“I rented my wardrobe for a whole month – this is what happened”

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Tthe stain is near the bottom and I swear it gets bigger every time I see it. “Don’t be ridiculous,” my friend said. I start to wonder if it was there before and panic when I can’t remember. It’s a dark patchy spot, the kind that isn’t so obvious you can spot it right away, but look closely and it’s there, staring straight at you with a critical stare that says, “Why would you want to. would you wear a rental dress to a wedding? “,” What did you expect? and “You probably shouldn’t have had that last G&T.”

These are just a few of the thoughts that crossed my mind when I decided to try renting my clothes for a month. The idea was simple: for every party, event or social occasion I had in a four week period, I would wear at least one rented item of clothing. Everything was going so well until I realized that the £ 700 dress that I had managed to hang for a week for £ 150 was not sturdy enough to survive a drunken night celebrating one’s wedding. of my closest friends. Isn’t that the kind of occasion we’re supposed to rent clothes for? Maybe not, if that only underscores the fable that more expensive always means better quality.

Slippages aside, there’s no doubt that fashion rental companies have a time. In the last year alone, the market has exploded (Hurr reported an 850% increase in registered users in May of this year), with increased media coverage fueled by famous faces like Carrie Symonds, Holly Willoughby , and Laura Whitmore, proudly wearing their rented items at high profile events. According to GlobalData, the rental industry will be worth £ 2.3 billion by 2029.

Jacquemus’ yellow dress that went to a wedding.

(Olivia Petter)

Aside from being able to wear something designer for a small price, the real appeal of rental fashion, and the one you will often hear about, is its low carbon footprint, its low carbon footprint. At least that’s the industry’s apparent USP. The idea is that by renting clothes instead of buying them, you reduce your overall consumption and therefore contribute less to the notoriously wasteful fashion economy which sees around 336,000 tonnes of clothing ending up in landfills in the UK. .

The way it works is pretty straightforward, although it can vary depending on the platform you are using. There are countless rental sites out there today, but the most popular are By Rotation, Endless Wardrobe and Hurr where I have rented all of my clothes because I think they have the best selection of luxury items out there. I could never afford to. . All of them work the same: you just browse the website, choose the items you want, check if they are available for the dates you need (on Hurr you can rent any item for four, eight , 10 or 20 days), then make your payment. You will then be put in touch with the owner of the object, who will send it to you at their discretion. Alternatively, if the item you have chosen is part of Hurr’s ‘managed’ parts, which are managed by the platform on behalf of the lender, it will be shipped directly from their warehouse – and in the company’s own packaging. . Everything is then professionally cleaned and includes free return shipping. However, if you are renting directly from a lender, it is all up to them.

I have tried both options and would say the latter was definitely better. The item I borrowed directly from a lender arrived in an Uber, where it had been crumpled up in a plastic bag. Not exactly the courier service I expected when the dress in question was worth hundreds of pounds. However, everything I ordered from the stock managed by Hurr arrived folded, steamed and in pristine condition.

There is a lot to choose from on the site, ranging from tops, bottoms, dresses and accessories, although there aren’t a lot of options when it comes to shoes – I guess people are reluctant to literally walking in other people’s shoes, which makes sense when you consider, well, other people’s feet.

The handbag and pants were both rented from Hurr, pictured here at London Fashion Week.

(Saira MacLeod / Shutterstock)

Still, regardless of the size of your dress, there are plenty of options on the site, which is a plus for any rental service given that the industry has already been criticized for only accommodating buyers of the. sample size.

The only thing is, pretty much everything on offer is a statement piece. In other words, these aren’t really clothes you would wear on a casual weekend pub outing with friends. It does make sense, however, when you consider the types of rooms that people would like to rent on their own i.e. expensive unusual items that people think get lost in their wardrobes afterwards. only a handful of wear.

