"Thanks, it's a rental" is a phrase you're likely to hear a lot more of in the future. Where once the idea of borrowing somebody else's clothes – and not just anybody's, but a stranger's – would have seemed weird, today the fashion rental industry is thriving, with an increasing number of savvy shoppers signing up to a wave of exciting new services, and their sustainable credentials, in droves.
In a world where we rent out other people’s homes, borrow their dogs, drive their cars and share their workspaces, it seems only natural that the access economy would eventually reach our wardrobes too. The peer-to-peer fashion rental service is a relatively new concept in the UK, with the earliest example, Hurr, launching just three years ago, in 2018. But in the past year alone the industry has seen exponential growth; in a recent Grazia article, By Rotation reported a 600 per cent increase in rentals since the beginning of November, and Rotaro reported a 200 per cent increase in the run-up to Christmas.
Conversations around sustainability have been bubbling in the fashion industry for a while, and this new mindset, coupled with the uncertainty of the pandemic, has helped spur the trajectory forward. When it comes to waste, the UK textile industry is one of the worst offenders, contributing 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon emissions a year. To put that into context, that’s more than international flights and maritime shipping combined. Rental services exist to extend the lifecycle of clothes and accessories, and stamp down on fast, throwaway fashion in the process.
But that’s not to say the fashion rental industry is shaming those who love to shop – in fact, it’s the exact opposite. These services give you access to more clothes than you could ever need; they’re simply encouraging a more considered approach to fashion in doing so. Tempted? These are the big hitters leading the charge.
Positioning itself as a social app rather than a shopping service, By Rotation is a community of fashion lovers that allows users to monetise their wardrobes while also shopping sustainably. New updates installed in February have been designed to further enhance the social aspect of the app, giving users the opportunity to follow their favourite ‘Rotators’, make mood boards of future rental looks, see how many people are viewing their item and search for new and popular listings in their area. Consider it the Instagram of the fashion rental industry. Not sure who to follow first? Famous fans include Stacey Dooley and Lady Amelia Windsor.
‘Wardrobe freedom’ is the tagline at Onloan, a subscription service that gives you the opportunity to enjoy a rotating designer wardrobe, with the option to rent two or four items a month from its curated edit of sustainable-first brands, all of which are fronted by female creative directors. Currently the site stocks clothes from 24 designers, including Shrimps, Stine Goya and Hayley Menzies. The best bit? If you find something you love and can’t bear to part with it, Onloan will let you buy it off them for a snip of the original retail price.
From £69 per month, onloan.co
Launched in 2018, Hurr was the first peer-to-peer fashion rental platform in the UK, and was inspired by the increasingly short life cycles of luxury clothing and accessories. To avoid encouraging fast fashion, the website only stocks items that have a retail price of £150 or more and, as such, brands range from Ganni and Alexa Chung to Balenciaga and Saint Laurent. Once signed up, users can browse more than 7,000 items, book rentals up to six months in advance and create mood boards of potential outfits.
Sustainability is at the core of Rotaro, which not only offers an alternative to fast fashion, but promises to be as environmentally-friendly as possible in the process. All orders are packaged in a biodegradable box, which can be returned to the brand to be recycled, and are delivered by a carbon-neutral courier. All items are cleaned using an Ozone cleaning method that requires minimal energy and produces zero waste. And for every rental, a new tree is planted through partner brand Ecologi. Rather than users renting from one another, Rotaro has developed a number of partnerships with labels such as Ganni, Rixo, House of Sunny and Jacquemus, meaning all clothing is handled directly by the brand itself – allowing for a range of sizes (6-18), next day delivery and a Try-On at home service.
One for the bag lovers, Cocoon is a subscription service that gives users access to an extensive collection of new season, pre-loved and vintage designer totes – including limited edition Fendi Baguettes, the Loewe Puzzle and the Gucci Horsebit. There are three membership options to choose from, with the option to pay monthly or quarterly. Each subscription gives you access to a different Cocoon collection (Light, Premium and Deluxe) and dictates the number of bags you can rent each month.
From £49 per month, cocoon.club
My Wardrobe HQ
My Wardrobe HQ launched in 2019 with more than 500 designers on its books, including Stella McCartney, Gucci, Prada and Chanel. Every item on the website is available to both rent and buy, giving users the opportunity to try an item before committing to a purchase. Clothing and accessories are sourced from the service’s brand partners, as well as celebrities and influencers such as Arizona Muse, Poppy Delevingne and Olivia Buckingham. Each item can be rented for as little as four days and for as many as 14. When you’re finished, you just need to return it using a pre-paid label; the My Wardrobe HQ team will take care of any dry cleaning and ironing.