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Don’t Call It Renting: Inside the rebrand for fashion




Both rental and resale are seen as essential to a circular business model and arbitrators of next-generation fashion consumption. While resale has seen an influx of investment and luxury partnerships, including Kering invest in Vestiaire Collective, Balenciaga and Simone Rocha in partnership with The RealReal and Farfetch in partnership with Thredup, rental has not yet been so widely adopted by luxury.

Rental is limited by its lower participation rate than resale, lower frequency and lower expenses. While brands can control the process, it is trickier and more expensive with constant cleaning, damage, wear and returns. In his description of a hypothetical sustainable luxury brand, consultancy Bain & Co. estimated that by 2030, resale would account for 20 percent of revenue, while rentals would only represent 10 percent. And in a June report commissioned by Thredup resale business which went public in March Globaldata found that rental, resale and subscription will be the fastest growing retail sectors over the next 10 years. However, the average person is expected to spend 18 percent of their clothing spending on resale by 2030, while rentals are expected to be just under 1 percent.

I think luxury brands are still skeptical; it’s too new, too soon, says Diana Verde Nieto, co-founder of consulting firm Positive Luxury and co-author of the Bain report. The adoption curve is quite steep. Reselling is easy, you sell and buy something you like, but when you rent, you haven’t had a relationship with the items and it’s too disconnected from the core business.

For younger generations, however, adoption will be faster and rentals will become more prominent in the luxury mix, Nietro says. To sign the luxury, rental tech companies are touring fashion executives to educate them on the perks, drawing inspiration from the resale playbook. They might even ditch the word rental altogether for nicknames like loan, access, or specialty club iterations for VIP clients. Despite a more complex customer journey, the industry is hoping that a Gen Z membership will also attract brands. Kering has already taken a small stake in the London-based handbag rental platform Cocoon. It’s a way to try the waters without fully committing, says Nietro.

A still unknown company

Thredup and Rent the Runway were both founded in 2009, but as resale websites applied new technology to existing business models, institutionalized clothing sharing was a whole new concept. Rental subscriptions, in which people pay a set amount at regular intervals to borrow a rotating selection, are even newer, says Anya Cheng, who worked in social commerce at Facebook before founding the rental company of Taelor men’s clothing.




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