Could ‘rental fashion’ help us become more sustainable?
Sadly, we all know that disposable fashion is ruining the environment: 100 billion items of clothing are being produced annually and an incredible 50 per cent of fast fashion that’s made will be disposed of within that year. The model encourages us to shop without really considering what we really need or will indeed even wear. An incredible £30 billion worth of unworn clothes hang in our wardrobes and £140 million worth of clothing goes to landfill each year, so it’s no surprise that the fashion industry will use up to 25 percent of the world’s carbon budget by 2050.
“FACT: Did you know that Australians are the second highest consumers of textiles per capita in the world?(2) The average Australian purchases 27kg of clothing per year (3)– that’s twice the global average and second only to the United States! What is perplexing about this is that the average Australian individual only uses about a third of what’s actually in his or her wardrobe, (4) leaving the rest to be thrown away and inevitably end up in landfills. And how much does that end up being? It’s around 6 tonnes of clothing every 10 minutes! That’s the retail value of $500 million (5) worth thrown in the bin per year – that’s right: half a billion dollars of economic value. Wasted. That’s madness!”
While it’s true that some stores – including H&M and & Other Stories – are taking action by encouraging their customers to think twice before throwing away their unwanted clothes and swapping them for shopping vouchers, is it enough?
Enter rental & hire shopping.
Studies show that rental retail will be part of shopping in the future, with nearly half (46 per cent) saying they’d use rental shopping because of the choice, the ease of adapting to changing trends and, most importantly, because it provides a more sustainable approach to fashion. It’s also becoming increasingly popular for event shopping – like, for example, a wedding – where a guest is likely to be photographed many times in one particular outfit and then never wanting to be seen in it again.
Given the growth of the shared economy and “generation rent”, Westfield predicts that the rental market will grow among retailers in the future.
The proliferation of the sharing economy has improved many parts of our lives – from ride sharing (UBER) to house sharing (AIRBNB). But why not our wardrobes?
It just so happens that the sharing economy for men’s clothing is actually one of the oldest sharing economies there is! Men have been sharing clothing for a very long time – think of the number of times you’ve borrowed an outfit from your brother, cousins or friends and even been privy to your mom’s ‘hand-me-down’ syndrome. Boys with elder brothers will know the joys of being passed down second-hand outfits from their elder counter part. So the great news is that we have the opportunity to utilise a well-known behaviour to reduce our impact on the environment: sharing fashion!
The reason why this makes sense to do is because our clothing has actually always been built to be worn many, many times. That’s not a surprise to anyone right? But it seems like somewhere along the way we’ve forgotten this, perhaps in part due to the accessibility and cheap price point of disposable fashion items. The great irony here is that disposable fashion items are a horrible investment when compared on a cost-per-wear basis, so your costs add up pretty quick if you have an active social life. Let’s ask the question: just how many ‘wears’ should a good piece of clothing give you? As it turns out, it’s a lot more than you think.
Fashion rental websites like Mr. Fierze allow you to borrow high-end, high-quality designer suits items, and pay for them on a per-use basis. Because these platforms allow you to rent an item, wear it once and return it, you’re effectively only paying for what you use by sharing the item with many other men to collectively drive the cost-per-wear way, way down! Given that a typical designer item can be worn up to 20-30x times before they no longer look ‘new’, by sharing a designer item with 20-30 other men who would have otherwise purchased a single item to use once and dispose of, you can help to reduce the environmental impact of such a wear by up to 95%! This is due to the fact that instead of 20 to 30 items being manufactured, purchased, worn and disposed of there is only one (yes, one!) item being manufactured and purchased once while still being worn by up to 20 to 30 other people before the end of its life. And of course, the items are thoroughly cleaned, preened and pressed to as-new after every rental.
The really exciting part about renting designer fashion is not only that it provides access to designer quality at a disposable price point, but it significantly reduces the amount of clothing that needs to be manufactured, worn and disposed of through the benefits of ‘collaborative consumption’ and thus significantly reduces the environmental impact of the fashion industry.
Given all of us are the primary drivers of demand for these products, we can all collectively make a big difference by making improvements to our consumption habits while doing good for the environment and saving money at the same time.
*** Excerpts from Harper’s Bazaar UK & Glam Corner Australia ***