Refinery 29 UK

A year later, how are fashion rental companies doing?

When the lockdown brought our social and office life to a standstill, our closets were the first to feel the effects. With nowhere to go and no one to see, we gave up most of our clothing in favor of a uniform of tracksuits and housecoats. As many saved unnecessary expenses, fashion became even less important, leading many to cancel their clothing rental subscriptions. While none of the rental companies I’ve spoken to have spoken to common numbers, all of them have confirmed they’ve seen a decline in orders and an increase in membership cancellations and breaks since the first U.S. pandemic last March. However, many customers were returning by last summer, though it is unclear whether subscriptions have hit prepandemic numbers. We’re still banned – so what’s changed? According to Ambika Singh, CEO of Armoire, a clothing company that sells contemporary brands like Rag & Bone, Equipment, and Scotch & Soda, people at home have started dressing up again just because: “Even though women didn’t see many like that People like they were in their pre-pandemic life were already used to dressing themselves up and giving themselves the boost they needed for the day. “Today Armoire has more“ permanent customers ”than ever before. This term refers to people who have been using the service for more than nine months. URBN’s rental service, which also includes Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Free People, says Nuuly, the company has seen memberships revitalized with each new season, with more expected in the spring and summer due to the introduction of vaccines and outdoor events . This could explain why the plus-size brand ELOQUII launched its rental service ELOQUII Unlimited in August. According to CEO Mariah Chase, the service was in the works before March 2020, but research showed that customers still wanted it. “80% of women in sizes 14-28 agreed that a subscription clothing rental service gave them the flexibility they need as their lifestyle evolves in uncertain times,” she says. Part of this pandemic success can be attributed to the communities these companies have purposely built. Armoire launched initiatives such as the “digital changing room”, in which members can upload photos of themselves in the rented clothing to a joint feed. Others, like ELOQUII Unlimited, have added styles that are more relevant to home life and introduced a loungewear launch in the fall. Nuuly also reevaluated its category and brand mix, expanding its maternity and plus size offerings (which its customers requested) and generally relying on both casual aesthetics and “mood-enhancing” styles. “Last year’s topic was casual, but our subscribers were still talking to each other [their lives] through a fashionable lens, ”says Kim Gallagher, Nuuly’s director of marketing and customer success. “They loved our range of glamorous casuals like sequin and velvet joggers.” (I am well aware of the drawstring sequin pants Gallagher is talking about because they happened to be the last product I ordered when I tested Nuuly in February and March last year when things were starting to look somber.) “Fashion It’s always been about self-expression, and rental gives consumers access to a closet that is much larger and more diverse than it would be useful to own. “Christine Hunsicker, Founder and CEO of CaaStle Christine Hunsicker is the Founder and CEO of the growing logistics company CaaStle Due to the success of her previous business, apparel subscription brand Gwynnie Bee (which is now a subsidiary), rental services like ELOQUII Unlimited, Vince Unfold are now being used and Banana Republic Style Passport. According to Hunsicker, the rise of video conferencing presented a new need for the market: “We have seen our members move up [even if] They may have chosen more dresses in the past, ”she says, also naming more comfortable, less structured garments like cashmere sweaters as the most requested styles. Melissa Gonzalez, fashion retailer and CEO of the Lion’esque Group, confirms that people still think about their outfits, but with the computer in mind. “From the waist up, we’re staring at each other more than ever. I think there is a desire to freshen it up and feel good again,” she says. Then there’s the reason many loyalists never canceled their rental subscriptions at first. “The addition of new items to our wardrobe and the thrill of receiving these packages is still a source of real joy. Although we leave our homes less, we have to get dressed and feel good every day, ”says Hunsicker when I ask her why she thinks people keep renting clothes. “We received daily feedback from our members who shared that the arrival of their boxes on their doorstep would be a highlight of their week and a way to self-medicate.” This is the same reason that drew people to rental services when they first stopped by: the joy of being able to wear designer clothes that we otherwise couldn’t afford and trying out styles that we’d be too afraid to be to get involved in the long term. “Fashion has always been about self-expression, and renting it out gives consumers access to a wardrobe that is much larger and more diverse than it would make sense to own,” says Hunsicker. It’s also more sustainable than buying new clothes. COVID-19 forced many to rethink their shopping habits as they faced their own excess. The closets were full of clothes that we barely wore in normal times, let alone a pandemic. Therefore, environmentally friendly alternatives to consuming fashion such as reselling and renting, which are already on the rise, are becoming increasingly popular. “We as consumers have a role to play in rebuilding the post-pandemic world to be fairer and kinder to Mother Earth,” says Singh. “Rental fashion will boom like never before.” Gonzalez agrees that the future of rental looks bright, adding that not only is it more sustainable, but it is also a more economical alternative to buying a brand new closet. “As long as brand partnerships exist and inventory is exciting and consumers have access to brands they have coveted … [rental] is still very valuable. “Melissa Gonzalez, CEO of the Lion’esque Group According to Gonzalez, it is not only customers who benefit from the rental, but also brands that want to assert themselves in front of customers. “It still makes a lot of sense for brands to offer rentals as this is a good entry point for a client to get to know about your brand,” she says. “As long as brand partnerships are in place and inventory is exciting and consumers have access to brands that they previously wanted but might not have been able to afford, this continues to be a really valuable proposition.” Just this week, Ralph Lauren started a rental initiative with the Lauren Ralph Lauren brand (also from CaaStle). Speaking to WWD, David Lauren, the company’s chief innovation and brand officer, said, “We really thought Lauren was an interesting place to start. It was a brand that had lost some of its grip. We thought this would be a way to rekindle interest and curiosity. Gonzalez believes that rental fashion will continue to be popular with consumers: “People look forward to going out again, especially when we get vaccines and the warmer weather comes.” Then there is the future where we ( presumably hopefully) will return for events such as weddings and large social gatherings. With that in mind, according to Gallagher, landlords are well positioned to meet the fashion needs that arise when people return and travel on special occasions. “As we emerge from the pandemic and consumers have more reasons to get dressed, we believe that the value proposition of access to a rotating closet will grow with demand,” says Chase. Because who knows by then what we will want to wear after a year and some of them outside of our closets? Will our style be what it was before the pandemic? Will it be comfort forever? “When we return to pre-pandemic activity, the big question is what wardrobes will look like: is the elastic waist here to stay or will yoga pants be left in quarantine?” says Hunsicker. “Rental services offer a real value proposition to consumers looking to get dressed without committing to a post-pandemic wardrobe.” At Refinery29, we are here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of things. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. When you buy something that we link to on our website, Refinery29 can earn a commission. Do you like what you see? How about a little more R29 grade, right here? Is this the new frontier for sustainable fashion? It’s time to rent your clothes on20 skinny jeans we love, from plus to petite