Once the domain of men’s tuxedos, apparel rental got a new look with the 2009 launch of Rent the Runway. The digital-first startup made its mark by offering women the chance to rent designer dresses and accessories for special occasions. Since then, Rent the Runway has expanded to everyday items, from activewear to office attire, offering a fashion-forward take on the sharing economy.
This has paralleled the rising popularity of secondhand trading platforms, with online fashion marketplaces like Poshmark, thredUP and The RealReal aimed squarely at the “recommerce” trend. In 2020, Nordstrom tested a resale concept, See You Tomorrow. Walmart announced a partnership with thredUP the same year.
Apparel makers have taken notice and responded with rental offerings of their own. In 2019, Urban Outfitters Inc. introduced Nuuly, a monthly subscription rental business. Consumers who sign up for the service can borrow pieces from the company’s namesake Urban Outfitters along with Anthropologie, Free People and other labels. Meanwhile, contemporary fashion group Vince Holding Corp. offers subscription-based rental services for its Vince and Rebecca Taylor brands. Ralph Lauren has also launched a similar offering.
Although the rental market for apparel remains nascent, younger demographics are showing interest in the model. Research from Bank of America reveals that a majority of millennials and Generation Z are open to using or likely to use a clothing rental system. This reflects an up-and-coming cohort that often values experiences more than things (see Figure 1).