By Charlotte Hope-Shannon
First there was buying one-off outfits for a night out. Then came the vintage craze and the online peer-to-peer shopping boom. Now, the next trend in fashion is the rise of luxury rental – designer clothing and accessory brands, marketed at around 10% of the retail price – and a preference for sharing rather than hoarding.
Carrie Bradshaw-esque wardrobes, although undeniably iconic, are off the cards. Fast fashion is out of fashion, as the rental market takes charge. The rental revolution has conquered bridalwear and the first proper post-pandemic fashion month in 2021, as designers and conglomerates alike seek to expand the avenues of sustainability.
If the coronavirus pandemic has forced us to do one thing this year, it is to re-evaluate our approach to consumerism, as burgeoning fears for our planet remain. And that is what the recent fashion month showcased, a desire for new initiatives. Sustainable high-street brands such as COS took to the runway for the first time and rising designers such as Harris Reed, demonstrated a firm commitment to the environment, using repurposed fabrics for his Autumn/Winter collection. Luxury rental became the go-to for fashion show attendees, as sustainability remained at the top of the fashion agenda.
The Rental Revolution
Whilst some rental companies have bricks and mortar businesses (allowing in-person contact) and others, carbon neutral delivery services, it’s clear that rental needs to be a part of a greater industry overhaul, with cultivation and circularity at the core of this system. The world consumes 80 billion items of clothing a year, with the fast fashion industry worth 1.2 trillion dollars.
What we once saw as innocent enjoyment, buying one off, never to be worn again outfits, is now coming back to haunt us. It’s no secret that the environment is fighting back with vengeance. Wild fires are devastating countries around the world, floods are becoming more frequent and the global surface temperature of the earth is rising as climate emergencies intensify. Ultimately, the fashion industry has nowhere to hide as we seek to regain some level of control for our planet.
However, luxury rental, albeit far from flawless, might just save the day.
Sharing Is Caring
We may be forgiven for associating rental with sporadic fancy dress, but the market has dramatically evolved in recent months. The new-wave of rental interest is focused on every day wear and occasion wear that pushes boundaries, without pushing your bank account. The focus is on luxury items that tell a story, that make you feel special (and on trend) without the consequences of fast fashion.
Remember that phrase your parents used to hone into you when you were younger? ‘Sharing is caring’. Well, this common phrase now has a global, environmental meaning as it takes the fashion industry by storm.
Halfpenny, whose circular business model and British-made bridalwear brand is personally committed to a sustainable future, believes rental is more than just a trend, it’s part of our modern conscience. Having recently announced a partnership with leading rental platform My Wardrobe HQ, Kate believes that brides should have an environmentally conscious option to explore and enjoy wearing beautiful pieces, with inclusivity at the centre of her brands ethos.
“I think more people are going to rent. They’re going to rent everything from their wedding dress to their night before outfits, or the day after. I think it’s going to be more important than ever that people are really wearing clothes with a conscience and not just kind of making rash decisions. A wedding dress isn’t a rash decision by any means but to be able to buy a base dress and then come to My Wardrobe HQ and hire loads of the overlayers or the little jackets […] I think it will allow people to really get the look that they want but with a conscience.”
The bridal rental market has increased massively during and post pandemic, as consumers seek economical alternatives. Halfpenny London’s edit with MWHQ includes ‘a selection of dresses and separates in a variety of inclusive sizes, including reception looks and options for events surrounding the big day’. Inclusivity plays a huge part in Halfpenny’s passion for design, and the luxury rental market feels like a natural progression for her already versatile and all-encompassing brand. “It’s important”, Kate says, “so everyone has access to us regardless of the budget, it is really achievable”.
Halfpenny’s commitment to a conscious future is also showcased in her Songbird Collection, where silk organza flowers are made from remnants of the fabric used in her iconic Riri skirt. Yes, the principles of sustainability are vast and complex, but Halfpenny London is doing what many brands aren’t or refuse to do – using simple ideas to forward sustainable change. And it really is as simple as upcycling waste fabric to create beautiful new designs. An initiative which has seemingly influenced the 2022 runway, with designers such as Harris Reed and Sarah Nsikak forging a new recycled path.
Indeed, the possibilities are endless, with luxury design, rental and accessibility at the heart of the sustainable cycle. Rental provides a door into the once unreachable for anyone and everyone. And brides, for example, who once spent hours worrying about their wedding day outfit, now have the opportunity to share in someone else’s fairy-tale as garments are shared, lived in and passed on. This is what makes the luxury rental market so special.
Circular Consumerism: 4 Industry Insiders Weigh-In On Fashion’s Future
Likewise, in another effort to curve the fast fashion trajectory and encourage inclusive options, Six Senses, a luxury resort in Ibiza, has also enlisted the help of My Wardrobe HQ to create a new rental and educational fashion experience in the resorts in-house boutique, Agora.
The experience allows guests to borrow, share and enjoy luxury items, rather than buying new. Pieces that, as My Wardrobe HQ say on their website, “will make you look as good as you feel”.
With consumers becoming increasingly aware of sustainable luxury options, this offers a new business solution to a fast fashion problem, particularly pre-holiday shopping that most often ends up in landfill post vacation. Uplifting eveningwear is the theme, to help encourage consumers to lengthen the lifespan of their wardrobe through luxury service.
With an estimated £140 million worth of clothing in landfill each year, this offers another solution to our planets crisis, offering a fresh way for retailers to expand the lifespan of their collections or unsold goods.
An Open (Rental) Mind, Is A Conscious Mind
The key to rental, as with everything, is to be openminded. “I think it’s really important”, Kate Halfpenny explains. “What we have noticed when brides come to us, is that they can have a fixed idea in their head, they don’t want to wear strapless or they want it ‘like this or that’. But try everything on, especially if you’re hiring it, because you just don’t know how something’s going to make you feel”.
And the same sentiment remains for everyday wear too. Be openminded to the possibility of something different but also to the idea of sharing. Rental IS more than just a trend. Afterall, it tells a story – without the added price tag or guilty conscience – and we all deserve to be a part of this evolving narrative of change.
As I’ve said before, our narrative of consciousness, I feel, must transform empowered thought into innovative action, and the rental revolution is doing just that.