Since its launch in 2009, if anyone mentioned fashion rental services, Rent the Runway was the first thing to come to mind. Without any real competition, the company became the go-to for women looking to wear for a special occasion without the commitment of ownership. The idea of renting more casual clothing had yet to enter mainstream consciousness so, for years, not much changed.
Then, quickly, it did. Suddenly the idea of renting all types of clothing seemed like a great idea. At Rent the Runway, customers could now subscribe to its monthly Update and Unlimited programs, with the option to rent four pieces (fancy or more casual) for $89 a month. Or, for $159 a month, users were given access to an unlimited wardrobe that could be swapped out at any time. Yet recently, Rent the Runway is no longer the only option out there. Retailers and brands have debuted their own subscription rental services, providing a slew of options — and price points — for customers.
Why is the shift towards these services happening in such force now? "Consumers are becoming acutely aware of their consumption and its detriment to the planet. This increased sensitivity towards sustainability provides a motivation to consume smarter. The beauty of rental is that you meet the emotional desire for newness, while decreasing the strain on resources," Sidney Morgan-Petro, senior retail editor at WGSN tells Fashionista.
There's serious reason for concern as the United Nations Environment Programme reports that the fashion industry produces 10%of the world's carbon emissions and 20% of the global waste water. By renting clothes, people can help to counteract this serious problem without feeling like they're giving anything up.
On the other side of this surge is that fact that as Gen Z enters adulthood, a whole new type of consumer is emerging. "This is a generation that has grown up with the rental model — from renting movies and TV shows on Netflix, to renting vacation homes on Airbnb, therefore the stigma sometimes associated with renting clothes does not apply to this generation," Morgan Petro says.
She also believes retailers are still testing things out to see what resonates with consumers as the rental market shifts from special occasion to ready-to-wear options. "I see the future of this market working for specific target markets and specific product ranges — namely those aimed at younger generations, the social influencer, the sustainably [conscious] consumer and the occasion wear market," Morgan-Petro says.
If you're new to exploring rental subscription services, we've picked eight different options to choose from. While their services are obviously similar — sometimes down to the nearly identical "How It Works" pages — the differences between these selections boil down to price point and styles. Read on to learn more.
Rebecca Taylor RNTD
The contemporary brand launched Rebecca Taylor RNTD around the end of 2018. For a monthly fee, members can choose four items and can keep them as long as they wish. For anyone eager to receive their next rental item, simply notify Rebecca Taylor that the previous items have been put in the mail and the box will be expedited. While there needs to be 10 items added to the queue in order to ship a box, choosing favorites is easy and determines which pieces will be sent next. If members want to keep something for good, any item can be bought for an exclusive discounted price.
Available in sizes 12 through 24 and XL through 3XL, Fashion to Figure declares that "fashion is a state of mind, not a size." Its new subscription rental service, named FTF Closet, allows members to receive three items at a time — ranging from trend-driven ready-to-wear to workwear and party-friendly dresses that are updated weekly — and keep them for as long as they want. Users can prioritize which items they want first and, as soon as they are available, FTF Closet will send them out. Otherwise, the next items on the list will be sent first. If customers fall in love with a rented garment, they can buy it for a much lower cost than the retail price.
Newly launched Nuuly comes from the parent company of Urban Oufitters and offers over 100 different brands — Free People, Anthropologie, UO (of course), Agolde and Paige, to name a few — as well as one-of-kind vintage pieces. Subscribers will receive a box of six items a month with free two-day shipping and returns. Unlike many other subscription services, members aren't able to swap for different pieces within the month, and must wait until the next billing cycle for new stuff. If a rented item wants to be kept for good, it simply requires a discounted payment online. Currently, there's a short waitlist to join Nuuly.
At Vince Unfold, which launched around the same time as Rebecca Taylor RNTD, users are given access to rent four items with as many exchanges as they choose. Members keep an "edit" of clothing to potentially rent with at least ten options stored at any time. (Think classic and chic apparel: silk satin slip dresses, linen pants, cashmere hoodies.) Vince also recommends keeping an average of 24 pieces in the digital closet for seamless shipping, as some items may not always be available depending on other renters. Specific items can also be marked as a priority and Vince will send it along as soon as it's available.
Infinitely Loft employs a similar system of unlimited swaps but sends three items per month. At all times, members must have eight pieces picked out from its hundreds of options, which span from essential basics to fun, printed apparel, but Loft recommends at least 20 to account for availability. When it comes to size inclusivity, this is a great option, as it includes petite, plus, tall and maternity clothing options for rent. But, if customers do get attached to any of the items, Loft will sell it for a discounted price. If not, return it and get ready for your next box to arrive.
Armoire is unique in that it has different rental tiers for members to choose. The standard package contains four items but, for an additional monthly cost, users can upgrade to a rent more. (Armoire also offers discounts when months are prepaid in bulk.) The site makes it easy to choose between classic, everyday items or maternity and post-baby wear, and the company aims at offering female-owned fashion brands. A user survey and machine learning allows Armoire’s stylists to curate more clothing suggestions tailored to each member's personal style, too.
Pricing: $149/month; $399/three months prepaid; $699/six months prepaid
Express Style Trial
With Express Style Trial, members have access to hundreds of items and new styles. Clothing is available in sizes 00 to 18 and XXS to XL and subscribers receive three items in each box every month. While there is a variety of casual pieces for rent, this is a terrific option for someone looking for affordable work attire. Anyone looking for a quick turnaround time on new items can also notify Express that old items have been shipped back in order to expedite the shipping process. As with many of the other rental services, users can prioritize what items they want, though they will be shipped based on availability. Any item can be kept for a discounted price off the retail offering.
New York & Company's own subscription rental service, called NY&C Closet, offers a regularly updated selection of apparel to its members, including workwear, weekend-ready styles and collaborations from Eva Mendes and Gabrielle Union. Three items are shipped each month with unlimited swaps. Want something in your closet indefinitely? Like most services, NY&C will offer that item for a discounted price.
My List at Bloomingdale's
Launching in September, My List at Bloomingdale's will feature women's ready-to-wear brands offered at the department store — All Saints, J Brand and Mackage, for example — totaling 60 brands and over 100 exclusive pieces. New labels will also be added each week to the site once My List is live. Members can choose at least 10 items to rent at any time and can pick favorites which, depending on availability, will arrive first in a box of four items. (Like other services, all rented items are available for purchase.) My List marks Bloomingdale's as the first department store to launch a subscription rental service, which makes us curious to see which other major retailers will follow suit.
American Eagle Style Drop
American Eagle Style Drop offers the teen-friendly brand's signature jeans, as well as dresses, tops and more for rent. A subscription includes three items on loan at a time, unlimited shipments and the option to hold an entire box for as long as you'd like. Items that want be purchased are also offered a discount. We can see American Eagle's service being put to good use during the school season, especially for those looking for newness in their wardrobe without having to overstock their closet.