Fashion rental may seem like a pretty new phenomenon. In the US, there have been numerous rental sites offering fashion rental for years but in the UK, things only started heating up in 2020. It has become more accessible, more attainable and definitely, more affordable. If you have followed me on Instagram for some time, you will know what a huge advocate I am for fashion rental.
I think back to my memories of fashion rental when I was a child, not for myself but my mum. She would often rent gowns for various functions she would attend, but that is where the line ended, at ball gowns and tuxedos for special occasions (and the occasional fancy dress costume!). Over the years, attitudes towards fashion rental has changed, moving away from getting a dress for a formal occasion to renting everyday pieces and there are now a number of services who offer rental options and you can rent almost anything; from knitwear, to jeans, to that cult dress of the season! The possibilities are truly endless and when you think about the cost per wear of a garment, sometimes it really does make sense to rent those beautiful pieces for a month rather than having lots of items sitting in your wardrobe never getting worn and taking up valuable space! I for one have shifted my mindset from being afraid to be seen in the same items on repeat and believe that rewearing clothing, whether it be a permanent wardrobe piece or rented, as much as possible is the way forward.
I remember the first time I rented a dress, I genuinely felt like a princess in a very over the top piece, with rainbow colours, made from layers of fabric. There was something so exciting about knowing that I had this piece for a limited amount of time, I wanted to make the most out of having something so beautiful to wear and made sure to document it. I enjoyed the time we spent together, knowing that I hadn’t made more of an impact on the environment made the experience even better.
Rental is often described as the sustainable alternative to fast fashion – it promotes slower fashion, lower consumption and the sharing economy, all of which fall under the banner of sustainability. Now I know that there are still other issues associated with rental including packaging, CO2 emissions caused by transport and the impact of chemicals used for dry cleaning on the environment, but that is for another post.
I think that the biggest reason that rental is now booming is because it provides accessibility in many forms. Firstly in cost effectiveness. If you love your designer pieces but may not necessarily be able to afford them, rental gives you the ability to try without making the commitment, both physical and financial. When you work it out, the average cost of a Ganni or Reformation dress is around £250 and you may only wear that piece a few times in a season, by renting the same dress for a month for a fraction of the cost.
Environmentally conscious consumers are driving the trend for fashion rental and the most noteable benefit of that it closes the loop on fashion production. By renting pieces it means that consumers aren’t buying into fast fashion trends at the same pace they once were.
Finally and probably the most important reason why I advocate for fashion rental so much, is because it provides ethical shopping options to those who may not usually be able to access them. Size inclusivity is still an issue in the sustainable fashion market and with rental platforms providing multiple size options, it allows mid and plus size people the opportunity to try out styles they may not have previously been able to.
Finally, I think that fashion rental allows me to be more creative with my style. By renting short term – without the commitment of buying something brand new (or even second hand) allows me to try items I may not have necessarily wanted to before, purely because of cost.