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Rent or Buy?
With growing concern about the environmental impact on the fast fashion industry, are rental services the answer?
29 November, 2020

Fast What? 

When we talk of ‘fast fashion,’ industry giants like PrettyLittleThing, Missguided or Boohoo, come to mind. But what does the term mean exactly? Fast fashion simply understood, refers to a relatively new fashion business model, consistent of frequent fashion collections produced per year, typically coupled with lower prices. Integral to the fast fashion business model is the ability for businesses to rapidly offer new products to meet consumer demand. With clothing collections being dropped more frequently, there tends to be a trade-off in quality as garments aren’t made to be durable. We are living in a ‘throw-away’ era, where there is excessive production on items that aren’t designed to be worn more than a handful of times. 

The rise of fast fashion is an unsustainable condition for the fashion system to maintain. According to the Fixing Fashion report ,an analysis of fast fashion by the UK Parliament in 2019, this industry model is ‘encouraging over-consumption and generating excessive waste.’ Oxfam estimates that each week 13 million garments end up in the landfill. The implications of the current business model are rife. 

To Rent or Not to Rent 

You may be wondering, well what is the solution to all of this? The answer may involve a drastic reconceptualising of what ownership means. A trend currently gripping the industry is the concept of renting clothing. Whilst rental services aren’t a novel idea (for example Rent the Runway has been in operation in the US since 2009), there has been an upwards trend in the offering of rental services, largely due to increased environmental concerns. 

Companies like Rotaro, Onloan and By Rotation are active on the UK rental market. Notably, Selfridges have recently delved into the world of all things rental, collaborating with peer-to-peer rental platform Hurr, to offer exclusive pieces for customers to rent. 

Rental services provide a great solution to the fast fashion crisis in a handful of ways. Customers still can keep up and experiment with current trends, but rather than  

putting away that one expensive dress you bought for a special dinner and letting it collect dust until you eventually throw it out, it can be given back to the rental service you got it from. 

Renting prevents further purchasing, and thus less landfill. Some companies go a step further, ensuring the service is green from start to finish. For example, Rotaro utilises biodegradable packaging and a zero-emission delivery service. 

Covid Impact 

McKinsey reports that following the pandemic, there has been an increase in the mindfulness of consumers on how they are spending. This increase in consumer mindfulness may in turn lead to a reflection on where consumers are buying from, and the longevity of such purchases. The availability of rental services may appear like an attractive option in a time when consumers are more focused on buying essentials. By Rotation founder, Eshita Kabra-Davies in an interview with Haper’s BAZAAR commented that, ‘Shoppers are finally realising that they already have so many clothes and many from fast fashion companies which might still have tags on or have only worn them once or twice. Covid-19 has made many of us reflect on what we have and how little we actually need.’ Consumers may have been made painfully aware (due to the harsh reality that was the lockdown) that there simply isn’t the space for tonnes of clothes.

Cue the entry of renting.

The Future of Fashion? 

The move to a circular business model is a necessary move for the sustainability of the industry as a whole. Whilst the buck definitely does not stop here, this is definitely a step in the right direction. 

Kings College Fashion Society is a society that embraces creativity and individuality. They host events all year long, such as photoshoots or their famous annual catwalk. It’s a great place to meet likeminded individuals.

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Blog Editor, King’s College Fashion Society

Blog Editor, King’s College Fashion Society

1 Comment

  1. Saq x

    Great article – really enjoyable read x


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