With Britons throwing away an estimated £140 million worth of clothing each year, there’s no denying that our rapacious shopping habits are harming the planet. As one of the most polluting industries, the fashion world needs to wake up to its sustainability problem.
If the stats unsettle you as much as they do us, and you’re frequently looking for the next best eco-friendly fashion initiative, allow us to introduce you to the realm of wardrobe rentals.
While these platforms have long since been part of the fashion dialogue across the pond, with Rent the Runway dominating the market in the US, the phenomenon is starting to take off in the UK too. So much so that data analytics company GlobalData predicts that the UK clothing rental market will be worth to £2.3bn by 2029.
As a worthwhile alternative to investing in fast fashion, the premise behind wardrobe rentals is simple. Subscription-based and pay-per-hire services operate by companies owning stock and leasing pieces centrally at a discounted rate for a limited period of time. Want to get your hands on the latest Bottega Veneta handbag, but can’t justify the price tag? Hire one for £99 per month from Cocoon Club.
One step on from this is the world of peer-to-peer services. Dubbed as the Airbnb of fashion, the likes of Hurr Collective and By Rotation are being sold as the ultimate circular solution to fashion.
These sites work by giving women a space to upload items from their own wardrobe onto the platform, enabling the monetisation of unworn clothing.
Selfridges has gone one step further than these online platforms – launching its first in-house and online wardrobe rental service, in partnership with the Hurr Collective.
The collection includes more than 100 exclusive pieces from a range of brands, including Ganni, Emilia Wickstead, and Victoria Beckham. This is the first of its kind, and will hopefully act as an example for other department stores to follow suit in a bid to drive a more circular fashion economy.
This rental collection is part of Selfridges’ wider sustainability initiative, Project Earth, an ambitious move that aims to radically change the way businesses and consumers think, with a focus on more eco-conscious decision-making.
While these fashion rental services provide positive steps to tackle fashion’s sustainability problem and offer a more circular economy to the industry, sizing is not yet as varied as it should be. The limited size ranges can mean these wardrobe rentals are not accessible to all, so greater inclusivity is needed to make this a truly sustainable model.
From peer-to-peer rental platforms to subscription-based services, we’ve tried and tested them all, considering delivery, the selection of items, how user-friendly the platform is and the quality of customer service.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
This is the digital wardrobe service to know. With over 200 statement pieces from cult labels such as Cecilie Bahnsen and Rixo, ROTARO excels in sustainability, curation and seamlessness. The packaging is biodegradable and recyclable, the delivery completed via a carbon-neutral courier and items are laundered using wet-washing, a more eco-friendly alternative to dry cleaning. Stock is held centrally, meaning customers can benefit from next day delivery across the UK (and same-day delivery in London if you order before 4pm), perfect for a last minute outfit mishap. With no subscription fee and at a reasonable price point per piece, this is a winner.
A subscription-based service for handbag lovers; for £99 per month Cocoon Club gives you access to a selection of the most sought-after handbags from new season favourites to vintage classics. With your new rented goods arriving within a day of ordering, this sleek service won’t keep you waiting. One complimentary bag swap is included as standard, though members can keep their bag for up to six months. We think this is the circular solution to the luxury accessories industry.
This platform offers access to a curated selection of independent designers, everything from Kitri and Mother of Pearl to Alexa Chung and By Marlene Birger. The two-tiered subscription model – two items for £69 per month or four items for £99 per month – provides an option for everyone and can be cancelled or paused at anytime. Filter by availability, size and designer, and it won’t take you long to find an item. Once you do, add it to your cart, place your order, and receive it the next day. The process is as seamless as it is eco-friendly. Items arrive in reusable packaging called RePack, and are steam-cleaned and cold hand-washed where possible to avoid the environmental impact of dry-cleaning. If the item(s) doesn’t fit, return within 24 hours and they’ll exchange it with another, free of charge.
Hurr Collective provides a personalised and safe place for women to monetise their wardrobes as well as wear new clothes without damaging the bank or planet. Geo-tagging, ID verification, and eco-friendly dry-cleaning makes for a painless process. If your item(s) doesn’t fit, you can return the piece within 24 hours of receiving it and only pay for postage and cleaning. If you’re accident prone, there’s a £5 “damage protection fee” to cover minor stains and wear and tear. But, if items are lost or not returned, you are charged the full RRP. What makes this service really standout is its London-based courier service where you can select pieces that are held centrally to be delivered to your door. If you’re worried about missing the endorphin rush of a physical shopping trip, fear not. Following the success of the Hurr pop-up concession in London’s Selfridges earlier this year, the two businesses have partnered to provide a permanent in-store service, which has really brought the rental process to life.
The first 100 per cent peer-to-peer service via an app, By Rotation prides itself on its community-focused approach. Lenders have full control over pricing and rental periods, as well as discounts they wish to offer. If sharing your wardrobe isn’t your jam, fear not, you needn’t list your clothes to rent from others. With a full range of inclusive and accessible items on offer, there’s something for everyone.
My Wardrobe HQ
A fairly new player to the game, My Wardrobe HQ is a slightly niche option in the wardrobe rental world. It compensates owners for unworn clothing, provides access to the wardrobes of our favourite influencers and offers the option to buy after you’ve rented. There’s a selection of items from 500 designers, prioritising the “of the moment” brands. The DPD delivery was seamless.
This service offers premium pieces at affordable prices, with the average dress rental costing just £35 (RRP £200). This is a particularly great option if you need a dress for an upcoming wedding or event, but don’t want to commit to the full splurge. If you’re accident prone, for an additional £4 you can add insurance to cover for minor stains and accidental damage.
Exclusive to those in London, Cambridge or Dublin, Nuw is a peer-to-peer platform with a twist. The app sells itself as a social network for people who want to share their clothing locally. To gain access to the collective wardrobe, users must post an item of their own and pay a monthly membership fee (£8).
We found the search option to be limited, only allowing customers to filter by size. But, as a fairly new platform, we were impressed with the number of high profile brands on offer. Big names like Reformation, Rejina Pyo and Rixo were all available.
With sustainability at its core, Nuw works closely with the London Waste and Recycle Board to offer an impact calculator, allowing users to track their carbon waste and water offset from borrowing and lending through the platform.
The verdict: Wardrobe rental services
Bringing together all the essential elements of a perfect wardrobe rental, ROTARO provides a seamless and sustainable service, as well as offering a wide range of carefully curated items. Arriving the next day, if not the same day of ordering, you’ll never have an assuage wardrobe again. If you’ve nailed a capsule wardrobe and like to rotate your accessories instead, we think Cocoon Club is the one for you. Indulge in new, luxury bags the smart way.