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Drapers Sustainable Fashion 2020: Scaling and changing behaviour in rental

Children’s and maternity wear are “ripe for rental” developments, the chief executives of fashion rental businesses Hurr and Hirestreet told delegates at Drapers Sustainable Fashion 2020. 

“Maternity is ripe for rental, as is kidswear,” said Victoria Prew, chief executive of peer-to-peer rental business Hurr. “We’ve just signed an exclusive with a maternity brand and that’s doing really well.”

Hirestreet chief executive Isabella West agreed, although both pointed out that menswear rental would prove difficult. 

West said: “It’s interesting that Rent the Runway, a business that dominates the rental market in the US, has chosen to go into kids and homeware ahead of menswear. It’s a different consumer mentality.”

For Prew, the opportunities in menswear lie in streetwear brands and collaborations. 

”There is a lot of research about why no one has done men’s rental on a large-scale basis, but my view is that the opportunity is fundamentally smaller.” 

The two rental services operate as online marketplaces, however, Hurr has recently launched a pop-up at Selfridges’ Oxford Street store in London. 

“It’s been game-changing in terms of widening our audience for rental opportunities such as high school graduations and mother of the bride,” Prew told delegates. 

The challenges now lie in the education of the consumer in rental, as the UK is “behind the curve”, asserts Prew. 

After the airing of investigative journalist Stacey Dooley’s BBC 3 documentary Fashion’s Dirty Secrets in June 2019, Hurr and Hirestreet noticed a surge in interest. 

“That was the turning point that sustainable fashion went from an elitist subject to a mass issue. However, our biggest hurdle is still educating people on rental, but now is the time to scale and change behaviours,” said Prew. 

She added: “I can understand [that as we grow] the perceived threat from a brand’s point of view but rental doesn’t cannibalise sales – it opens up [the brand to] a whole new audience.” 

Hirestreet are working to assist brands in embracing rental, said West. 

“We are rebuilding our technology platform to a bespoke service so we can white label that for retailers who want to dip into the retail space. We are working to make rental more accessible for retailers and it can give them feedback on size and fit that they might not get through traditional service channels.”

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