How to rent clothes like a celeb and save the environment

Long read

While not buying anything ever again can seem like a worthwhile solution to reduce fashion's ugly boot carbon footprint, renting and sharing your clothes offers another alternative. These new ways to rent your clothes bring the benefits of the on-demand economy to your wardrobe - and they help the environment.

Georgina Wilson-Powell 6 January 2018

When you hear stats like a garbage truck load of fast fashion is dumped or burnt every second of every day, you can feel...well, a bit guilty. Compared to even five years ago, we consume and dispose more clothes, with 50% of our wardrobes in the UK being bought and discarded within a year.

While buying less and buying better is a solution for some people (would you wear it 30 times? No? Don’t buy it), the idea of a hardly ever changing capsule wardrobe brings others out in hives.

But the ever-growing sharing economy might give those must-have minds a new, more sustainable way forward.

Sharing Clothes Wearthewalk

Wear the Walk lets you choose from amazing new designers for £50 a month

The idea of sharing wardrobes or clothes has been around for years but it’s only in 2018 the tech (and the level of luxury involved) has given the idea green wings.

Wear the Walk launched last year as a clothes rental service. You pay £50 a month to rent two items and rotate for new ones whenever you want. But it’s more than just renting designer pieces to impress a date or boss, the company is committed to showcasing up and coming designers, many of whom are striving to make fashion more sustainable. By renting and rotating your wardrobe, you’re not adding to the pile marked landfill.

But it’s not just the environment that wins when we rent clothes, smaller designers do as well. Ethically minded women’s tailoring brand, Gillian June, recently started renting out its one of a kind jackets,

“The main reason I started looking into renting the jackets out was demand,’ says founder, Imogen Johnson-GIlbert. “In the summer a lot of friends asked if they could borrow them for weddings and summer parties.

Sharing Clothes Gillian June

Gillian June makes her jackets unique and they often are embellished with recycled materials

Hiring pieces means you have an ever changing wardrobe without the expense or waste of fast fashion. No one feels good about buying something and only wearing it once or twice but apparently one in six young people won’t wear something again once they’ve been seen on social media wearing it.”

For her renting means different people keep the jacket in circulation, less is produced, more is shared and there’s less of a clothes dead zone at the far end of your wardrobe rail. A recent report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (launched with Stella McCartney in November 2017) reckons that $500 billion value is lost every year due to clothing that’s barely worn and rarely recycled.

“In the long run if this movement took off it might encourage companies to produce fewer garments,” she adds.

It’s not just up and coming designers and small labels. Chic By Choice is an on-demand service for evening wear and designer dresses for weddings, cocktail parties and awards evenings. A floor length Oscar worthy gown comes in around £100 for an evening’s rental - you save on the credit card and the climate wins too.

Hiring pieces means you have an ever changing wardrobe without the expense or waste of fast fashion

We can order cleaners on demand, our dirty laundry picked up, a gourmet meal delivered, it might make sense to order our clothes while we're swiping right on a pizza.

Plus for younger fashionistas the lower cost of renting high end clothing coupled with smaller storage space needed for a smaller on-loan wardrobe means there’s an appeal over and above anything eco. Whether people are conscious of the sustainability of their actions or not, every little helps. 

But it’s not just the UK (in fact we’re pretty behind on the whole sharing clothes idea).

Rent the Runway has been doing this in the States for years and highlights that it’s more about access and fast trends than ever before. Even if shopping greener isn’t high on your list of priorities, renting the ‘right’ designers is quicker and cheaper than having to save or splurge on a credit card. Just like you can order pretty much any restaurant meal to home, Rent the Runway delivers haute couture to your house.

It’s $89 monthly fee (for four pieces or $159 for an unlimited supply) means it’s within reach of most shoppers, and rather than spend this on a few piled up items that’ll be worn once or twice then languish at the back of a wardrobe, you can call in couture like the best celeb. And we’re talking Diane von Furstenberg, Derek Lam, Proenza Schouler...

Sharing Clothes Rent The Runway

In the States Rent The Runway enables anyone to rent A-lister labels

So far the service has six million subscribers and has raised $190 million in venture capital. It speaks to the future of fashion as being a ‘post-ownership model’ which certainly fits with a societal shift that is starting to value experiences over things.

Its CEO, Jennifer Hyman, recently told Vogue, “I think your closet is going to be as obsolete as a landline phone one day.”

Not sure about the impact of all this on the environment? According to The Atlantic, 6% of all rubbish in New York City is clothing. Our American friends buy five times as much clothing as they did in 1980. Any and all dents in that are welcome news, even if what we're really waiting for is an ethical fashion only rental service (hint, hint, someone).

But the new sharing fashion economy is not just about renting a posh frock once in a blue moon. Peer to peer lending is also cropping up, with start-ups including the Lena Fashion Library in Amsterdam and the Nu Wardrobe in Ireland.

In Amsterdam (a bubbling hub of ethical fashion ideas and start ups), eco-fashionistas can drop into Lena and rent vintage clothes and up and coming designer togs much as they would a library book. Subscribers pay a monthly fee and bring back clothes washed or pay a small charge to have them washed and pick up something new.

Over in Ireland, the Nu Wardrobe started as a series of fashion swap shops and upcycling wardrobes to lengthen the life of fast fashion pieces but in September last year it expanded to create a network of peer to peer clothes sharing across Ireland’s universities. Students can connect digitally to fellow sustainable fashion lovers and can borrow clothes from those around them for a set period of time. Curtsy does a similar thing in the US, without the prism of student life.

Remember whether you’re in it for the environment or easy access to new clothes, sharing really does mean caring.

Join the community for sustainable living, ethical fashion and eco travel

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