Rental Companies Won’t Solve Fashion’s Environmental Problems

Rental Companies Won't Solve Fashion's Environmental Problems

I have a little problem with fashion rental companies. I’m talking about companies that offer everything from baby clothes to office wear to fancy dresses that people can rent for a daily fee or a monthly subscription to save themselves the extra expense and hassle of shopping. purchase of items.

My problem with fashion rental is that I don’t think it’s the eco-savior that so many people claim to be. This might surprise Treehugger readers who have read my various articles over the years that praise rental fashion as a more sustainable option for buying new clothes. While I’m a big proponent of extending the life of clothes as long as possible, I think the fashion rental industry does this in a rather wasteful and illogical way.

Stylish, but impractical

First of all, who wears this thing? It’s an honest question. I understand that a lot of the rental clientele might live in New York or London or Paris, where people dress to go out, but that’s not the world I live in. No, I live in the real world, where leggings and sweatshirts are the cut of the day for everyone I know. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone with a pair of heels or a designer handbag. I would probably stop and watch in amazement.

When I scroll through major rental websites like Tulerie, MyWardrobe, and Rent the Runway, I can’t help but imagine the questioning looks I’d get if I ever ventured out the door wearing one. outfits displayed on their well-intentioned homepages. I live in a small town in Canada. Nobody dresses like that! Everyone wears comfortable, practical clothes (right now, snow boots and parkas) and maybe gets dressed up a few times a year, which is barely enough to support a rental subscription .

When it comes to renting baby clothes, you’ll quickly realize that these cute little cotton sleepers are the way to go, 24/7, especially when you see what’s inside. Save money for their education fund. I speak from experience.

Even for extremely fashionable city dwellers, with so many now working from home or using a hybrid approach and still avoiding group gatherings, I suspect rental demand has plummeted. A lot of people have clothes in their closets that they haven’t worn in two years. (The Tote did file the balance sheet in 2020, citing the COVID-19 pandemic, less than a year after striking a huge deal with the Hudson’s Bay Company to buy their Lord & Taylor chain.)

What I mean here is that for a business model to revolutionize fashion – as some like to say rental will – it has to be relevant to most people’s daily lives. There is nothing relevant about these rental websites to my life, or the lives of millions of other people who shop and dress outside of the major urban centers I listed above. And so, I don’t see how renting could be the “genuinely important fashion industry innovator” that Lucy Siegle has lately described in the Guardian.

So much washing and shipping

On to more practical complaints: all that extra washing (usually dry cleaning for those fancy items, which is still very bad even when the perchlorethylene has been removed) is anything but eco-friendly, nor is moving every room in a city. for someone else to wear it – probably once! – before starting all over again.

Fashion expert Elizabeth Cline pointed out in a feature article for her that shipping must go both ways each time an item is rented and returned: “An item ordered online and then returned can emit 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of carbon each way, and climb up to 50 kilograms In comparison, the carbon impact of a pair of jeans bought outright (presumably from a physical store) and washed and worn at home is 33.4 kilograms, according to a 2015 study commissioned by Levi’s .”

A study published last year in the respected Finnish journal Environmental Research Letters revealed that rental fashion is, in fact, the worst form of wardrobe management, due to the environmental costs associated with dry cleaning and transportation. It is even lower than throw clothes. (It should be noted that Siegle takes issue with the study, saying it’s flawed at analyzing jeans — a rarely praised item — and at making assumptions about clothing logistics and care.)

The study authors said it is misleading for rental companies to claim they are part of the circular economy; they are greenwashing by doing this. As a fast company Explain in its analysis of the study, “The problem is that many brands have co-opted a small aspect of the circular system – like using recycled materials or renting clothes to keep them in the market longer – and then market the their whole business as sustainable.”

No outfit repeaters

I would also ask tenants, Why they feel so compelled to change their outfits with such frequency. A curious headline from Stuff NZ says: “Instagram shaming blows up fashion rental,suggesting that it’s the fear of being seen in the same outfit more than once that drives countless renters to shell out (cumulatively large) sums of money just for a new look. We also know that some people buy clothes to wear for a single photo on Instagram, so you might as well convince them to be “proud outfit repeaters”.

The fashion rental industry, as I see it, is largely driven by the idea that we constantly have to change our outfits. We dont do! There is nothing wrong with buying – no, invest in – a high quality garment and wear it for years and years. Embrace the unique beauty of a beloved, well-worn item. It’s something to be proud of, especially if he shows signs of healing.

Like Eve Andrews recently written for Grist“When someone makes the effort to heal the genuine wounds of tissue, they are demonstrating that they care enough about the lifespan of something man-made to make sure it doesn’t fall apart. to shreds on someone else’s body.”

A better way

If you’re really fed up with something, swap it out with a friend. That’s what friends are for. Or buy used items. Thrift stores are a treasure trove of fashion finds, and they cost as little or less as a rental – and you can keep them or alter them or trade them in or swap them out.

You can also wear items multiple times between washes, without worrying about the added footprint of dry cleaning and shipping/delivery to the next person in line. Less washing is a very good thing, something we should all strive for. First try to air them out. I wash my clothes when they look, smell or feel dirty – one of these three (or a combination, which could mean I left it on too long). Even Stella McCartney says you should wash your clothes less. Listen Stella! She knows a thing or two about fashion.

Wearing and re-wearing items from your own staple wardrobe is a less flashy Instagram approach, but it’s undeniably easier, cheaper, healthier and much more practical. I realize that, for some people, fashion is an art form, something they really like to explore in bold and creative ways – and I admire and respect that. For these people, a rental industry could be a great option to have.

But for the rest of us regular folks, who just need to be dressed decently and comfortably every day, renting isn’t a magic bullet for anything. Let’s not pretend that is the case. Better to do what the authors of the aforementioned study recommend: buy fewer items and wear them as long as possible. Plain and simple.