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HomeFEATURESMove aside, fast fashion: Designer clothing rental is trending

Move aside, fast fashion: Designer clothing rental is trending

Rent the Runway’s pop-up store.

When it comes to special occasion wear, rental is the next big thing.

A number of clothing rental businesses have popped up globally and locally, doing what suit rental businesses have done for decades: offering designer frocks for a fifth of the retail price.

The pioneer of it all is US-based Rent the Runway. The site launched in 2009 and rents out party, wedding, prom and special occasion designer clothing and accessories.

Founder Jessica Hyman told CNBC the model was a “direct attack” on fast fashion retailers, such as H&M and Zara.

While these chains sell high fashion looks for less, Rent the Runway flips this model on its head and commoditises designer labels.

Rent the Runway has since grown to 5.5 million members, renting out US$809 million worth (retail value) of dresses and accessories in 2014. 

In New Zealand, the designer rental trend has been slower to take off, with most launching in the last couple of years.

Locally managed sites like The Borrowed Closet, Designer Wardrobe and Rent Her Dress have been founded and cater to a predominantly young, social media savvy clientele.  

Social media is key

Both Oh and Clarke agree one of factors influencing the success of designer rental sites is how effectively they use social media.

Clarke says it’s been key to the success of her business, as once one person is seen in a Facebook or Instagram post wearing something from the site, others will follow.

Because of this, both Designer Hire and Oh Rent Me use social media promoters (public figures with large followings) to wear their clothes in a post in exchange for free rentals.

Oh says it’s great for creating awareness of her site, but it’s hard to measure whether it amounts to more sales.

“They [promoters] have been successful with getting our word out there but it is hard to tell if they have been effective for generating sales. But at the moment, the reason behind the fact that we use promoters is that they look great in our clothes and it helps spread the word.”

Oh Rent Me and Designer Hire have over 3000 followers on Instagram and close to or over 4000 likes on Facebook.

Clarke says she also uses social media to track what the latest fashion trends are and what girls want to wear. 

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