Some fashion apparel brands are starting to embrace renting their clothes to eager consumers as a way of expanding their reach. It’s a logical step for brands trying to acquire new, younger and aspirational customers who may eventually become purchasers of the brand. The value proposition is compelling. A $1000 Carla Zampatti gown can be accessed on a four-day rental via portals like Style Theory or Glam Corner for around $170. They will even include a prepaid return bag and take care of the dry cleaning. Bargain!
Designers are flocking to rental platforms in search of new consumers, particularly during the challenging retail conditions wrought by the pandemic. Their products remain more active than the in-and-out cycle in traditional stores, and may live on in the cybersphere well after their lifetime has expired in the boutique racks.
Retailers too, can benefit from the rentalisation model. If an item is rented out three or four times, the margin earned can exceed selling the product at full price. The ‘watch-out’ is to avoid cannibalising existing business, so extending reach to new consumers makes sense. In addition to one-time rentals, many platforms also offer subscription models, where members can access two or three pieces each month for a monthly subscription fee.
Younger customers are particularly attracted to the sustainability benefits, reducing the number of single-use items in their wardrobe and giving clothes a longer life. Rental platforms can provide brands access to new customer segments, whilst simultaneously encouraging customers to reduce their individual contribution to landfill and disposable fashion. Popular rental platforms are also creating online communities, made up of like-minded fashion enthusiasts who are sharing clothes, connecting on social media, and participating in fashion without actually owning it (or going broke).
Peer to peer rentals are also popular. Rent a Dress offers to connect customers with thousands of owners who connect to rent out the contents of their wardrobes. Like Uber, these platforms are simply connecting consumers with supply, and take a commission on each rental. Simple.
Renting fashion is not just for women. Men make up 90% of the members of New York fashion rental platform, Seasons. Even during the height of the pandemic when New Yorkers were captive at home with no events to look forward to, Seasons’ membership grew. In fact, numbers spiked 800% in late 2020. Co-founder Regy Perlera told Vogue Magazine, “People are dressing up at home now, just for the sake of feeling a little bit better. When you get something new in the mail, it’s still that moment of excitement, even if you have nowhere to go.”
So, as we emerge from Covid restrictions in the coming months, give a thought to renting an on-trend dress for that postponed event or even just for a long-awaited catch-up with friends.