For rent — that’s the bold, new mantra of the fashion industry. And there are a closetful of reasons why renting rather than buying clothing may be the newest way to “shop.” It can be a windfall for women seeking to broaden their wardrobes with top brands without shrinking their bank accounts. Renting (and hence, recycling) is environmentally friendly, helping to reduce waste and pollutants. And most superficially, in the age of social media, you’ll never have to be seen wearing the same outfit twice on Instagram.
Big names are getting into the act. In September, Bloomingdale’s launched “My List at Bloomingdale’s” touting it as “the first ever subscription rental service offered from an upscale department store.” Here, customers subscribe and create a prioritized wish list online that includes 10 items they covet. For a flat monthly fee of $149 ($99 for first-timers), a box containing four designer pieces from the list arrives. Ready for another batch? Return anything in a prepaid envelope and get the next part of your list. For fall, My List will offer 60 brands including All Saints, Ramy Brook dresses, J brand denim, Mackage outerwear and Aqua Cashmere. If you’re even a little skeeved about wearing pre-worn clothes, Bloomingdale’s (like most rental services) assures that the garments go through an extensive cleaning and care process and get inspected for quality control between rentals.
RENTING AS A TREND
Other big stores will likely follow suit, says Marshal Cohen, the chief industry analyst at the NPD Group, a market research consultancy in Port Washington. “We’ve got to realize that retail is changing. The rental market has become a very attractive way to build a wardrobe, and other prestigious retailers are already experimenting with it. They’ve got to do it. They’ve got to create an environment to bring in everybody.”
Of course, the notion is not new. The rental revolution geared up in 2009 when Rent The Runway pioneered the stylish clothing rental space — one dressy dress at a time. While you can still rent one single dress today, the company has expanded its inventory to include what they call “designer wardrobes on rotation” — subscription boxes that might include everything from work clothes to casual duds and even maternity wear along with special occasion dresses.
In November, Charlotte’s Closet in Port Washington, the teen fashion rental store specializing in party and prom dresses, will offer a new subscription service called “Endless.” Along with the fancy frocks, the added inventory will include casual athleisure clothes with a “targeted focus on what the girls really want to wear,” says owner Jen Lane- Forman. “This audience wants to own the experience rather that the item itself … I love that about them.” Most of the dresses here rent for $40-$50 and would retail for $150 and beyond. Featured casual brands will include Strut This, Monrow, Terez, Wild Fox Couture, BCBG Generation and Kendall and Kiley. Customers can visit the store to try on or order online. The flat monthly fee will be $99.95 a month for three pieces. Wear them, send them back and order more.
For some people, renting is a bit of a life changer. Natasha Zuluaga, 30, of Lynbrook who works as a marketing manager at fragrance.com says it means more money in her savings account to go toward buying her first home. “It’s really helped reduce my purchasing. In August I had two weddings, bridal showers, baby showers …. I was spending $150-$300 for dresses, getting photographed and then I felt I couldn’t wear them again. Now that I rent a lot, it’s swayed what I actually buy.”
When lifestyle blogger and influencer Vera Sweeney, 41 of Garden City rented, she says, “I didn’t buy a thing. And I rented high priced brands that I would never purchase or even look at.” She says her website, LadyandtheBlog.com makes her, “so conscious about that flow of online photo sharing that I used to feel the need to constantly update my wardrobe. I honestly think Instagram plays a heavy role in rental. If your occupation revolves around showing what you’re wearing, you don’t want to wear the same thing twice.”
Her advice to potential renters? “If you’re really smart with how you use it, you can have new things come to your house every 48 hours. You end up saving money and there is really no need to buy new clothes.”
WHERE TO RENT
Rent, return, repeat is the new way to have an ever rotating wardrobe and there are plenty of rental options out there. And added plus? Free shipping and returns, complimentary dry cleaning and … in case you do fall in love with an item and want it for keeps, many services offer discount prices on already-rented items ranging from 20-70% off. Here’s a small sampling of the wide range of rentals:
Gwynnie Bee: This service started with a focus on plus sizes going from 10-32 and last year added styles for all women sizes 0-32. Monthly subscription plans go from $49 for one item — to $199 for 10. (gwynniebee.com)
American Eagle Style Drop: Here, find trendy, cool young looks in sizes XS-XL and 00-16. Keep a running list of eight in your “virtual closet” and get three at a time. The charge is $49 a month. (aestyledrop.com)
Infinite Style by Ann Taylor: A terrific resource for business attire, sizes go from 0-14, XS-XL and 00-12 Petite + XXS-L Petite. For $95 you get three items in a box and may receive an average of three boxes a month once items are returned. (infinitestylebyanntaylor.com)
Rebecca Taylor RNTD: High quality, feminine fashion with the perfect amount of edginess is a signature of this brand and rentals include flowy dresses, flowered tops and smart work wear that retail for significantly more but here will run $159 a month with four items out at a time and a wish list of 10. (rebeccataylorrntd.com)
Nova Octo: Looking for the ultimate special occasion dress or gown? This super luxe site offers glamorous gowns and dresses with top designer labels such as Tom Ford and Oscar de la Renta and brands like Marchesa, some that retail for up to $15,000 (one couture number is $35,000). Rental prices go from $250 - $950 and if you choose, you can try before you rent at the company’s Tribeca showroom. They also offer temporary alterations on straps, hems and waists and you can keep the garment for up to four days. (novaocto.com)