Servitizing fashion: Would you rent clothes?

Posted on 26 Sep 2018 by Maddy White

Would you rent clothes? Isn’t that daft? Well, maybe not. Servitization is becoming a relentlessly popular business model across the globe, even in fashion.

A servitizated approach has wedged its way into fashion - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
A servitizated approach has wedged its way into fashion – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

For a fixed sum of money every month, you can rent a number of different clothing items for a few days to a few weeks.

More and more companies all over the globe are offering this service – often digitally – and it seems servitization has now wedged its way into fashion for good.

Nearly everything has the capacity to be servitized. Many products can be offered alongside a service, it just depends to what degree manufacturers, retailers and or designers wish to integrate a service-based approach into their business.

Your phone contract? Yes. Farming robots? Yes. A plastic producer recycling waste plastic from the surrounding area for their products that you use? Yes. These are all examples of servitization that impact our everyday lives.

But fashion?

Renting clothes just to send them back? That’s daft. Well, maybe not.

More fashion companies across the world are integrating this model into their business including US-based, Rent the Runway – arguably one of the first fashion renting success stories, and dubbed ‘closet in the cloud’ – Beijing-based start-up YCloset, Australia’s GlamCorner and London’s Frontrow and Wear the Walk.

But why? It enables the retailer, manufacturer and or designer to increase their revenue, improve their accessibility to, and relationship with their customer, and lengthen the period of this revenue stream.

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A contradiction to ‘fast fashion’

These websites are offering the ability to rent high-end designer clothes, which goes against the current trend of ‘fast fashion’. While fast fashion is not necessarily a bad thing – it doesn’t have to be wasteful – it is mass production and garment creation on a large scale, and often executed cheaply.

Fashion Runway Model Textiles Stock Image
Online retail giant, Boohoo leads fast fashion.

However, renting clothes means that yes, they will and have been worn by other people, this perhaps is a more sustainable approach to industry.

Online retail giant, Boohoo, leads fast fashion. Founded in Manchester in 2006, it continues to grow rapidly. Revenue for Boohoo Group jumped 50% to £395.3m in the six months to 31 August, compared with the previous year.

The company manufacture half of the clothes they sell in UK factories and then distribute them from a central warehouse. But this model is dramatically different to that of renting clothes.

The price point on clothes that Boohoo sells are much lower than those on the renting sites mentioned, so unless they were to offer a fixed sum of money per month for many garments, the servitized model just wouldn’t work, it contradicts what the company does.

Renting clothes just got real

Rent the Runway opened its digital doors nine years ago to offer consumers this new type of fashion service.

The company has even this month opened its first shop, for users to try on clothes before they rent them. If fashion is ‘rentable’ then what other industries could tap into this market?

But, does fashion really need a servitized model? Probably not. What it does offer though, is the designer, manufacture and or retailer – as with all service-based approaches – an increased, stable and longer revenue stream.

It is no wonder then that this model is being weaved into many different industries, as what it can offer businesses is multitude.

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