Life in Toronto means countless opportunities to dress to impress– whether attending one of the city’s countless fundraisers or fashion shows, or sipping cocktails in a luxury hotel lobby.
Naturally, maintaining a wardrobe full of never-been-Instagrammed clothing costs money, considering that your social calendar is usually jam-packed and money is something most Toronto millennials lack thanks to crazy high living costs. Dishing out so many dollars just to keep a roof above your head usually means small spaces and closets that are practically bursting at the seams.
In our age of minimalism, however (and helping the small condo cause), we increasingly value experiences – like concerts, festivals, and travel – over the accumulation of things. Here’s where renting clothes comes in to play and why it’s become so popular.
In addition to bricks and mortar shops and showrooms, the online clothing rental industry has particularly gained quick traction.
South of the border, subscription-based clothing rental has taken off in a major way in recent years, with Rent the Runway raising $210-million since 2009. The company allows women to rent up to four pieces at a time for $159 per month.
In the past few years, the clothing rental scene has also taken off in Toronto. While renting suits has obviously been commonplace for decades, people are now renting everything from ball gowns and designer purses, to fascinators, sunglasses, and even office attire.
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Rent, Frock, and Repeat – the pioneer in Toronto’s dress and accessory rental scene, recently took a cue from the U.S. by increasing its offerings to include everyday wear and adopting a subscription-based business model starting July 2019.
Members will be able to rent workwear, weekend wear, and outerwear, and will receive a monthly box of clothing delivered to their home. The pieces can be selected by customers, or curated by an in-house stylist. The company has just closed the doors to its physical showroom, and regular dress rentals are currently on hold, but will resume renting online in the summer as part of the subscription service.
Meanwhile, Studio Fitzroy has become a quick to go of Toronto’s society page regulars in recent years. The spot – which compares itself to your best friend’s closet, only “with better stuff” – recently outgrew its original location, moving to a much bigger spot in the city’s west end. Their sprawling showroom is open seven days a week, with no appointment necessary. In addition to dresses, you can also rent an assortment of handbags and fascinators of all colours.
Most recently, startup KukaMelon launched in Toronto to offer sunglass and handbag rental on a subscription basis.
For $39 per month, subscribers can expect a prettily packaged designer purse delivered to their homes each month. They can also opt for sunglasses for $29 per month. Users ship their borrowed goods back after 30 days, unless they opt to extend the rental on a monthly basis.
Whereas it may cost, say, $500 (or more) for a designer dress in-store, rentals at Studio Fitzroy, for example, range from around $60 to $110 – a way more affordable alternative, especially for a frock you’re only going to wear once. Particularly if it’s an attention-grabbing dress – and most are – odds are it’s going to sit neglected in your closet for a good three years until the social media snap of you wearing it for the first time is buried far enough down.
If a showstopper is what you’re in the market for, renting may then be the smartest bet.
On the other hand, my closet is also full of timeless go-to black cocktail dresses that have each been worn multiple times – essential staples that can be faithfully pulled on a whim. When I purchase dresses in particular, I often base my decision on an estimated cost-per-wear breakdown.
Aside from saving money and closet space on clothing, renting clothes may also be seen as an ethical choice, as recycling clothing means less waste.
The move away from a wardrobe full of “fast fashion” or “disposable fashion” – A.K.A. the H&M and Forever 21s of the world – means that a growing number of people are also renting clothing in the interest of sustainability and keeping discarded clothes from piling up in landfills. With disposable fashion, both the style and the quality tend to have a short shelf life. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Textiles Economy Report, the average number of times a garment is worn has decreased by 36 per cent in the last 15 years.
When it comes to designers, renting also gets the brand in front of new customers who may not otherwise wear it – something particularly important for Canadian designers. Rent, Frock, and Repeat has always housed a huge selection of Canadian designers, including favourites like Narces.
When we live in a city of shared cars, homes, and lives (via social media), sharing clothing and accessories seems to make perfect sense.
Featured image: Instagram/ @fitzroyrentals
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