Are rental business models really sustainable?

  • by Scarlet Destiny Admin

As consumers’ demands for more sustainable fashion options rise, clothing rental services are becoming more and more popular. Clothing rental allows consumers to rent one or several items for an event, party, or just as a temporary part of their wardrobe. Depending on the type of platforms, customers can rent directly from the rental service, which has plenty of brands, or rent from other people’s wardrobes.

By Rotation, for example, is a peer-to-peer service, so private lenders and renters manage the process themselves, either posting or meeting up to exchange items, and taking care of the cleaning, under brand guidelines, with no interference.

My Wardrobe HQ, meanwhile, holds items it authenticates from independent sellers and unsold stock from brands, and looks after the couriers and cleaning. The company makes their money from taking a percentage of the rental fee. Just as the above, there’s plenty more options for companies offering rental fashion business models.

According to Traid, the charity organisation working to stop people throwing their clothes away and encouraging re-use, fashion pollution is having detrimental effects on the planet. Clothing generates its own carbon and water footprint, with the fashion industry’s CO2 emissions expected to rise to nearly 2.8 billion tonnes per year by 2030. Equally, UK adults reportedly only wear 44% of the clothing they own and, as such, more than half of the fast fashion produced is disposed of in under a year. Around 350,000 tons of clothes, at an estimated value of £140 million, go to landfill every year in the UK only.

With clothing rental, consumers are avoiding jumping in the newest trends and buying clothes from a fast-fashion store that they are only going to wear once. The way that fashion rental services lets consumers cut down on their shopping habits is what makes it a sustainable option. Although there are circular benefits associated with clothing rental seen from a sustainable fashion perspective, there are also some downsides worth paying attention to.

One of the sustainable downsides of fashion rental services is that the boxes used for shipping the rental clothes have a shockingly low recycling rate. The rental clothes often arrive wrapped in plastic, which isn’t recycled either. On top of that, another factor to consider is the environmental impact of all the carbon emissions that come with shipping these packages back and forth.

Another downside of the business is that a lot of the rental services still try to follow fashion trends in order to keep their customers happy, and by doing so, the services are taking part in augmenting the overproduction issue.

Furthermore, most clothing rental services offer free laundry and dry cleaning as part of the price or membership, and by sending the garments to dry cleaning, they end up consuming more energy than doing laundry at home would.


Just as everything in the Fashion Industry, rental clothing has its downsides and is yet to become a fully sustainable practice. Depending on consumers’ subjective buying habits, renting instead of purchasing might be a better option, or the other way around. Although rental businesses have not perfected their environmental impact, it is still admirable to try and push the fashion boundaries and open the doors to new opportunities which could, one day, lead to a circular fashion economy.


(information sourced on

(Photo 1 and featured: by Photo by Charles Etoroma on Unsplash)

(Photo 2: Photo by Rio Lecatompessy on Unsplash)


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