Rent a Runaway has set a trend for fashion renting that has inspired other startups and seasoned retailers to get on the bandwagon. The mix of getting quality and even designer items at a fraction of the price seems like a dream for fashion lovers – and there is the opportunity for people to get their hands on pieces they never deemed possible before!
Meanwhile, fashion renting is often posed as a sustainable alternative to usual consumption. This is because we are not producing any new clothes at mass speeds, the garments are being used over and over again, and there is no harm in ending up not liking the item after a while, as it will go back anyway.
The fashion rental trend is inspired by the familiar notion of renting a suit or ball gown for a special occasion. However, the unique perspective of fashion rental brands is that they allow consumers to choose items for any occasion from designer to high-street at a monthly subscription fee.
This process seems like the perfect opportunity to try out new styles, silhouettes and colours whilst exploring a range of new brands and designers. With so many benefits it truly does seem like the perfect option.
There are a whole plethora of new renting services popping up, from more affordable to more exclusive. This means that whatever your prefered budget, there’s likely something out there for you. It seems there are really no downsides…
But is fashion renting really sustainable?
Newness without the waste. Lengthened fashion cycle. Test before you buy.
The main sustainable perspective on fashion rental is that it allows the consumer to get their novelty of newness by being able to change their wardrobe consistently. The fashion items are returned and rented to other consumers, it lengthens the use lifecycle of fashion items and they will not go to landfill at the end of it.
The fashion rental model allows the consumer to test fashion items from a brand, before considering owning the item. Therefore, this could potentially allow them to make more considered choices for building a wardrobe. Especially as the Fashion Stylist, Lalita Lowe explains that ‘women only wear 20% of their clothing.’ This is because many fashion consumption is made during impulsive moments.
Growing fashion appetite. Environmental impact. Loss of ownership.
Consumers may grow their appetite for fashion consumption with a wider selection of quality garments available at a lower price point. This may mean they are disillusioned that fashion rental is completely sustainable despite the amount of consumption connected to it.
Rent the Runway owns the biggest dry cleaning service in the US, which highlights the environmental impact of the maintenance of a re-sell inventory. Also, the carbon footprint of the packaging and delivering the items have massive implications for the sustainability of the service.
The principle of fashion rentals is allowing customers to have a wardrobe they would wear. However, the products are only leased which leave consumers less connected to the items and the process involved in the production and maintenance of a product. This loss of ownership may breed loss of responsibility of consumption and less sustainably conscious choices.
In conclusion, fashion rentals can be a great sustainable option depending on peoples current shopping habits. As mentioned by Business of Fashion writer, Chavie Lieber ‘my attempts to use rentals to build my infinite closet left me dying to go shopping’. The writer summarised this after testing various fashion rental services. This perspective highlights that for some fashion rental can be exhausting and may result in some craving for the traditional shopping experience and own their clothes.
However it depends on how sustainably conscious the users of the service are, whether they are over-indulging just because they can, or whether they are genuinely trying to explore new styles before committing to one only to realise they do not like it. Fashion renting will always be a more sustainable alternative to throwing clothes away.
The most sustainable alternative to both buying and fashion renting is actually to just explore and wear what’s already in your wardrobe. Or, trade with friends, family, donate to charity shops and buy something new there, and then re-donate if it doesn’t work out!
If you are interested in sustainability within the fashion industry, be sure to check out our blog with many other posts that explore important topics of discussion.