When Carrie Johnson wore a rented gown to marry the Prime Minister, it sparked a fashion frenzy. And this week, a study found that renting clothes is worse for the planet than throwing them away.
Today, one of the world’s most famous department stores, Harrods, is launching its first clothing rental service. Partnering with My Wardrobe HQ, which supplied Johnson’s wedding dress, it will be offering flagship products from Italian couture designer Giambattista Valli and other everyday brands for rent at his Knightsbridge boutique.
Although fashion rental has been around for a few years, it has been in the ether more than ever in the past year. Jane Shepherdson, President of My Wardrobe HQ since 2019, said: “At the time, I felt like it was a bit of a tough struggle to raise awareness. Oddly, throughout the pandemic, since no one could rent and there had been no events, people were talking about it a lot. “
She credits changes in broader consumer habits for leading the way. “We all do Airbnb and are happy to share people’s beds – so why not share clothes.”
Clothing rental has been touted as one of the many solutions to the industry’s sustainability crisis. With around £ 140million in used clothing sent to landfill in the UK each year, according to Wrap, renting can extend the life of the clothes. But this week’s study, carried out by the Finnish scientific journal Environmental Research Letters, showed the impact of the hidden environmental costs of delivery and packaging.
Beyond sustainability issues, renting is seen as a way for customers to access clothing that they wouldn’t normally be able to afford, even for a day. “Most people couldn’t afford a Gucci suit for £ 3,000, but most people could afford to rent one for £ 30 a day,” Shepherdson said.