Peer-to-peer fashion rental: is it worth it?

Fashion rental

Everybody loves a side hustle. Look at your wardrobe and there is probably hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds worth of merchandise not earning its keep. It’s just hanging there, not being worn or potentially earning you money. Enter the peer-to-peer fashion rental scheme.

It’s tempting. Under the guise of being better for the environment, women are hiring out their wardrobes for a fee. The companies facilitating this are earning a commission from each hire. The business model makes sense. There’s no initial outlay and money tied up in stock for the businesses and much like other service-led companies – Uber, Airbnb, eBay – the majority of work is done by the customers who use them, while they cream off the commission. Sounds easy.

But, is this nascent industry working for lenders­ – those hiring their clothes out – and is it sustainable enough for this sector to scale? This business is only as good as its lenders and the product they can offer at a price which is attractive to others. Companies, such as HURR Collective and MY WARDROBE HQ, need to keep these individuals engaged and encouraged and to make it as seamless as possible, while being low-priced enough to keep people hiring frequently.

The current MY WARDROBE HQ mail-outs are enticing with £325 Rixo dresses for £8, or Simone Rocha fur stoles for £23 a day. At these prices, renting finally makes sense for many. It says customers can shop womenswear clothing and accessories from the wardrobes of Arizona Muse, Poppy and Chloe Delevingne, Olivia Buckingham, Roxie Nafousi, Caroline Fleming, amongst other fashion stylists and influencers.

Founded in 2018 by Sacha Newall and Tina Lake, MY WARDROBE HQ is now chaired by Jane Shepherdson, of Topshop & Whistles fame and has just opened a pop-up in London department store Liberty until 31 March 2020. 

HURR Collective, founded in 2017, has also launched its first in-store wardrobe rental pop-up at Selfridges, London for six months. Available to rent for either four or eight days, the stock will rotate on a weekly basis and there will be specially curated London Fashion Week, Valentines Day and Holiday edits.

The value of unused clothing in wardrobes has been estimated at £30 billion with an estimated £140 million of clothing going to landfill annually in the UK alone. The fashion rental industry is projected to reach $1.96 billion by 2023.

Chanel
To rent from MY WARDROBE HQ from £147 a day (RRP £15,000)
About MY WARDROBE HQ

Sarah Angus, Content Director, MY WARDROBE HQ, explains the company model: “Customers can choose a rental term that suits their occasion; 4, 7, 10 or 14 days, and we can extend this further if they require. We have customers that rent for each and all of these terms – the 10-day particularly suits holidays/vacations, while the 4 day rental is perfect for interviews and events such as LFW. 

“Lenders make 60% of every rental or sale. Our business model includes a resale element also which has seen renters rent something, love it, and then buy it for the difference.

“Our unique business model means that we manage everything for the lender; people nowadays are time poor and don’t have the time to manage things like this, but they’re conscious of the damage fashion is doing to the planet and want to do good (and also earn some cash for it). We manage the whole service from intake, photography, storage, cleaning, delivery and returns. The lenders in return receive a monthly pay cheque, minus our commission.

“We have approximately 150 lenders and this is an almost even split between individuals and brands. We have seen such huge support for the managed service that we are offering and have some big-name brands joining our platform this week which we can’t wait to share!

“We are really discerning with the items that are available on our platform and as such screen and select individuals to ensure the items are of the best condition to rent and buy. We photograph, clean and manage all the items you see on the platform so that customers can view, rent and buy the items in a premium environment.

“We price items to rent at 10% of RRP and to sell at 30% of RRP. Some items such as Chanel and Gucci retain their value so we always confer with the lender and decide a suitable price.

“Brands in particular are tapping into this and we have seen huge uptake with brand partners, including Coach, Mulberry, Diane von Furstenberg, Temperley, Needle & Thread, Vivienne Westwood, Perfect Moment, Beulah, Chinti and Parker, all signed to MY WARDROBE HQ.

“Our target customer is ABC1, 28-35; she recognises the damage fashion is having on the planet and wants access to items that ensure a ‘Cinderella’ moment. These are wow pieces that would cost a lot to buy but can be experienced at a fraction of the cost.

“Rental is the future! Consumers care less about ownership and want to experience rather than own material things; just look at Uber, Netflix, Spotify and Airbnb, all of whom own no stock. Designers are reducing their collections or ceasing completely – Jean Paul Gaultier famously just showed his last collection and actually up-cycled his couture collection to make a stand against the damage fashion is having on the planet. 

Why buy the copycat version on the high street when you can rent it from the designer that inspired it, for the same price?” she concludes.

Fashion rental

About HURR Collective

“On the HURR platform you can rent for 7, 14, 21 and 28 days. This week we launched in Selfridges where you can rent for 4 days, exclusive to the pop-up,” says Victoria Prew, CEO & Co-Founder, HURR Collective.

