23 Jul 2021

Designer Fashion: The Future is Borrowed

Two females in dresses on floor eating burgers.
"What [fashion designers] create is greater than art, because you live your life in it"
Nigel (played by Stanley Tucci) in the Devil Wears Prada (2006)

The global fashion retail industry is valued at 3 trillion dollars. But it’s also incredibly saturated. In the US alone there are an estimated 96,000 fashion retail businesses – talk about competition.

Now, the conversation is shifting from affordable fashion to sustainable fashion. Companies everywhere are waking up to the climate crisis and are making moves to use less water, more recycled materials and establishing cruelty free principles in their production process. American retail giant, Target, have managed to reduce waste sent to landfill by 75%. While outdoor clothing brand, Patagonia, now make their garments form 70% recycled materials and also donate 1% of all profits to environmental charities.

But could we go further?

On the trend of sustainable and recyclable, leading names in the fashion industry, as well as small scale startups, have been trialling options to rent designer clothing as opposed to buying it. Dress and formal wear rental has been around for a while – but could we see widespread adoption of an entirely rented wardrobe?

Newly rolled out, Selfridges Rental allows buyers to spend a fraction of the cost on the hottest new pieces by paying for the garment per day. The renter can choose items from selected collections based in Selfridges, including from desirable brands like Givenchy, Off-White and Rick Owens. For example, one could rent a Burberry Trench coat for 4 days at £40.04 per day – getting the style without spending the RRP: £1,890.

Startups are also seeing the potential for such a sustainable future. UK based startup MyWardrobeHQ has recently partnered with Harrods to make rental clothing an option to their huge customer base. This company has been brought into the public eye after Prime Minister, Boris Johnson’s wife, Carrie Simmons, wore a £45 rented dress for her wedding day. A tidy sum considering the dress retails at just under £3000.

A Smiling couple posed in wedding dress in frotn of a flowery orchard.

Carrie Simmons and PM Boris Johnson on their wedding day. Image via msn lifestyle from The Telegraph.

Companies too are getting on board with the rental trend; the hallmark brand of American Fashion, Ralph Lauren, announced a rental subscription package. Starting at $125 per month, subscribers get on-demand access to a constantly changing collection.

A not-so-green solution?

Yet some critics highlight the unexpected costs of renting clothing. Namely transportation and dry-cleaning every item mean that more carbon emissions may get released than if one was to just buy a designer goods.

“[renting clothes is] not something we do all the time, instead of buying our clothes and swapping out outfits nonstop, but on occasion, when the need arises, like proms [or] weddings.”
Dana Thomas, author of Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes. via The Guardian.

Sharing + Resale = LBD

Offering flexible tech solutions is an innovative company: Little Black Door. The app “designed by women for women” allows shoppers to list their own goods for sharing between users but also gives the option for resale. Floww sat down with the co-founder, Marina Pengilly, of Little Black Door for comment.

“LBD promotes the repurposing and borrowing of clothing – we are cleverly linking with retail partners, resale platforms and have a borrow button between friends.”

Not to be lumped together with rental companies, Little Black Door is pioneering the sharing economy for clothes: “Our power comes from unlocking our users’ purchase and social data, working as a highly personalized aggregation platform…to let users virtually share their collections and style with friends.” Little Black Door has capitalized on the social aspect behind fashion, giving the app an exciting opportunity to become the next big social network.

A Hope For The Future

Reports show that the average consumer will wear new clothes only 7 times before throwing them away. The shopper throws away an estimated 30kg of clothing each year, much of which ends up in landfills. Mass fast-fashion retailers like Primark or ASOS capture huge markets segments by having prices so low that the consumer can wear a garment once and immediately throw it away after.

If people really do only wear things a few times after purchasing them, renting clothes would seem to save the consumer money and the planet it’s health. As production becomes unjustifiable, conservative resale and moves towards rental may be the future.

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Header Image; Co-FOunders of Little Black Door, Marina Pengilly and Lexi Willetts, via Little Black Door.