tons of items to be rented out, this one dress already existed in someone’s wardrobe and I was borrowing it on its downtime! It’s all done via Royal mail too, so no courier costs, and the owner is responsible for cleaning (in case there are specific things that need doing) – this dress could go in the washing machine so no extra dry cleaning involved.
I felt amazing in the dress and honestly? It really took the ‘need’ of a new piece out of my mind. Instead, it filled me with excitement at renting a different dress next time. Financially, it’s not quite viable if you repeat borrow the same item (it’s roughly around £30-£45 to borrow a mid price dress like Ganni for 4 days) but it cost less than buying an ethically-made dress for an occasion where I didn’t need to buy something new. For me, it’s the thrill of wearing something ‘new to me’ and getting myself out of the mentality that I constantly need to ‘buy’ and ‘own’ items.
After my first positive experience I was sold to the idea of renting, particularly ‘wow’ dresses but I then started to experience a few hiccups: firstly, I borrowed a dress for a weekend wedding away but didn’t end up going due to COVID-related issues (thankfully all okay). If I had bought a dress, I could’ve kept the labels on and sent it back – this sadly isn’t the case with rental. So, like our (child-free!) hotel booking, I lost the money.
Then I requested a dress for a shoot (previously, I would’ve felt the pressure to buy something new to shoot festive content for Instagram) through Hurr (whose pop-up I had visited in King’s Road) – it seemed very straightforward and again it’s peer to peer rental. I entered my card details, it went through and that was that! The day before my shoot I wanted to double-check the delivery date and couldn’t find the rental in my account, nor any email in my inbox….I got worried. I logged into my account and lo and behold, the dress I had put my card down for was declined – no note, no reason, no notification. I had assumed I would be emailed if there were any problems (after all, I had entered all my card details) but had received nothing – not a text or an email. Maybe I’m a dinosaur but I have wayyyyyy too many apps and online accounts to keep checking the site/app every few days for a confirmation. It wasn’t meant to be – it wouldn’t put me off renting again but it’s good to know this – sometimes the apps are glitchy and you might not get notified.
I recently asked what people wanted to know about renting and it was probably my most replied to question on stories! So I have answered some questions below but I also put it to some of the top rental companies too:
What if I spill wine?
With most of these brands, insurance is included in with the item cost. Rotaro (who enable renting clothes directly from brands like Alexa Chung and Rixo) include a “£6 insurance fee to cover any damage including wine, tears and pulls“. With Hurr, renters can opt to purchase Damage Protection for £5, covering the cost of repairable damage (such as a broken zip, missing beads, stain removal) to give you peace of mind (but this only covers repairs up to £50). Still worried? My Wardrobe HQ (which stocks brands like Ganni and Maje) reassured me that “since the set launched in 2019 we have only had ONE item which was unsaveable!”.
Who is in charge of cleaning?
I haven’t yet come across a rental site where the customer is in charge of cleaning (mainly because the owner of the item would know the best way to clean it) and it’s all included in the rental price.
COCOON is a designer bag rental membership service, who take great pride in servicing their bag collection – “Each bag is subject to a physical check and rigorous care process when coming in and out of the business to ensure it is thoroughly cleaned. We disinfect with environmentally friendly, industry-leading products. We are always researching our products to ensure that we are using the most sustainable and eco-friendly option”.
Do they offer inclusive sizing? Plus size or petite options available?
Rotaro and OnLoan go up to a size 16 but looking at expanding. Peer to peer is often better for this as you are renting from others – By Rotation, for example, has sizes 22-24 (and the great thing about that is you can become familiar with someone of a similar size and taste and favourite their pieces – I often just browse clothes from one seller!). Hurr has a good selection of sizes and from a brief search there are some great Reformation pieces in a size 28.
What if something doesn’t fit/suit me?
Membership platforms seem to be the best for this (and most you can dip in and out of). Onloan offers swaps on any unworn items that don’t fit (providing they’re returned within the first few days).
COCOON has this covered – “The beauty of handbags is that they are so universal and size is rarely an issue. We always want our members to love the bags they’ve chosen when they arrive, and it’s most often the case. However, if you’re not head over heels for your bag, we will happily swap it for another style. Simply let our membership team know within 24 hours of receiving your bag“.
Sites like By Rotation suggest contacting the rotator to get more information and you can ‘follow’ rotators with a similar shape/style.
And some brands, like My Wardrobe, have a store (currently in London – Harrods or Elizabeth Street, Belgravia) where you can “try on just as you would in any store, and take only what fits”.
What items are the most popular to rent?
This is an interesting one, as I’ve only rented dresses. “Dresses are the most popular by far as it’s a full outfit in one, followed by coats and jackets then accessories” – Rotaro. For COCOON it’s the Prada ‘Cleo’ and the Bottega Veneta ‘Mini Jodie’ bags.
How is it sent? Is it really eco?
Often peer to peer rental, like By Rotation, uses Royal Mail. Onloan, COCOON, My Wardrobe and Rotaro use carbon neutral DPD for returns (Rotaro’s mailouts are sent in a reusable bag).
Can you rent and then buy if you like?
My Wardrobe offer the opportunity to buy the item outright at a reduced price or if you wish to rent it first “you can keep the item, and the rental fee is deducted from the ‘buy’ price listed”.
COCOON suggest that bag renting is a “great way to ‘try before you buy’, so you can make more informed purchase decisions. After three months of continued membership, members have the opportunity to purchase bags in the collection at a discounted rate (but we also reserve the right to not sell anything that we want to keep in the collection).” Rotaro have a “rental and a resale option, so if you have rented a garment and loved it, it will eventually be in the resale for your to take it home forever”.
Onloan also offer the opportunity to buy and they also have a Preloved section on their site.
Other brands to try:
Whirli – a toy box subscription service. I’d really like to try this for my kids – it’s a great way to try those ‘investment’ purchases – and you get the opportunity to buy if your child ends up falling in love!
Bundlee Baby – I tried this with Peggy when she was little and it was lovely, a baby clothes subscription service – they have just started stocking brands like Mini Rodini, too!
Hire Street – here you can access more accessible brands to rent like M&S x Ghost (£22 for 10 days) and French Connection.
Bike Club – rent bikes for kids (Balance Bikes start for £4.49 a month) as they grow, I love this concept.