On the HURR Collective platform the lender makes 85% of each rental, while HURR takes a 15% commission. For example, you can rent a £170 Ganni dress for £32 for 7 days.

“We use data-driven insights and customer spending behavioural data to suggest prices that balance both affordability to the renter and profitability to the lender. This results in a pricing model which makes it ‘worthwhile’ to both parties. We take a tech-first approach to pricing, by consistently analysing our pricing algorithms to optimise and balance the number of rentals, and rental income.

“The number one reason for signing up to HURR is sustainability. Our user base is largely millennial and is deeply passionate and informed about sustainable fashion and the circular economy. HURR is set to scale throughout the UK this year, with international expansion on the horizon. As we don’t hold stock there’s no limit on the number of users, their location or the number of items that can be listed,” she says.

The view from a lender

People wearing/sharing their clothes more has to be good for the environment if it means people are buying less, but, while these look like retail sites, with the feeling of full options, these rental websites are restricted by sizing and the volume of the items stocked. They need to keep both parties happy, particularly those individuals renting their prized pieces.

Kate, 36, from London, recently decided to rent via these rental platforms, “I have quite a few designer items that I’ve bought over the years which I rarely wear, I didn’t want to sell any of them but it seemed a waste to just have them hung in a wardrobe … plus it’s a great way to earn a bit of extra money,” she says. “I Googled clothing rental sites some time ago and HURR and MY WARDROBE HQ looked the best ones. 

“It was quite soon after HURR launched, I requested to register as a lender, uploaded a couple of pieces and didn’t think much more of it,” she says. “One of the girls from HURR got in touch with me a few weeks later and said they were setting up a pop-up shop and wanted some pieces they could hold in the store. I sent over the items I wanted to rent and then they helped me upload everything on to the website.

“The HURR team uploaded most of the items for me so it was really convenient, and the photos/descriptions are perfect as they know what renters are looking for.

“The items HURR are holding for the pop-up – customers try on and rent in store – HURR handle all of this I just get a confirmation and payment. They also look after cleaning.

“The pieces not held in the pop-up – the renter will put in a request on the website, sometimes there is some chat via message about size / fit etc. Once I’ve accepted the request (you can choose not to lend the item), I arrange postage/delivery. When the rental period has ended the renter posts/delivers back the item and I arrange for the item to be cleaned. I think it’s best I handle cleaning – I can ensure it’s cleaned exactly as it should be.”

“If the item doesn’t fit, the renter has 24 hours to process a fit return, once returned they receive a refund minus shipping/cleaning. HURR has been great, always on hand to help with any tech issues or questions. It’s great that they hold some of the pieces in the pop-up as I think it’s more likely they will be rented – plus I don’t have to deal with the logistics of renting,” she says.

“Positives – I get to make some money from items just sat in my wardrobe. I’m also keen to do my part in making the fashion industry more sustainable and I think this is one small step towards creating some change.

“Negatives – if something gets damaged and can’t be replaced / fixed. The HURR team advises not to rent items that have sentimental value and if you’re not comfortable renting something once a request comes in you don’t have to, so fingers crossed nothing will go wrong.

“Renting with HURR has been no hassle, especially while they are holding the clothes for the pop-up and I don’t I need to do anything. I’ve made enough to buy a new pair of shoes.

“The pieces I have listed for rental are designer dresses/statement/party pieces. A Dolce & Gabbana sequin dress got a lot of interest over the Christmas period. I only rent clothes – not shoes or bags,” she says.

The conclusion

If you are thinking of renting, the daily rates are slightly misleading because you can’t rent anything for a single day. Both companies above have a minimum rental period of four days.

The designer rental market, up until now, has been quite expensive and for special occasions only. If the service is too expensive, you may as well buy the item and if it’s too cheap, you can’t provide the service or convince the lenders to hand over their precious items.

For example, Scottish manufacturer, Begg & Co., was offering to rent a scarf for £160 for two weeks, last autumn. Surely, you’d buy it outright if you could afford £160 to rent a scarf? Unsurprisingly, it’s no longer an option on its website.

Renting makes most sense when you are searching for Instagrammable, look-at-me pieces. The peer-to-peer business models are restricted by usually only having one item, in one size, which could hamper growth. The sites also need to have a lot of “must-have”, desirable items to keep up with the demand.

MY WARDROBE HQ’s marketing offers a £1,300 Victoria Beckham dress for £22 a day, which will surely get people thinking differently about the rental market. Is there enough incentive and motivation for the lenders? We’ll have to see, but with brands joining the mix, this could be the answer for these growing companies.

The designer brands will probably want to keep the rental offer on the downlow to avoid it eating into retail sales, however they could put the “sustainable” spin on it and it would seem to be a good way of making money from last season’s stock.

MY WARDROBE HQ founder Sacha Newall and chairman Jane Shepherdson will be In Conversation with TheIndustry.fashion on 24 March at an exclusive cocktail event at sketch London. Click here for more information.