As a lifestyle journalist for the better part of two decades, keeping up with the latest clothing trends has been part of my job. But over the past five years, I started getting into a rut. Having become more aware of fashion’s impact on the environment, I made the choice to opt for more sustainable solutions in fashion. And because of that I started to feel like a hypocrite whenever I would swipe my card on new purchases. Retail guilt became hyper-real!
So, earlier this summer, I started renting clothing as a more sustainable way to keep my closet feeling fresh, and I haven’t bought anything new since. While clothing-rental services aren’t particularly new, what is fresh about them is how easy they are to use now and the variety of options that are popping up. And I can’t get enough. My wardrobe now gets a refresh every month as I work these temporary pieces into my existing looks, and I feel like I’m able to take more risks in what I wear because I’ll be sending it back anyway. I’ve been embracing more feminine styles and colour—pieces like a bright-striped crocheted dress, a loose blue jumper and a daring denim mini have given my mostly black closet a major boost.
In recent years, clothing-rental services have also seen a major boost—in sales as well as customer awareness—thanks to super-successful brands like the U.S.-based Rent the Runway (rumour has it that at RTR locations in L.A., for example, women will regularly stop in to grab an outfit on their way to work) and Rent Frock Repeat here in Canada. In fact, GlobalData Retail released a report earlier this year stating that the clothing-rental business was a $1 billion venture in 2018 and it’s predicted that it will hit $2.5 billion by 2023.
And even traditional retail brands are getting in on the action. In the U.S., Anthropologie, Banana Republic, Urban Outfitters, Ann Taylor, Vince and more have all added clothing rentals to their offerings. Famed department store Bloomingdales recently announced that it’s getting into the clothing-rental game, starting with subscription boxes that will be launched in September 2019.
In Canada, we’re still waiting on the bigger brands to start these programs, but that doesn’t mean we’re totally out of luck—some fabulous rental services have already popped up. The aforementioned Rent Frock Repeat (which has over 93,000 members) is in the process of shifting to subscription boxes—and they’ll have full outfits as well as “frocks”—so expect to see more from them soon. There are also local and national rental services to look towards, and I tested out a few of them. Here’s what I loved about each.
I first dipped my feet into clothing rentals with Dresst.ca, a monthly service that sends three pieces of your choosing to your doorstep for a 30-day period. You have one week to swap out anything that doesn’t fit right or that’s not your style, and then you’re free to enjoy your items until you get an email that reminds you to bring your boxed-up wares to the post office, with a pre-paid shipping label that is sent with your items. Once Canada Post has scanned your order, Dresst.ca will release your next trio of pieces. It’s pretty seamless, actually, especially considering that each piece is insured and Dresst.ca will take care of any loose buttons and repairs as well as dry-clean each piece before it’s sent on to its next renter. Dresst.ca carries a roster of contemporary brands like Equipment (I rent one of the brand’s blouses every month—they’re that good!), Tanya Taylor, Vince, Ted Baker, Gal Meets Glam, Smythe and more—and they’re adding new pieces regularly.
Reheart is an online clothing-rental service that was started by and for a group of diverse millennial women. The idea is this: We only use one-third of the items in our closet on a regular basis, so why not rent out the pieces worn less often and give them a new life in someone else’s wardrobe? (Reheart recently brought another rental service, Boro, into its fold.)
I emailed the team at Reheart and they put together three boxes of clothing and accessories for me. Not everything was my particular style, but I loved trying on pieces that I might not normally wear to see if I’d be into them. I was surprised by how much I used a handheld vintage woven bag—it went really well with a black shirtdress they also sent me and my oversized straw hat.
The site stocks over 1,200 pieces, like dresses from Reformation, Calvin Klein and Self-Portrait, as well as accessories from Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Rebecca Minkoff, all at a fraction of the retail price. You’re borrowing from one of Reheart’s lenders—who receive up to 50 percent of the rental cost—or Reheart’s own stock. And if you’re looking to make some dollars off your closet, you can easily become a lender, too. The company takes care of all shipping costs, and, another sustainable plus, it uses only green dry-cleaners between wears.
I recently had a big, beautiful bash to attend, so I popped into The Fitzroy in Toronto’s West End to try on a few frocks. What started as a roaming retail pop-up shop in 2011 turned into a sustainable dress and accessory rental service in October 2016. What I love about The Fitzroy, aside from its shiny concrete floors, plush dressing rooms and stocked candy bar, is how easily the associates there can find something to fit any theme—after all, they play host to more than 500 dress styles, meaning they have more than 2,000 pieces in the showroom. After trying on about six different looks—the theme was brights and polka dots—I landed on a vibrant-blue, high-neck dress with silver dots. Perfectly on-theme and totally in my style wheelhouse. Don’t fret if you’re not nearby: The boutique does online rentals as well.
Out of town
Because I’m based in Toronto, I tried all local rental services. But Toronto is not the only fashion centre in the country, so here are a few rental services you might want to try in other major cities.
Similar to Dresst.ca, Vancouver’s FlauntBox offers monthly subscription boxes, where you can rent one, two or three boxes (with three items in each), depending on how many occasions you have that month. And they offer up to a size 12.
In Montreal, there are options aplenty—the French Canadians really know how to do rentals well. At Station Service, you can rent or buy any of their offerings, including brands such as Eve Gravel, Ursa Minor, Eliza Faulkner and more, online or by visiting their bricks-and-mortar Plateau location on Rachel Street East or their website. Over at Atelier Privé, an appointment-only space on Hodge Street, you can browse and rent items from Badgley Mischka, Nicholas, Self-Portrait and more for weddings, galas or date night. And, lastly, there’s Chic Marie, a monthly subscription service that secured funding from Dragon’s Den and that will send out three pieces a week—either choose them yourself or let Scarlett, their proprietary AI stylist, do the choosing for you.