2019 might be the year we wear borrowed clothes

We’ve seen an explosion in the sharing economy and we predict fashion is next...

2019 might be the year we wear borrowed clothes

Back in January I wrote a blog for Forbes and also posted here - predicting that 2019 might be the year we wear borrowed clothes, all about the rise of the sharing economy, pioneered in other industries by Uber and AIRBNB.  I focused on the mindset shift that would be needed for clothing sharing and subscription services to become mainstream - ending with the following paragraph, and I quote;

“The increased spending power of Gen Y and Millennials in the retail market and the desire for experience over ownership mean that the stars may just have aligned for the clothing rental market to move mainstream in 2019 in the UK, although it might need a bigger retail name to enter the space to really help shape consumer conscience around the trend and overcome the mental challenges still clearly facing the emerging sector.”

Guess what, another one of our predictions has come true!  Last week behemoth retailer Urban Outfitters announced that it was launching an online subscription service allowing people to borrow up to six items to wear for a month before swapping them. Not only that, customers can also pay a monthly fee to borrow womenswear from its other brands; including Anthropologie, Levis, Fila and Gal Meets Glam. At the end of the month, subscribers can choose to buy an item or return all the clothing borrowed and choose their next selection. Returned items are washed or dry cleaned and inspected before being rented out again.

Urban Outfitters are very definitely a high street brand therefore with them embracing and pioneering clothing rental it looks like this is another trend which started with designer labels but has moved mainstream.

Original Blog posted: 1/10/19

Uber and AIRBNB have reshaped their respective industries in the UK through their use of sharing and have driven the explosion we’ve seen in the sharing economy. For the majority of us, until very recently, the thought of staying in someone’s spare room instead of a hotel whilst on holiday, or getting into a strangers car was an alien concept and not something we would consider but today many of us do both without a second thought.

When it comes to clothes, the idea of wearing something owned by someone else is a line many of us still won’t cross but with an explosion in options, 2019 might be the year this all changes.

Gen Y has been at the forefront of the growth in re-sale and second-hand clothing apps such as Depop over the past couple of years but it’s clothing subscription models that might finally encourage the mainstream retail market to embrace the sharing economy in regards to clothing in the UK.

The idea of renting clothes has caught on in a big way in the US with Rent The Runway raising $210m since 2009 enabling female consumers to rent up to 4 pieces at a time for $159 a month whereas here in the UK, the market is still developing, despite services such as Girl Meets Dress having been around for the same length of time.

New entrants such as WearTheWalk and FrontRow are betting on this changing in 2019 and are focusing on very specific customer groups to begin challenging Girl Meets Dress and securing UK market share before Rent The Runway makes an inevitable push into the UK market.

FrontRow focuses on renting high-end designer pieces for short periods of time, for example, a pair of Lambskin Chanel gloves for 5 days will cost you £150 if they’re being delivered in Central London. This process is clearly designed to appeal to the Instagram generation and the desire to be seen in the latest trends.

WearTheWalk, on the other hand, is more in line with the Rent The Runway model, with it’s monthly subscription offering it gives members access to a number of pieces from emerging designers throughout the month, having 5 pieces at any one time costs £120 a month. This approach focusing on the volume of products is clearly designed to capture the active young professional market. Both of these companies and their respective focus is underpinned on the emergence of a new type of consumer - the sustainably focused millennial who has now been conditioned by other sharing services to value access over ownership - and believe this evolution of consumer behaviours will ultimately take their offerings mainstream.

‘Amongst millennials, we are seeing an emphasis on “access over ownership”, which is what makes the market conditions so ripe for a rental model. Secondly, and most importantly is the sustainable fashion movement, which has gained significant momentum over the past year and now dictates one of the primary buying motivation of Gen Y and millennials.’ Outlines the CEO and Founder of WearTheWalk, Zoe Partridge. ‘The sharing economy facilitates the growth of smaller brands through the access it provides to consumers, it’s our belief that the sharing economy democratises a once heavily elitist industry and enables the everyday girl, and the next generation of luxury consumers to consume brands that were once the preserve of the catwalks, photo shoots and those with big enough bank balances.’

She also highlights that despite the uncertainty facing the economy their customer research tells them that 73% of millennials are willing to pay more fashion with a sustainability slant to it.

One barrier that all clothing rental companies need to overcome though is the idea that you’re wearing a piece of clothing that has been worn by others before you, the idea of cleanliness in this sector is clearly a higher priority than with ordering a taxi.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that such companies are creating promotional videos to show behind the scenes of their clothing rental businesses, especially highlighting how the clothes are cleaned to the highest of standards. The most recent example of this being the video campaign undertaken in China by YCloset with a leading Chinese influencer Jiang Chacha. The video ends with her being offered a glass of water to drink from one of the steaming machines used, clearly implying the cleanliness of the whole process.

The increased spending power of Gen Y and Millennials in the retail market and the desire for experience over ownership mean that the stars may just have aligned for the clothing rental market to move mainstream in 2019 in the UK, although it might need a bigger retail name to enter the space to really help shape consumer conscience around the trend and overcome the mental challenges still clearly facing the emerging sector.

This article was originally posted on www.forbes.com on Jan 10, 2019. Updated on mallzeeinsights.com on June 3, 2019.

Cally Russell

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