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The Evolution of Fashion Relationships Through Luxury Rental Services

by Samara Morris

My introduction to fashion rental services dates back to the iconic yet polarizing 2008 film, "Sex and the City: The Movie." In that movie, Jennifer Hudson's character Louise (from St. Louis) introduced the concept of renting designer bags with the now-famous line, “It’s rented; Bag Borrow or Steal—it’s like Netflix for purses.” Nearly fifteen years have passed since the movie's release, and the fashion industry, particularly the luxury rental sector, has undergone substantial transformations.


As we find ourselves in 2023, there are compelling reasons to consider clothing rentals. While I could elaborate on the merits of a circular economy, especially in a landscape still dominated by fast fashion, there's another enticing aspect for fashion enthusiasts like myself: access to an almost infinite and ever-changing wardrobe.


When this wardrobe encompasses exclusive designer handbags from renowned fashion houses, trending items from sought-after labels, timeless fine jewelry, and more, the appeal becomes undeniable. The landscape, however, hasn't always been this way; the luxury rental industry is diversifying its offerings, and it seems that this trend is just beginning.


Blake Geffen, the founder of Vivrelle, emphasizes the burgeoning success of the luxury borrowing sector. Vivrelle, which currently boasts a waitlist of over 8,000 users, is charting a different path with its tiered membership approach, offering customers the flexibility to borrow items for extended periods while also providing the option to purchase them. Geffen highlights the importance of extending the lifecycle of luxury accessories, aligning with consumer desires to expand their wardrobes and incorporate fun seasonal pieces.


The surge in clothing rental services corresponds to the return of people to the outside world. With the resurgence of office life, social events, and reasons to step out of loungewear, the demand for high-end items for short-term wear has skyrocketed. For many fashion aficionados, luxury rental services present an attractive proposition.


Kate Mao, the founder of Into Archive, an archival designer item specialist, underscores the sustainability of this approach. Renting luxury items eliminates the commitment associated with high prices, allowing for more diverse styling options. Moreover, luxury rentals facilitate creativity without the constraints of price tags, encouraging experimentation and bolder fashion choices.


Adriel Darvish, co-founder of Switch, which offers fine jewelry and designer handbags, echoes this sentiment, noting that luxury rental democratizes fashion, granting access to those who might otherwise be unable to own such items. According to Darvish, luxury is about self-expression, and the vision is to transform luxury from an aspiration to an experience. In this context, trying out a rentable piece becomes a logical and accessible step.


A distinctive feature of luxury fashion rental services lies in their unique selection of items available for borrowing. Companies like Into Archive cater to a younger audience by offering extremely rare and exclusive pieces, a segment often underserved in the rental market. This approach has also led to a new realm of full ensemble rentals, where Janet Mandell's eponymous brand excels. Mandell recognizes the value of offering complete, head-to-toe looks within a single showroom, catering to busy individuals seeking convenience and efficiency.


While showrooms like those of Mandell and Vivrelle offer an in-person experience, technology has significantly impacted the fashion rental landscape. Mao envisions continued evolution in the form of apps, websites, Web3, and social media platforms catering to this market. She envisions a future where renting extends beyond the physical realm to encompass digital experiences. As the sector continues to innovate, the ways in which luxury fashion rentals can be experienced are expanding, igniting excitement about the possibilities.


The fashion landscape is evolving, and luxury clothing rental services are at the forefront of this transformation. Mandell predicts that borrowing will become even more prevalent in the coming years, speculating that major online retailers will integrate rentals into their business models. With an ever-expanding inventory and no long-term commitments, the potential for wardrobe exploration is boundless. The sartorial rabbit hole awaits, promising a new era of fashion engagement.

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