Be like Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s wife Carrie – rent your clothes

Imagine if you could have a fresh set of clothes to take on holiday for under £100. Or an envy-inducing designer handbag for a tenth of the normal price. Well you can. The only catch? You’ll have to give them back once you’ve had enough of them. 

Clothes rental services were once the preserve of dress agencies and focused on occasion wear. But in recent months there has been a huge growth in rental companies that offer a broader range of services – including renting casual clothes, long-term hires, accessories, clothes from cutting-edge designers and subscriptions (and it’s not just for women). 

The market value of the UK clothes rental sector is expected to surge, climbing to £2.9billion by 2029, according to recent figures from analytics company GlobalData. 

Followers of fashion: Carrie Johnson in her rented wedding dress with husband Boris

The trend has already found a fan in Carrie Johnson, who is reportedly wearing rented outfits at the G7 summit in Cornwall this weekend – just two weeks after she married the Prime Minister in a rented wedding dress. 

Renting enthusiasts believe it can save money – as well as offering environmental benefits. 

How they work 

Clothes rental services fall into two categories. The first allows you to rent clothes a piece at a time for anything from a few days to months. Companies that offer this include Hurr, Rotaro, My Wardrobe HQ and By Rotation. 

The second type are subscription services, which allow you to rent a set number of items every month for a fixed price. These include companies such as Onloan, Moss Box from Moss Bros and Cocoon. 

All make a point of being hassle-free. They tend to allow you to return clothes unwashed – they wash or dry clean them to perfect condition before renting them out again. They also usually offer free delivery and free returns. 

Some have a peer-to-peer model whereby customers can both borrow and lend clothes. Others buy clothes new in bulk from selected designers to rent out, but do not allow customers to lend. 

Could you save money? 

Renting clothes costs anything from a few pounds to borrow an item to nudging close to £100 a month for the most luxury subscriptions. But, depending on how it impacts your shopping habits, renting could save you money. 

Mature student Cassie Fitzpatrick spends £100 a month on a clothes subscription with rental company Onloan. For that, the 36-year-old picks out four items to wear, which would cost around £1,000 if she bought them new. But despite the outlay, the mother of three says she is saving. She explains: ‘In the past I might have bought a new piece or two every month. But now I get my fashion fix with rental I buy much less. I wear the items most days, so get good use out of them.’ 

Cassie believes the rental model is ideal for people whose clothes needs are in flux. She gave birth to her third son four months ago and has found renting a good way to dress as her body shape changed through and after pregnancy. And there is another key advantage. ‘As I get older I care more about sustainability,’ she says. ‘I don’t want to buy things I don’t really need. But renting absolves me of my clothing sins – it’s guilt-free because all the clothes are shared and reused.’ 

Next month, Cassie is getting married in a rented wedding dress and earrings.

Or even make money? 

Sajni Shah lends and borrows clothes on rental websites and is confident it is the future of sustainable fashion. ‘It allows people to wear beautiful designer clothes for the same cost as shopping at high street shops such as Zara,’ she says. 

The 29-year-old banker lends out her clothes on platform Hurr. ‘They would just be sitting in my wardrobe otherwise – this way they earn me an income,’ she says. 

Since she started lending in October last year, Sajni has made more than £1,000 and some items have now more than paid for themselves. 

Cashing in: Sajni Shah lends and borrows clothes on rental websites

Cashing in: Sajni Shah lends and borrows clothes on rental websites

‘Sometimes I buy items second hand and then sell them on for a similar price when I no longer want to wear them. If I can also rent them out, any rental income is pure profit,’ she adds.

And the future? 

Moss Bros thinks renting is here to stay. Last month, the menswear company launched a clothes rental subscription service for men. It charges £65 per month to rent two items of clothes, which can be exchanged as many times as you like with free delivery both ways. Items include the formalwear for which the brand is known, as well as casual items such as polo shirts, t-shirts and shorts. 

Chief executive Brian Brick says interest so far is ‘beating expectations’ and believes that the surge in interest in clothes rental subscriptions is ‘just the beginning’. 

‘The generation now – generation rent – don’t want to own, they don’t want clutter. They are living in smaller places and don’t want to collect stuff,’ he says. ‘They use Uber instead of having their own car, Netflix for entertainment, Airbnb for holidays. We are doing it for clothes.’

Brick says the subscription model is gaining appeal as the pandemic reshapes our work habits. He says: ‘In the past, people may have worn a suit five days a week. Now they may only wear one every now and then for a meeting or presentation. Renting offers more flexibility.’ 

He adds that renting provides the chance to try out new styles – and wear more statement pieces – without making a costly mistake. 

‘We sell a lot of colourful velvet blazers at the moment,’ he says. ‘But do you really want to wear the same style every Saturday night when you go out? Rental means you can wear one once or twice and then try something different.’ 

Avoiding mistakes 

Fashion designer Anna Sancewicz, 28, adores designer bags. But she says being able to rent them saves her from wasting thousands of pounds. ‘I had been planning to buy an expensive Bottega Veneta handbag, but decided to rent it first from Cocoon,’ she says. ‘I loved it, but realised it was not a lasting style and am glad I didn’t buy it.’