It all started with influencers. Influencers have used social media to cultivate an audience for promoting brands, for them, it has become a business. In a recent interview for Marie Claire, Instagram influencers spoke about their constant need for new outfits. Their numbers ranged from Louise O’Reilly (128k followers): “my overall aim is to create 30 pieces of content per month which cover reader requests” to Natasha Grano (2.2m followers) who affirms that “10 outfits will last me for about a week on my feed.”
That’s a lot of outfits and they’re not for wearing, they’re for posting. It’s called ‘content’ and it’s become about accessing clothes rather than owning them, which is the message of rental services.
Content Creator India Sehmi (23.9k followers) has been renting from Hurr, founded in 2017 by Victoria Prew. Sehmi said her main reason for renting is “being able to wear clothes I wouldn't usually buy due to price or style—you can experiment more with rentals but also the sustainability element and not feeling guilty for buying something new, which I wouldn't get enough wear out of.”
Rental services have experienced huge growth in 2020. By Rotation, launched in 2019 by Eshita Kabra-Davies, app users grew from 12,000 to 25,000 from March to September 2020. Whilst, My Wardrobe HQ, launched in 2019 by Sacha Newall, saw a 50% increase in stock listed by brands and private lenders. We asked My Wardrobe HQ how much of this growth they attribute to social media, Sadie Mantovani, the brand consultant, said, “influencers are undoubtedly important in all consumer marketing but, when it comes to the luxury influencers, it’s been more about watching them than thinking we can actually share their passions. But now, thanks to rental it’s possible to wear the actual dress that a celebrity or influencer wore, for less than the cost of buying the fast fashion replica.”
Although fast fashion was based on accessing many different styles cheaply, it cannot compete here. Social media is about wearing the right clothes—it’s about something a little more luxurious and being able to tag the designer. This is something rentals services can provide and do it sustainably.
Sehmi believes that Instagram’s impact on the fashion industry is “huge” and that it has become “a go-to source of knowledge for a lot of people.”
“Whilst there's a lot of encouragement to buy, buy, buy, on the other side there's a lot of education and support for small, slow fashion businesses. I think we'll see it skew more towards the latter”—Sehmi said.