“Come inside and buy nothing”, reads the invitation on the window of the newest shop on London’s Carnaby Street. It’s a shop, but not as we know it – because it’s a pop-up shop from Rotaro, the fashion rental service. Meaning that while none of the candy-coloured dresses from Stine Goya, Rixo and Rotate displayed on the other side of that window can be purchased, they are available to rent.
Welcome to the rental revolution, happening now at weddings, birthday parties and big nights out all over the UK. The founders of leading rental platforms say that after a difficult year, summer 2021 looks as if it could be their breakthrough season. That’s thanks to shifts in attitudes toward consumption, heightened awareness of sustainability issues – and a few high-profile fans. Fans like Carrie Johnson, who wore a rented Christos Costarellos gown on her wedding day last month, and whose entire G7 wardrobe came from rental platforms. Holly Willoughby, Arizona Muse and Priyanka Chopra Jonas have all worn rented finery.
No wonder established luxury businesses are taking note: Kering, the French conglomerate that owns Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Bottega Veneta, just invested in handbag-rental company Cocoon. They’re getting in on the ground floor of a sector projected to be worth £2.3 billion in the UK by 2029, according to GlobalData.
Johnson’s wedding gown was an “aha!” moment for many first-time renters. Women like a friend who, when searching for a dress to wear to her back-garden birthday party, realised she could rent the same Self-Portrait mini she’d already bought online for a fraction of the price. She returned her purchased dress and spent the difference on a DJ. At this revolution, you can be sure there’ll be dancing. Emily Cronin