It’s 2020 and we’re all too aware of the environmental damaged wreaked by the fashion industry. Figures vary but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions come from the production of fashion, WRAP, the circular economy and resource efficiency experts, say we produce 800,000 tonnes of waste from clothing demand in the UK alone, and Oxfam projects that 11 million items of clothing end up in landfill each week.
Fuelled by social media pressure to wear an item of clothing just once before casting it aside – people bought 60% more garments in 2014 than in 2000 but kept them for half as long, according to the World Economic Forum – and brands offering more collections each year than ever before (the average was two per year until 2011, when it increased to five, or 24 in Zara’s case), we’ve been stuck on a carousel of buying more, faster and cheaper for the best part of a decade.
Unlearning these behaviours is no mean feat but while we’ve long been conscious of these horrifying statistics, lockdown has thrown new light on our complex relationship with clothes. With nowhere to go but big Sainsbury’s and the local park, and wearing nothing but loungewear on repeat, the break from reality has offered a welcome pause for thought when it comes to shopping.
Beyond wearing what you already own, shopping secondhand is the best way to stay sustainable but a new frontier for eco-friendly fashion has emerged over the past few years, catering to those who still want to wear new and exciting labels. Just half a decade ago, the idea of renting clothes was not seen as contemporary, cool or even accessible. Now, due to a host of tech-forward and sartorially switched-on startups, that’s all changed.
From HURR to By Rotation, brands from Gucci to Ganni are available to rent for as little as £28 for four days, solving the eternal dilemma of whether to buy a new dress for your friend’s wedding, your mum’s 60th or that important job interview. People are even renting their wedding dresses, now that having a zero-waste big day is a priority for eco-conscious brides. Whether you want to try a piece before you invest in it, dabble in trends you’re unsure of or you’re looking to save both money and the planet, rental fashion is the savviest way to have fun with your wardrobe without the guilt.
Click through to meet our favourite rental platforms and apps.
My Wardrobe HQ
My Wardrobe HQ was founded by Sacha Newall last October just after the government rejected a slew of proposals, including a 1p garment levy, to reduce fashion’s environmental impact. The timing couldn’t have been more apt: Newall’s brand was a thrilling new frontier for sustainable fashion, allowing customers to try a host of trends without adding to the industry’s serious waste problem.
Inviting us to wear pieces from the wardrobes of models and influencers such as Arizona Muse and Poppy Delevingne, My Wardrobe HQ stocks a wide range of brands, from Saint Laurent and Gucci to Rixo and Shrimps. You can rent items for up to two weeks and even buy the piece should you fall in love with it. Our favourites include daffodil yellow satin dresses from sustainable label Mother of Pearl, £10 a day to rent or £175 to buy, and classic summer sandals from Stella McCartney, £10 a day to rent or £150 to buy.
HURR founders Victoria and Matt teamed up back in 2017 to revolutionise the rental scene. Aiming to connect customers with luxury fashion in a circular way, while also making a sustainable future more accessible, HURR champions reusing and repurposing, saying “it’s cool to care”.
More than simply a digital fashion marketplace, HURR uses techy tools to make the whole renting operation as slick as possible: real-time ID verification, geo-tagging and AI-powered fashion stylists mean that those renting out their wardrobes can feel safe, while renters have the smoothest experience going. From cult labels like Sleeper and Realisation Par to high street favourites such as Whistles, HURR allows you to try before you buy from around £28 for four days.
Eshita Kabra-Davies saw firsthand the detrimental impact of fashion on both people and the planet when she visited Rajasthan, India on her honeymoon. Her experience led to her founding app and platform By Rotation, a rental space striving for a more conscious approach to fashion, fostering a community of fashion lovers along the way.
From The Vampire’s Wife to Sister Jane, By Rotation’s sartorial offering is excellent, sorting your get-up whether it’s a birthday celebration or your best friend’s wedding. Partnering with eco-friendly repair band Clothes Doctor to offer cleaning to those loaning their wardrobes, the foolproof app ensures an easy breezy transaction, whether you’re opening up your wardrobe or borrowing from someone else’s.
“Rent, reduce, repeat” is the message behind Rotaro, founded by trend forecaster Georgie and entrepreneur Charlie in mid 2019. Georgie’s work made her privy to fashion’s waste problem; “seeing the rate of consumption year after year,” she thought “there had to be a better way”. Enter: Rotaro’s one-stop shop for those curious about new trends as well as those who know their Sies Marjan from their Stella McCartney.
You can rent from a selection of over 200 carefully curated items, for four to 12 days, and you can expect the most eco-friendly of laundering and repair techniques to clean and fix any pieces before you take them home.
If you’ve ever invested in a bag thinking you’d wear it every day for the rest of your life but over time the shine wore off, Cocoon is the rental platform for you. Wave goodbye to the bags that no longer fit your life or style by selling your plus-one to the brand or trade it in for membership credit, which in turn allows you to borrow bags from other people.
Want to try an iconic quilted Chanel bag before you buy it? Or see how well a Saint Laurent number would fit your laptop and gym kit? From V&A-worthy classics to cult styles from Bottega and Loewe, there’s a plethora of pieces to choose from.
Friends Tamsin Chislett and Natalie Hasseck started Onloan in 2018 on the premise that “modern life requires many guises”, meaning women need to dress for who they are “that day, that month, or even that moment.” Simultaneously striving to reduce fashion’s waste problem and taking the guilt out of a love of clothes, Onloan connects customers with clothes they love without the commitment.
You can rent two items for £69 per month, or four items for £99 a month. With all shipping, cleaning and minor mending included in the price – plus the option to pause or cancel your membership at any time – renting pieces by designers like Alexachung or Danish favourite By Malene Birger has never been easier. The Nu Wardrobe
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