Borrow not buy to save the planet: 5 best fashion rental sites in the UK
What’s one of the best ways to reduce your impact on the environment when it comes to your wardrobe? Wearing what you already own, of course. But what if your wardrobe doesn’t quite have what you need? That’s where renting someone else’s stash comes in.
The fashion rental market has surged in popularity in recent years, with a whole host of brands offering up their services. Not only is it good news for the environment, but it's also good news for your wallet, as you can try out all your favourite brands for a fraction of the retail price.
Already a hit in the US with websites such as Rent The Runway, fashion rental platforms are increasingly making their way across the pond. So much so that brands such as Joules, Selfridges and Marks and Spencer – which has collaborated with rental site HireStreet – are bringing their collections to the rental market.
In 2019 GlobalData predicted that the UK fashion rental market would grow almost 600% in 10 years, to be worth £2.3 billion. However, Forbes has since estimated that the sharing economy is growing so rapidly that it is projected to be valued at £269 billion by 2025.
While sometimes investing in pieces is well worth it, what about those one-offs? Some items or events feel like they are not worth splurging on and that's where dress hire comes in. Whether it's a wedding guest dress, a summer party piece, a suitcase full of picture-perfect holiday items or just to freshen up a tired wardrobe, fashion rental is for any occasion.
Here are five of the best fashion rental sites that you need to know now.
Best for: High-end luxury pieces
How it works: Search by brand, size or occasion, select the piece you want, and check its availability before booking and paying for the days selected. The item is delivered to your door, and you are expected to return it in the same condition.
The founder: After pursuing a career in the male-dominated industry of finance, Front Row founder Shika Bodani saw other women breaking the glass ceiling and decided to make a career change and turn her own passion into a business.
“Whilst living in New York, I came across Rent the Runway and it highlighted that it is possible to keep up to date with fashion trends in a more sustainable way and I knew I wanted to bring the concept to the UK,” Bodani told Yahoo UK. “What started as an idea, has evolved into the business it is today – democratising fashion by making luxury fashion accessible to all.”
Front Row offers two rental periods on our website, three days and five days, but can accommodate longer rental periods on a case by case basis. “Our aim is to make fashion accessible to all,” adds Bodani, “providing our customers with experiences in luxury fashion rather than ownership, we typically price our items between 10%-12% of the retail value.”
Best for: Bags and accessories
How it works: BagButler works in a similar way to how AirBnb works for home stays. Search the numerous styles check the calendar for availability before booking. Then customers can sign up and select the length of time to rent the item.
The founder: “During the pandemic rentals were few and far between,” says BagButler founder Tina Lipfriend. “However, during that time, the conversations about conscious consumerism and the damaging impact of fast fashion on the environment really gained traction.”
Since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in November 2021 the orders have been streaming in, and BagButler has experienced a 300% increase in rentals since summer 2021.
As the name might suggest, BagButler specialises in luxury handbags, available for weddings and special occasions or “just because”, says Lipfriend. Rentals, such as the brand’s most popular styles, the classic Lady Dior style and the Chanel flap bags, are carefully selected by Lipfriend and her team, so you know you’re getting the real deal.
Best for: Mid-range pieces and occasion wear
How it works: Search by brand, size or occasion, select the piece you want, and voila! Items are lent by real people or Hurr itself and you can agree whether you will need to arrange cleaning before return with the lender. Items are either managed by real people – which means a true variety and selection in sizing – or managed by Hurr in house.
The founder: Hurr Collective co-founder and CEO, Victoria Prew, was one of the first to recognise the booming circular economy and tap into that revenue stream, spearheading rental fashion and shifts in Millennial and Gen-Z behaviour.
Hurr’s collection has grown ten-fold since its launch in 2017, from a pop-up in Selfridges, to collaborations with designers such as Gann, Hurr has become a tech-first global brand with thousands of renters and lenders.
Best for: Earning a side hustle in lending, as well as renting
How it works: Create an account on the By Rotation app and browse items, before speaking to the owner and organising rental.
The founder: Having travelled to her motherland Rajasthan, India, for her honeymoon and witnessed the first-hand effects of textile waste, Eshita Kabra Davies – who then worked in asset management – felt compelled to change, and bring about change in the fashion industry.
By Rotation was born as a side hustle alongside her full time job in April 2019 and has grown to have over 250,000 ‘Rotators’, from students to celebrities alike. By Rotation’s consumer-to-consumer system assures a wide variety of sizing and accessibility for users.
“By Rotation is more than just a fashion rental platform and app, we are a conscious and self-sustaining community,” says Kabra Davies. “As a 'third culture kid' and a global citizen, inclusivity and diversity have always been of utmost importance to me.”
My Wardrobe HQ
Best for: Convenient, concierge-style service
How it works: Browse over 500 designers, register to rent, and enjoy wearing your rental from as little as four days up two two weeks. My Wardrobe HQ provides a pre-paid return label and they take care of all the “boring stuff” (dry cleaning, ironing, etc.). The site offers both a rental and the option to buy outright resale price for all items, with a centrally managed system that ensures every piece is checked for authenticity and quality.
The founder: “My Wardrobe HQ prides itself as being like a FarFetch for rental,” co-founder Sacha Newall tells Yahoo UK, “we offer a premium luxury service at a fraction of the price.”
Working with over 190 contemporary and luxury brands directly and with hundreds of women with incredible wardrobes, My Wardrobe HQ manages every part of the journey meaning that you can receive all of your items in one delivery, even if they are from multiple lenders.
Launching in November 2019, My Wardrobe HQ has, much like the fashion rental space, grown exponentially in the time since. The brand launched a pop-up space in Harrods 4th Floor that allows customers to try items, as well as drop off rentals in person, and will be launching pre-loved kidswear from April 23.
Watch: How to make more environmentally friendly choices when it comes to your wardrobe