According to Hubbub 2019 stats: people return, on average two items of clothing from each online shopping order, and over 10% of 25 – 35-year olds would admit to having bought clothes with the intention of wearing them out once and then returning them. Meanwhile 50% of people say they are concerned about the impact of fashion on the environment.
It’s difficult to see where that leaves us. And by that, I mean, it leaves us with a question: how do we close the gap between intention and action?
And a lot can change in a year…2020 being one of the starkest examples of this. With the global context being the backdrop of a pandemic, a political swing towards right wing protectionist views across the world and a severe tightening of the economic purse strings – it would be easy enough to argue that for many, sustainability just can’t be front of mind.
But here’s why I think that those of us who are feeling the urge to shop for a new wardrobe should be considering fashion rental. For some, lockdown has been a time to reflect and slow down, a time to explore our existing wardrobes, but for others the switch has been to purchasing more online and this has probably been part of maintaining a sense of normality.
But as people become more cautious about how they spend their disposable income, does it make more sense to invest in fashion rental than it does to own pieces? Hear me out…
300,000 tonnes of clothing head to landfill every year in the UK so it makes sense to search for circular ways to enjoy fashion. But sustainable brands are often thought of as inaccessible due to cost and unavailability of larger size options. And when aspects of our life become more difficult we often re-prioritise our moral compass for convenience and ease.
But what’s interesting about fashion rental is that, once you’re signed up, it is far more convenient than shopping. You get convenience and a more mindful offering wrapped into one.
Take Rotaro for example – I’ve rented two dresses from this platform recently and the beauty of their offering is both the slick customer service and the option to rent pieces by designers such as Cult Gaia, Mollie Goddard, Shrimps and Rejina Pyo. These are designers that I covet but, frankly, I would never be able to afford to buy in reality.
Even better – founder Georgie tells me that they are soon to stock everything on their site in size 6-16. Still not totally inclusive, but a start, especially when this size range is not available yet to buy via many sustainable fashion brand alternatives. Rotaro set themselves apart by offering a whole host of service assurances – quality assurance, home collection and next day delivery and eco cleaning techniques that promise clothes cleaned to be as good as new (and cleaner than those you might find on a shop floor).
They are even proactively tracking the sizing and fit of the different designers they stock, in order to be able to give advice to their customer which is incredibly helpful, particularly if you’re using rental as a low cost, low commitment, low impact way to experiment with designers you have never worn.
Georgie says that ensuring their business fulfils its set of sustainability criteria they have laid out has been at the forefront of every decision since they launched in Nov 2019. They are determined to minimise their footprint.
But it’s been a tough period for most circular business models of late and Georgie reported seeing 75% of their customers cancel their summer rentals when COVID struck. But luckily customers are returning now.
Variety and accessibility
We all know that the fashion system is set up to lure us into desiring the latest fashions. And look, I’m an absolute pro at staving off pangs of lust toward a sexy new style or cut, but even I have the odd twinge here and there.
I firmly believe that rental gives us a way to change our mindset by weaning ourselves off the need for newness and gradually training our brains to the idea that less really is more without going cold turkey.
Subscription models like Onloan offer us the opportunity to experiment with new styles and designers without the commitment or cost of buying and without the worry of a poor fit or minimal wearability. It’s also a chance to indulge in variety without it equating to further demand for new virgin pieces and waste.
Onloan offer conscious fashion forward brands such as Maggie Marilyn, Designers Remix and Mother of Pearl – brands that I truly aspire to support, but that I would never be able to (financially) afford to take a chance on in terms of cut, fit and suitability.
This platform, for me, is the one that makes rental feel like it is for everyday, and not only for the occasion, which is the way we need to go to make it feel normalised.
But then, of course, occasionwear will always have its place, and now, more than ever, people want to feel like their outfit is as special as the evening out that they have been waiting inside for.
This is where options like Hurr’s Selfridges rental store come in. Hurr are traditionally a ‘Peer to Peer’ model but recently partnered with Selfridges to offer items to rent at the renowned department store.
Earlier in the year, I took a friend along with me to try out the in-store experience and we were immediately impressed with how seamless it was. Hours quickly passed as we tried on everything from gorgeous floaty gowns to slinky date night options before we noticed the time. It’s an innovative concept, strategically placed in the heart of a department store that ordinarily (outside of COVID times) attracts tourists from all over the world. This is exciting in that it gives rental a platform and a visibility that it has never had before in the UK, and this visibility could really take it mainstream.
I don’t think I’ve ever had such a relaxing time in a ‘shop’. Almost every dress was appealing and we had so much fun trying things on in the knowledge that if we didn’t rent something that day, we could always take it for a spin another time.
Circular options for the little ones
It may also surprise you to know that babies should be renting their clothes to save the environment. Yep you heard me right – babies should, and can now rent their clothes (or at least their parents can).
But all joking aside babies grow so fast that they get through 7 sizes of clothing in just two years on average. And all that clothing adds up to a lot of waste.
Thankfully Bundlee baby clothing rental provides a bundle of 15 items of everyday items that you can dress your baby in and then swap out for another capsule bundle as soon as they outgrow the first.
It’s such a simple, convenient and easy way to subscribe to a more sustainable approach it almost feels too good to be true. On average parents in the UK spend £997 on clothing for baby in the first year (spread across 12 months that’s – £83 per month). And just a single sleepsuit can cost £30 – £40 when purchased from a conscious brand.* So at £24 per month for a bundle subscription, it’s no surprise that mums and dads report that with a million and one other things to be preoccupied with as a new parent, Bundlee (an easy way to do yourself and the environment a favour) feels priceless.
So, if you’re thinking of heading off on a trip to take advantage of the last few weeks of summer and looking for a way to inject some colour therapy into your wardrobe, or even into babies’ wardrobe, perhaps you might consider rental this time around?