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The Sustainable Rise of Rental, Repair and Resale

Breathing second life into a garment is one of the key tenets of circularity. And ever since the pandemic began, the market for secondhand clothing has been burgeoning and seeing a massive uptick in mainstream fashion. Ahead, we take a look at the three regenerative retail models that are helping usher in a new era of sustainability. 

Fashion on Rent

Clothing rentals are not a novel concept; whether it’s Latest Women's Jump Suit, tuxedos or novelty costumes, the practical understanding of ‘partial ownership’ has existed for quite some time. Only now, consumers are finally reacting to the harsh realities of overconsumption and embracing the concept of renting fashion wholeheartedly. According to market research firm IMARC Group, global Sustainable clothing rental market is projected to hit $2.08 billion by 2025. What persuaded this change? The luxury fashion sector, of course. A lot of the initial appeal towards fashion rental came from the ability to temporarily own designer clothes for a fraction of the cost that it would take to buy them. It started with platforms like Rent the Runway who closed a remarkable $125 million in funding last year and even has department store bigwigs like Selfridges now following suit. When asked about the idea behind My Wardrobe HQ, one of UK's leading fashion rental platform, its co-founder Sacha Newall put it best, “I came from the car industry, where for every one car shared, eleven are taken off the road, so sustainability was a driving force for My Wardrobe HQ,” she quoted in an interview with Raconteur.

Image courtesy: Raconteur

Reuse - Reduce - Resale

The sale of pre-owned goods through thrift stores and vintage shops have existed for quite some time. But resale got its big break in mainstream fashion a couple of years ago when certain luxury handbags were deemed more valuable than gold. At that time, the annual resale value on an Hermès Birkin was 14.2%, compared to -1.5% on gold. Today, platforms like The RealReal, Vestiaire Collective and Depop have gone on to normalise second-hand fashion, not just through pre-owned designer handbags, but clothing too. In its 2020 resale report, luxury consignment store The RealReal declared to have had a 27% rise in new consignors who’ve collectively held over 25,000 virtual consignment appointments during the pandemic. Shoppers are also reportedly spending on timeless pieces like luxury handbags and watches with enduring resale value, despite the looming recession. One of the key reasons for this surprising expenditure is the fact that they can consign those items in the future to recoup most of that investment or wear classic pieces for decades to come. Thus proving that resale is not only the more sustainable option but one of most value as well.

Image courtesy: Raconteur

Repair Economy

As evidenced by growing waste in the fashion industry, the linear ‘take, make and dispose’ model is inherently unsustainable. One of the key ways to fix this mindset is by extending the lifespan of clothing through repairs. According to a surveyed analysis by McKinsey & Co., COVID-19 has already accelerated consumer engagement in sustainability. Their survey found that consumers are now open to purchasing more durable items of which 57% of respondents were willing to repair items to prolong usage. Amid the pandemic, brands have also been echoing this sentiment by offering in-house repair services. Over the summer Levi’s opened a store in London’s Soho, dedicated to tailoring, customisation and upcycling services, while Selfridges introduced a repair concierge within their London store. Brands like Patagonia had already been championing the ‘make do and mend’ cause through their WornWear program since 2017 that encouraged customers to sell gently used products in return for store credit. Today, the same program is empowering customers to make their own repairs through online tutorials through Patagonia’s partnership with iFixit, a wiki-based site that teaches people how to fix almost anything.

Image courtesy: McKinsey & Company

Published by: Jharna pariani/ 2020-12-04

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