The clothing-rental wars are heating up.
At Recode’s Code Commerce event last night, Rent the Runway CEO Jennifer Hyman said the company will allow other brands to start leasing out its clothing rental platform, which she described as a “wardrobe in the cloud.” Recode reports that Rent the Runway’s subscription business has become half of its annual revenue after launching two years ago, and it is growing at a rate of 150% a year. Rent the Runway, which began as a way for women to rent designer gowns for events, now allows customers to rent regular everyday clothes–four items at a time–for $159 a month.
This week, Fast Company reported that Christine Hunsicker, founder of women’s clothing rental brand Gwynnie Bee, is launching a similar platform called CaaStle, or “Clothing as a Service.” CaaStle has already partnered with fashion labels like Ann Taylor and New York & Company, allowing them to rent out a portion of their inventory.
Both of these companies are betting that consumers will increasingly want to rent, rather than buy, parts of their wardrobe. This model makes the most sense with trendy, of-the-moment items that are only in fashion for a season or two. Right now, fast fashion brands like Zara and H&M make these little-used items affordable to consumers by making them cheaply at low-wage factories and selling them at low prices. Hunsicker points out that a rental model might lead to more sustainable manufacturing, because each garment will need to be durable, since many customers will use it.