Generally speaking, I tried to choose clothes that I knew I would be the most worn. This included an oversized polo top from Loewe (great with a plaid mini skirt I already owned), a pair of red corduroy pants from Chloe (could match an oversized t-shirt or shirt?), and a double-breasted sheepskin jacket from Staad Studio. I also opted for a few event-specific items that I knew I could wear on upcoming occasions, like this floral velvet dress from Attico (worn at a book launch), this black sequined jacket from L’Agence (awards ceremony) and a lace dress from Alexa Chung (dinner date). There were sundries I knew I would love, like this leopard print coat from Dolce & Gabbana, this Celine handbag, and this oversized polka dot blazer from Haider Ackermann.

I also ordered a few items that I would never wear normally, like a peach tailored suit from Dundas, silky wide pants from Lisou, and a checkered bucket hat from Burberry. Almost everything I ordered was selling for over £ 100.

It all sounds like a lot, and it was. But everything I asked for was not available for the dates I wanted which I guess is inevitable when multiple people try to rent the same items all the time. Think of it as the 2021 equivalent of fighting over one of your sister’s dresses in a brutal tussle.

The jacket, dress and bag were all rented from Hurr.

(Saira MacLeod / Shutterstock)

There were a lot of benefits to my month’s rental. The most obvious was that I had access to clothes that I could never have afforded, and even though I only had them for a limited period of time, it was still quite luxurious to walk around in a coat. of £ 1,500 for a while. . I was also able to wear the clothes I rented during London Fashion Week, which was a huge plus for me considering how stressful I always find putting together outfits for the catwalks. This time around it was a cinch given how many beautiful pieces I had, all of which were quite easy to put together with items I already owned. And of course, the real goal: to reduce my usual September fashion footprint. For the first time in six years of going to shows, I also had real street-style photographers who asked me to take a picture of myself when I arrived – and almost all of them wanted to know where my clothes came from. .

There were a lot of things that I ended up wearing twice as well. Like the Attico velvet dress, which got so taken by storm at the book launch that I wore it a week later to a dinner party. I also loved the Alexa Chung lace briefs, which I found can be styled in a number of ways, either alone with heels or under a sweater with Doc Martens.

However, just how much of an eco-friendly rental fashion has become a subject of study in recent months. In July, a study published by the Finnish scientific journal Environmental research letters argued that renting clothes is even worse for the planet than throwing them away. This was due to a number of hidden environmental costs, such as delivery (a fairly large amount of transport is required) and packaging. Plus, frequent dry cleaning can dramatically increase a person’s carbon footprint. The study also found that many rental companies misuse the term ‘circular economy’, which describes keeping resources used as much as possible to get the most out of them (e.g. passing them between people, for example) , before recycling the raw materials. and reinject them into circulation.

Another shot from LFW, the polka dot jacket here was rented from Hurr.

(Getty Images)

There are other issues as well. Like the aforementioned dress that I managed to stain. Since anyone can sign up to rent their clothes – and the renter can wear them for, well, any type of event they want, there is always a risk that the items are stained or even completely damaged. This is a lose-lose situation for both the lender and the tenant, who may feel limited when it comes to carrying a loaned item at ease, i.e. everywhere where you drink more than a few glasses of wine is not ideal.

There is also a risk that the item you are renting is not suitable for you – Hurr has in fact implemented a policy to this effect which allows renters to return the items within 24 hours and receive a full refund if the item they have chosen does not suit them. Most of the time, however, I found it frustrating to have to say goodbye to clothes that I really liked. It sounds simple enough, but in the weeks since giving up that Attico dress, my thirst for consumption seemed to increase. I spent hours online looking for a carbon copy which was quite the opposite of the effect I was trying to achieve.

Overall, I’m not convinced that renting is the most sustainable way to shop, at least not in the sense that it is superior to any other form of flea market. I would also not recommend it to anyone planning to wear their rented items to an event where they will let their hair down. That said, if you are strategic about the pieces you choose, you know where you will wear them and with what, and you find that leasing has kept you from buying new items, it can be a joyful and quite eco-friendly way. to consume clothes, as long as you don’t do it often. Just beware that this isn’t necessarily the guilt-free dream experience it is meant to be.


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