Inside the fashion world’s big rental revolution
We speak to Soho House members and founders of the UK’s biggest companies about the mission behind the growing shopping model
Tuesday 27 September 2022 By Soho House
Fashion rentals have been a guilt-free and affordable solution to the environmentally destructive scourge of fast fashion for some time now, and the semi-shopping model is showing no signs of slowing down.
While pioneering platforms like Rent the Runway have been leading the charge in the US for years, consumers in the UK and the rest of the world have been embracing the sustainable method post pandemic, thanks to the launch of a number of fashion rental companies that promote the idea of renting quality clothes instead of panic buying single-use outfits.
Savvy start-ups like By Rotation, Hurr, Cloan, My Wardrobe and Or Collective (which opens up the pool for kids, too) have helped encourage the rental revolution, stocking collections by cult brands and designers. In addition to cutting the demand for fast fashion, these platforms have made luxury clothes more accessible, as those who wouldn’t necessarily splurge on a Jacquemus dress or an Alexander McQueen suit can rent one for 10% of its retail price. Meanwhile, those who have designer wardrobes filled with things they never wear can use the platforms to lend their items out and make an extra income. It’s a win-win for all.
Here, we speak to the founders of five businesses – all of whom are Soho House members – about their stories and the future of fashion.
Behind the brand:
Victoria Prew is the CEO and founder of fashion rental platform, Hurr. Recognised in Forbes ‘30 Under 30’ list, Prew was the first to tap into the booming circular economy, spearheading rental fashion and shifts in millennial and Gen-Z behaviour. ‘Before I left the corporate world, I’d watched the massive rise of the sharing economy (from Airbnb to Uber) that’s impacted all areas of our day to day lives. As one of the world’s most polluting industries, I really believed fashion was the next big thing that was ripe for disruption,’ she says. ‘Hurr is the community-driven marketplace reinventing ownership. We want to build the world’s most circular home for fashion.
‘We’re building Hurr as the next billion-dollar business: with a hybrid model powering peer-to-peer rentals, 85+ fashion brands and the option to white-label our technology, no matter how brands want to take part in the rental revolution, Hurr offers the way.’
We’re not saying ‘never buy new’, we’re saying ‘buy less and buy better’, knowing that you can shop responsibly, wear it, then put it on Hurr, and after three rentals you’ve made your money back. Our target market is aware of the impact of fast fashion, and prizes ‘access’ over ‘ownership’.
Brand of the moment: Taller Marmo.
Behind the brand:
Eshita Kabra-Davies founded By Rotation in April 2019 after travelling to her motherland of Rajasthan, India, and witnessing first-hand the effects of textile waste. As an investment professional with more than six years of experience in finance, she wanted to combine her commercial experience and love of fashion to create a conscious, inclusive community that democratises fashion and reduces waste.
By Rotation is now the UK’s largest shared wardrobe, and boasts a 300k-strong community of Rotators who are able to rent, lend, buy and sell their wardrobes at their fingertips, all while doing good for the planet.
The amount of clothing that we consume has doubled in the past 15 years and 30% of the garments sitting in our wardrobes haven’t been worn in over a year. The benefits of peer-to-peer rental over owning are endless, from decreasing waste through whim-based shopping to providing a cost-effective approach to finding a new look. For lenders, you can increase the utilisation of existing items in your wardrobe while making a passive income.
Brand of the moment: Stand Studio.
My Wardrobe HQ
Behind the brand:
My Wardrobe cofounder Tina Lake has worked in the fashion industry for more than 25 years, having worked as head of buying at Monsoon and Accessorize, and she had her own boutique on London’s Chilton Street in the early noughties. She connected with Sacha Newall while working on the last of her four previous businesses and the pair launched My Wardrobe HQ together in 2019 with a joint goal to solve the fast-fashion crisis.
‘The fashion industry is the second most damaging industry to the planet. Sacha had worked on the launch of resale platform Depop, and to launch a rental platform seemed like a natural progression for the Instagram generation who like the dopamine buzz of wearing and buying something new, but only want to wear it once,’ says Lake. ‘We started by speaking to a lot of our favourite brands to see if they were receptive. We now have more than 150, and thousands of women’s wardrobes who have all been rented and sold on the platform.’
Rental is the most fun way to experiment with fashion. Rather than committing to buying anything at full price, you can rent something for five to 10% of the cost, which gives you more financial freedom to push the boundaries of your personal style. You can even subscribe to one of your favourite brands and pay a monthly fee to try on and rent as many styles as you like. More importantly, rental slows down the pace of fast fashion. We are all guilty of having bought something and worn it once, or even worse, not at all. These items sit gathering dust in our wardrobes or end up in landfill.
Brand of the moment: Chanel.
Behind the brand:
After 20 years in the fashion industry, where she worked across buying, PR and marketing, and running a talent agency for content creators, Rachel Cornick launched Cloan in May 2022. ‘I’ve been a rental convert for a long time – I still have a designer handbag subscription (shout out to Cocoon Club) and love the way that rental has allowed me to indulge in shopping without the environmental guilt or financial impact,’ she says. ‘I want everyone to experience the thrill it can bring. With my day job as a digital talent agent, I’ve also seen the huge shift in how we are influenced and inspired as women. This has helped me make Cloan the new way we consume together.’
For me, aside from the obvious environmental and economic benefits, the freedom it gives us to try brands, to embrace self-expression and experiment with trends really played a big part in converting me to rental. We are always being told to have ‘investment pieces’ in our wardrobes, to make it capsule and work for you – of course, we need to spend on wardrobe staples, but at Cloan we say rental enables people to have an exciting fashion fling, rather than a sartorial commitment.
Brand of the moment: Stine Goya.
What’s next for fashion rentals?
Or Collective – for kids
Founded by Bliss Staple, former head of buying at COS, Or Collective aims to reduce the impact that fashion has on the planet even further by making the rental model available for childrenswear, too. ‘Creating Or Collective was about being design-led; building an experience that is as fun and exciting as shopping new with no guilt and no high price tag,’ says Staple.
The platform allows parents to rotate their children’s wardrobe with options to rent clothes by sustainable and minimalist brands, with subscriptions starting at £36 a month.
‘The effects of waste and carbon emissions hasn’t escaped any of us, but after having my daughter I realised childrenswear is the ultimate fast fashion, and it’s our responsibility to leave the planet a little better for them,’ Staple adds. ‘To buy responsibly (and stylishly) is both expensive and wasteful, but there was no solution that wasn’t time consuming and satisfied my eye for design.’