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All Dresses / GMD Daily Blog /

Will The Fashion Rental Market Ever Recover From Covid-19?

  

 

Written BY EMILY CHAN for Vogue online

With weddings on hold and summer holidays a distant dream, clothing rental has fallen dramatically since the pandemic began. But will coronavirus change our long-term attitude towards sharing clothes? Here’s what we know so far.

Before the pandemic struck, renting clothes was seen as the ultimate solution to the damaging buy-once wear-once culture so many of us had become trapped in. Instead of purchasing a new dress for a wedding or holiday, you could borrow one instead (thereby preventing it from ending up in landfill once you no longer had use for it). The clothing rental market was also starting to change the high street. H&M and Ganni were among the first retailers to begin trialling a rental model back in 2019, while several new platforms including Hurr Collective and My Wardrobe HQ have launched pop-ups in department stores over the past year.

But now that weddings have been put on hold and holidays seem like a distant dream, the future of rental — which was projected to be worth $2.5 billion (£2 billion) by 2023 — looks far from certain. In the US, Rent the Runway, the poster child for the fashion rental model, has already announced lay-offs, temporary pay cuts and furloughed staff in response to the pandemic. “Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, RTR’s sales have dropped significantly,” the company said in a statement on Twitter. “We therefore have had to make difficult decisions to sustain the business by cutting costs across the board.”

The company has also faced allegations that it has not properly protected warehouse employees from coronavirus — claims that it has since strongly refuted in both a statement online and a letter from CEO Jennifer Hyman to staff. The brand says it has enacted a series of safety measures in its warehouses, as well as giving employees the option of choosing not to work, staying home and using paid benefits. “This pandemic is far from over,” the company added in its statement. “We know that we will have to continue to make difficult decisions as we navigate forward, but we will always act with our values first.”

The long-term future of rental

While rental has been hit hard during international lockdowns, there are already positive signs that the sector is recovering. YCloset in China has seen the numbers of people renting increase since lockdown measures were eased.

The stripped-back lifestyle we’ve all become accustomed to since the pandemic began is likely to have a long-term effect on our shopping habits. Sustainability is expected to remain a huge concern — meaning the rental model, as an alternative to buying new clothes outright, is unlikely to disappear anytime soon.

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Posted January 15th, 2021 in Features.
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