From the affordability of clothing to #ootd culture and the expectation that we must have a new outfit for every occasion, our rapacious shopping habits are having an undeniable impact on the planet. Britons throw away a whopping £140m worth of wearable clothes each year and demand for raw materials is expected to triple by 2050, according to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP). But that’s not all – the textile industry is said to be the second-largest polluters, responsible for 92 million tonnes of waste annually.
Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, many of us have reconsidered our approach to fashion and style, with a stronger focus on more sustainable practices. Whether this is the case for you, or you’re simply looking for a more eco-friendly approach to your wardrobe, allow us to introduce you to the world of clothing rentals. All things considered, these services provide an ideal alternative to investing in the perpetual cycle of fast fashion.
The premise behind fashion rental services 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 a vintage Chanel bag but simply can’t justify the price tag? Hire one from Cocoon Club.
Another option is peer-to-peer rental services, considered the “Airbnb of fashion”. These work by giving people a place to upload clothing from their own wardrobe and renting them out, allowing you to monetise from your own items. There has already been a surge in popularity when it comes to these companies: Hurr Collective, a peer-to-peer clothing rental service, has seen an 850 per cent year-on-year growth in registered users from the start of the pandemic, with engagement across the platform at an all-time high.
Of course, it’s worth noting that while these services are doing bits to tackle fashion’s sustainability problem and offer a circular economy, inclusive sizing remains a big problem: the limited plus-sized pieces mean that they are not accessible to all. While steps are being taken to provide greater inclusivity, we think more must be done to make this a truly sustainable model. To help you decide which service you should use, we’ve tried and tested our favourites.
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.
The best fashion rental services in the UK are:
Founded in 2018 by Victoria Prew and Matthew Geleta, Hurr falls into the peer-to-peer category and provides a place for people to monetise their wardrobes, as well as wearing high-end clothing without damaging their bank account or the planet in the process.
Geo-tagging and real-time ID verification make for a painless process. The brand also recently brought its dry cleaning in-house and partnered with Oxwash to provide medical grade cleaning – it’s the only UK-based rental platform that uses a dry cleaning partner also used by the NHS.
Hurr is now also on a mission to make sure its platform is more size-inclusive; Prew told The Independent that it launched its RentALL campaign in March 2020, encouraging plus-sized people to join, adding that “a number of leading plus-size fashion brands have signed up to join the pledge and rent exclusively for Hurr, including WRAY, Kai Collective, Loud Bodies, Lora Gene, Selkie, Anna Scholz and The Hour.”
“Over the next four months, Hurr is looking to add over 750+ unique pieces above a size 16, growing the curve and plus size offering by 120 per cent.”
Another noteworthy aspect of Hurr is the possibility to rent the celebrities and influencers’ wardrobes, for example, Laura Whitmore, Lucy Moore and Louise Thompson. You can even rent in-store at Selfridges.
Best: For designer dresses
With more than 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, it provides an affordable (and sustainable) way to wear designer clothing.
Best: For accessories
A subscription-based service for handbag lovers; for as little as £49 per month (for the light membership) 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 are obsessed with this circular solution to the luxury accessories industry. What’s more, if you have a designer handbag that’s collecting dust in your wardrobe, you can sell it directly to Cocoon – you’ll either receive money or credit.
Best: Peer-to-peer wardrobe rental
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. Similarly to the Hurr Collective, this gives you access to some of the best-known influencers, including Camille Charriere and Abisola Omole.
Best: For independent labels
This platform offers access to a curated selection of independent fashion labels, 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 – 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 basket, 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.
My Wardrobe HQ
Best: For occasionwear
Combining stock from the wardrobes of celebrities and influencers including Arizona Muse, Poppy Delevingne and its brand partners, such as Stella McCartney and Chanel, My Wardrobe HQ has a fantastic range of occasionwear. Unlike many of the other wardrobe rentals currently available, you can also purchase the clothing or accessories you rent.
Best: Younger customers
Founded by Isabella West, this is the first more high street focused fashion rental service, with the average dress rental costing just £20. This is a particularly great option for younger people looking for an outfit 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.
Best: Affordable peer-to-peer service
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 a little limited, only allowing customers to filter by size and category. 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.
Best: For basics
There’s no denying that Baukjen is a great destination for the eco-conscious among us (that’s most of us, right?), and thanks to its environmental and sustainable focus, it’s a certified B Corp: a company that meets the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. Committed to reducing its impact on the environment, Baujken launched a clothing rental platform whereby you can rent everything from dresses to jackets for as little as £13 for two weeks. The size range goes up to a UK size 18 – while of course, this isn’t entirely inclusive, it’s an improvement on some of its competitors.
Best: For buying pre-loved clothing
It’s rare for a wardrobe rental service to offer you the opportunity to buy the pieces you’ve fallen in love with, which is Endless Wardrobe’s USP – offering clothing in three options: rent, buy new or buy nearly-new. Working directly with brands, it handles the care of all of the clothing. With high street brands as well as designer labels on offer, we were impressed with this option – certainly a great one to bookmark for any upcoming weddings.
Rent with Endless Wardrobe now
The verdict: Wardrobe rental services
Bringing together all the important elements of a perfect wardrobe rental, Hurr provides seamless and sustainable service, as well as offering curated edits from influencers and celebrities. Its push towards greater size inclusivity is promising, and certainly a step in the right direction. We can’t wait to see more in the future.
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Still on the hunt for a more sustainable fashion route? We’ve also rounded up the best women’s sustainable clothing brands and the best men’s sustainable brands