If you're on a mission to detox your closet you'll want to keep reading...
We are entering a new epoch. The fashion revolution is upon us, bringing capsule wardrobes, up-cycling, thrifting, clothing rentals, and sustainable fashion to the forefront. It is all very exciting and each element has it's place in this progressive era of fashion and maybe even our closets.
What I wanted to focus on is the clothing rental system to understand why it's so attractive, what benefit it has, and how we can make it better.
As people are looking to lead a lifestyle that represents their values, they are turning more and more to sustainable clothing options. The long-time habit of owning is becoming less desirable; this is especially true for the special occasion category. We're shifting away from having a full closet with nothing to wear to a carefully curated wardrobe with many options.
Gone are the days of our closets busting at the seams with clothing we never wear. There's a better way!
We all enjoy variety and new clothes are no exception, especially when it comes to a celebration or event. But our definition of 'new' is shifting from 'bran-new' to 'new-to-you'. Rentals are one way to dress up in something that feels new and part of the joy of renting is that you can wear it just once and not feel bad. A guilt-free one-night stand with your dream outfit. How great is that?
In San Francisco, the city I live in, owning special occasion clothing does not always make sense. Our day to day and even workplace dress code is mostly casual, if you've been here, you know. So, renting can be a great option for San Francisco and other cities like it.
While this is all new and exciting, we should still be inquisitive because, in reality, rentals are not 100% guilt-free.
It's important to keep in mind that these companies are becoming huge retailers with lots of stock and many don't focus exclusively on offering clothing that is good for the environment, just a system for renting which allows you to decrease your environmental impact.
But it's the sharing economy, what's the issue?
The sharing economy is great. It's the idea of finding a way to re-purpose what we already have. The problem with rentals is that it's not a system of sharing what we already have. Just like boutiques and retailers, rental services are retailers that place orders from the brands, after-which, new items are produced.
The truth is, we are still faced with the problem of over-production and the question of what to do with these items when they are moved out of circulation. The majority of our clothing is still made out of polyester aka plastic which goes into a landfill at the end of its life cycle. The idea that by renting people can counteract the carbon and water waste produced by the fashion industry is a bit misleading. It's just not that simple.
This can be confusing because when you rent, you feel like a conscious consumer making a good decision that benefits the environment and aligns with your lifestyle. But is that actually the case or is it just what we are led to believe?
Get the full picture. That's what conscious consumption is all about.
The truth is probably somewhere in between so before you fill your cart, take a look at the brands offered on these sites and look into their mission. Find out where the garments are made, under what working conditions, and with what materials. Ask the question, who made my clothes. Determine if the rental company you use is addressing social or environmental problems such as textile waste or simply providing more access to designer fashion?
Clothing rental is a valuable service with lots of potential and I challenge these businesses to take it one step further.
They have a platform that could be used to generate more excitement around the fashion revolution which calls for greater transparency, sustainability and social responsibility across the fashion industry. Rental services have the power to create significant change by educating people and supporting this movement through the brands they offer. We are faced with real social and environmental issues from the fashion we consume, and I hope that clothing rental businesses become an even bigger part of the solution. Rental is not necessarily a better way to shop if we are still rewarding bad behavior by renting clothing from brands that turn a blind eye to the problems caused by their production processes.
There is so much potential for rentals and I can't wait to see more eco-conscious services partnering with brands that produce their clothing in a socially responsible way.