Once a niche trend, wardrobe renting appears to be gaining steam as Banana Republic becomes the latest major retail chain to offer a monthly clothing rental subscription service.
The Gap-owned brand said on Friday it was launching “Style Passport”, an US$85-per-month online service that allows U.S. subscribers to rent three pieces of clothing at a time and includes free shipping, and unlimited exchanges and returns.
Whether it is the negative publicity surrounding the environmental impact of “fast-fashion”, Marie Kondo inspiring the world to purge everything in the wardrobe that does not “spark joy,” applying the Uber concept to clothing, or social media influencers chasing the next fashion find, multiple factors could be driving wardrobe rental services into the mainstream.
Urban Outfitters launched “Nuuly”, which offers customers a choice of six items a month for US$88 from a range of brands including Anthropologie. Other U.S. chains offering or have plans to offer similar services include “Infinite Style” from Ann Taylor and Bloomingdale’s “My List”.
The retail landscape, especially in fashion, has taken a beating with dozens of clothing chains filing for bankruptcies in recent years, many more shuttering stores around the world, and of those remaining, looking for ways to innovate and capitalize on growth trends with staying power.
Clothing rentals were once just for tuxedoes, costumes and other items people only wore once, but that changed with Rent the Runway. Founded a decade ago, it is considered the pioneer in wardrobe rentals, offering designer clothing and accessories for women to rent at a fraction of the expensive retail price.
Whether renting really saves money, will depend on an individual’s spending habits and needs, however. According to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian household spent $3,430 on clothing and accessories in 2017.
Rent the Runway was the inspiration behind Canada’s Rent frock Repeat, founded in 2010, that allowed customers to rent dresses for a fee. This fall, the Canadian company plans to relaunch with a subscription service for every day clothing.
While the big retail chains have yet to make their subscriptions available in Canada, a number of smaller companies already offer similar services: The Sprout Collection offers quality maternity wear for pregnant women, for example, while retailers like KukaMelon and Flauntbox rent designer dresses and accessories online - items that can easily be priced at several hundred dollars when purchased from a traditional store.
Canadian-based Dresst, an online subscription startup that launched in March, recently raised $525,000 in seed money, an indication of investor interest in this burgeoning sector.