Sacha Newall, CEO and co-founder of the UK’s first fashion rental marketplace, My Wardrobe HQ, which she launched with Tina Lake in 2018, says she saw a 50% increase in stock listed by brands and private lenders. “Rental is picking up because people are really concerned about their pay packet but still want something new and nice to wear without the financial risk,” says Newall, whose re-sale integration also allows a renter to buy a piece for a fraction of the original retail price if they happen to fall in love with it.
How these companies function is as simple as it sounds. By Rotation, for example, is a peer-to-peer service, so private lenders and renters manage the process themselves, either posting or meeting up to exchange items, and taking care of the cleaning (under brand guidelines) with no interference – unless there’s a problem – from the business. How much you pay (or receive) depends on what the lender asks for; how long you can keep it varies (most have a minimum of four days); and there is no statute on how old or new each piece is, it just has to be in really good nick. Other popular rental sites that have risen to prominence recently – including OnLoan, Endless Wardrobe, the Devout and Rotaro – use similar models, or an increasingly popular subscription service which sees customers pay a fixed amount for anywhere from two pieces a month.
The environmental benefits of a circular rental model – compared to wear-once consumption – are, of course, the driving factor behind many brands chasing the rental market. According to Greenpeace, global production of clothing has doubled in the past 15 years, contributing to the £140m worth of clothing which is sent to landfill every year in the UK alone. Bay Garnett, the stylist and Oxfam ambassador who brought a thrift market to Selfridges as a part of the charity’s “Second Hand September” programme, notes the shift in consumer attitudes, too. “Who’s going to listen to anyone saying, ‘You should be wearing this? This endless train of stuff, this relentless marketing to make us think we all want and need [things]. People don’t want to do it any more. It’s like being force-fed something.”