How sustainable is fashion rental?
In 2019, the new fashion frontier seemed to be fashion renting; indeed, it was estimated that this new market trend would reach a record value of $1.96 billion in 2023.
Factors contributing to this new trend include: the onset of the pandemic, reduced affordability, and increased awareness of environmental issues.
The development of this new form of awareness has meant that in the global fashion landscape, fashion rental is considered the “greenest” solution.
A recent study (Innovative recycling or extended use? Comparing the global warming potential of different ownership and end-of-life scenarios for textiles – May 2021) analyzed several scenarios from the clothing world, revealing that renting is in fact the least environmentally sustainable option, due to transportation to and from various customers and dry cleaning after each service.
There are two options being proposed to take advantage of this trend: the first is to reconsider rental shopping as a form of second-hand shopping, framing it as a service that is useful when the need arises, like for a special occasion; the other option is to make the service truly sustainable, with low-carbon means of transportation and by using stock items for a longer period of time.
To go into more detail, the analytical paper revealed that the REDUCE scenario – which involves the prolonged use of clothing – minimizes the global warming potential (GWP), followed by REUSE – which involves the resale of clothing.
Such practices within the circular economy (CE) that involve extending the life cycle of textiles appear to lead to significantly lower system-wide GWP impacts than the use of new innovation, which make use of rental logic or new ways of producing reusable fibers from textile waste (RECICLE).
If even this attempt has failed to result in tangible improvements with respect to the environment, what will be the next solution proposed by the fashion industry?