Rent a Runaway has set a trend for fashion rental 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. Meanwhile, fashion is often posed as a sustainable alternative.

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.

But is it really sustainable?


Newness without the waste

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.

Lengthen fashion cycle

The fashion items are returned and rented to other consumers, it lengthens the use lifecycle of fashion item.

Test before you buy

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

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.

Environmentally impact

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, do query the sustainability of the service.

Loss of ownership

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 sustainable, but it depends on the user and whether they are sustainably conscious in their use of the service.

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.

The most sustainable option to renting fashion is actually wearing what’s in your wardrobe.

Sources: Lalita Lowe, Fashion Rental, Testing Fashion Rental

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