Why I'll Always Be A Cheerleader for Fashion Rental

Bianca Foley

Fashion rental to some may seem like a relatively new phenomenon.  In the US, there have been numerous rental sites offering fashion rental for years but in the UK, things only started heating up in 2020.  It has become more accessible, more attainable and definitely, more affordable.  If you have followed me on Instagram for some time, you will know what a huge advocate I am for fashion rental.

I think back to my memories of fashion rental when I was a child, not for myself but my mum.  She would often rent gowns for various functions she would attend, but that is where the line ended, at ball gowns and tuxedos for special occasions (and the occasional fancy dress costume!). Over the years, attitudes towards fashion rental has changed, moving away from getting a dress for a formal occasion to renting everyday pieces and there are now a number of services who offer rental options and you can rent almost anything; from knitwear, to jeans, to that cult dress of the season!  The possibilities are truly endless and when you think about the cost per wear of a garment, sometimes it really does make sense to rent those beautiful pieces for a month rather than having lots of items sitting in your wardrobe never getting worn and taking up valuable space! I for one have shifted my mindset from being afraid to be seen in the same items on repeat and believe that rewearing clothing, whether it be a permanent wardrobe piece or rented, as much as possible is the way forward. 

I remember the first time I rented a dress, I genuinely felt like a princess in a very over the top piece, with rainbow colours, made from layers of fabric.  There was something so exciting about knowing that I had this piece for a limited amount of time, I wanted to make the most out of having something so beautiful to wear and made sure to document it.  I enjoyed the time we spent together, knowing that I hadn’t made more of an impact on the environment made the experience even better.

Rental is often described as the sustainable alternative to fast fashion – it promotes slower fashion, lower consumption and the sharing economy, all of which fall under the banner of sustainability.  Now I know that there are still other issues associated with rental including packaging, CO2 emissions caused by transport and the impact of chemicals used for dry cleaning on the environment.  These issues don’t detract from the important place that I personally feel rental has in promoting circularity and conscious consumerism.

I think that the biggest reason that rental is now a thriving part of the circular economy is because it provides accessibility in many forms.  Firstly in cost effectiveness. If you love your designer pieces but may not necessarily be able to afford them, rental gives you the ability to try without making the commitment, both physical and financial.  When you work it out, the average cost of a Ganni or Reformation dress is around £270 and you may only wear that piece a few times in a season, by renting the same dress for a month for a fraction of the cost.  It also allows for more size inclusivity and as a result we have seen more contemporary brands like RIXO increasing their size offering up to a size 24. It has also given so many smaller brands like By Megan Crosby to reach wider customer base. 

Environmentally conscious consumers are driving the trend for fashion rental and the most notable benefit of that is that it closes the loop on fashion production.  By renting pieces it means that consumers aren’t buying into fast fashion trends at the same pace they once were.  

Rental has a real community aspect as well.  I personally have built some great relationships with some of my more frequents renters! One member of that community is Toluwa Ajani, a slow fashion advocate and former ambassador for ByRotation.  Ajani is a converted fast fashion lover who believes that rental fashion allows you to consume more mindfully;  “Once I understood that I didn’t need to own everything I wore, renting became my go to! I’m so much more mindful when I buy and only buy things I know I’m going to wear time and time again for years to come!”

Finally and probably the most important reason why I advocate for fashion rental so much, is because it provides ethical shopping options to those who may not usually be able to access them.   As previously mentioned, size inclusivity is a huge issue in the sustainable fashion market and with rental platforms providing multiple size options, it allows mid and plus size people the opportunity to try out styles they may not have previously been able to.