WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT USING A MENSWEAR RENTAL PROGRAM
Written by Ivan Yaskey in Business on the 6th August 2021 / What You Should Know About Using a Menswear Rental Program
For several decades now, men have considered clothing rentals for specific occasions. Often this begins with prom and needing a tuxedo. Later, in the same fashion, this approach emerges for black-tie dressing and weddings. Yet, while the rental womenswear market not only emerged but is seeing surging success, menswear has seemed strangely stagnant until recently. As Rent the Runway sees its worth climb to $1 billion and lower-level competitors like Gwynnie Bee present a sustainable solution for exploring styles and refreshing your wardrobe without the financial and environmental drain of fast fashion, menswear versions retool the subscription box formula while attempting to attract the same consumers.
Understanding the Appeal of Menswear Rental Programs
For starters, the typical rental program diverges from the rent-a-tux model. Most aren’t for one-time uses. Instead, building off the subscription box system, customers pay a fee to have access to a spectrum of brands and styles. Once you select a garment or two, based on the subscription’s terms, it gets shipped out – after being cleaned thoroughly – and you have a set period of time to wear it. This span can range from anywhere from a couple days to two weeks. While this model feels interchangeable between men’s and women’s offerings, menswear courts a different consumer. He’s not someone who’s typically fashion forward – but is interested in trying something new. He’s also someone hesitant about making new purchases – but he’s also someone cognizant that his wardrobe for everyday or work wear should be refreshed. He’s someone who may consider an investment piece – but, just like test-driving a car at a dealership, he wants to get to know something before making a definite commitment.
Considering these factors, menswear rental programs:
- Roll styling in with their selection of clothes: Similar to what you get from a subscription box program, you may – although not always – have someone directing you toward colours, patterns, and styles that work with your skin tone and body type. The difference here is, after trying out the clothes, you return them, so they don’t clutter your closet.
- Accommodate someone too busy to actively shop but who wants to reinvigorate his wardrobe. Access to designer-level brands gives you the option to try before you buy. This way, you have a stronger idea about what you want, and can make a clear, more meaningful purchase later.
- Have cropped up as separate entities or are associated with a brand or department store to present a solution for consumers hesitant to purchase a garment online, either due to price or fit. On this note, especially with the pandemic literally closing off fitting rooms, they ensure you won’t get stuck with something too large or too small.
- Act as a discovery guide for men interested in more elevated fashion but not willing to make the time or financial investment. This method lets you refresh your wardrobe monthly or seasonally without seeing a mounting pile of clothes or accessories you may no longer wear at some point.
- Offer a more affordable solution for accessing designer brands. Instead of forking over a few hundred or thousand upfront, this business model lets someone dabble with designer threads before making a direct but more purposeful purchase.
- Are a step toward sustainability. Rental programs allow clothing to be in rotation for longer and, at the same time, help trim down your wardrobe. Long term, this approach could lessen the amount of textile waste ending up in landfills.
Key Menswear Rental Services
Although menswear options make up just a fraction of the rental market – a contrast to menswear’s high-paced growth over the past decade – a few services have started to gain brand recognition:
Perhaps the most prominent menswear offering not associated with an existing brand, Seasons presents itself as a service for trying on something aspirational – and caters to that diverse array of choices. Brands span Stone Island to Bode to Jacquemus, Craig Green, Prada, and Marni, and prospective members have to first be approved. After expanding outside of the New York City area, membership increased 800 percent just in the fourth quarter of 2020 alone.
Debuting in March 2021, Taelor presents a hybrid model, one borrowing from the artificial intelligence-fueled, stylist-guided one used for subscription boxes and providing access to higher-quality – although not top-tier designer – brands. Taelor presents a solution for guys wanting a nicer suit – for instance, Brooks Brothers – but feel hesitant to make that investment up front. As well, a bi-weekly option lets you try out various elevated everyday pieces to more sustainably refresh your wardrobe.
Of all the options listed here, Mr. Collection is the most accessible – one conceived, for a monthly fee, of letting men experiment with different types of styles. Nothing’s too elevated here – and the business model acknowledges that men usually don’t borrow clothing from their friends. Like Taelor, styling and a curated selection to help you improve your wardrobe are part of the deal.
After already trying out a rental program with Unfold, Vince launched Borrow more recently. What’s different this time around? Borrow – for both men’s and women’s clothing – isn’t based on a subscription model. Instead, customers browse the site’s offerings to rent items one-off, up to four at a time for as long as 14 days – although this can be extended for a fee. From here, customers have the option to purchase the item.
The Mercer Club
Just as with subscription boxes, rental programs specifically geared toward streetwear are scarce. The Mercer Club looks promising – but is still in its early stages. Started by Chike Achebe and Travis Ezidiegwu in 2019 and based out of New York City, the Mercer Club strives to make the streetwear drop model more sustainable and provides a small selection – at least for the time being – of authenticated pieces from streetwear and streetwear-inspired brands like Off-White, Neighborhood, Gucci, Dior, Balenciaga, Raf Simons, and Givenchy, among others.
H&M has pledged to become more sustainable. While, at this point in time, that might look like a lot of greenwashing, their effort ONE/SECOND/SUIT seems to be a step in a more deliberate direction. This isn’t so much a fashion-based rental program as it is one to assist jobseekers with finding a suit to present themselves well. Starting in the UK before expanding to the US, ONE/SECOND/SUIT lets customers rent a full suit for up to 24 hours.
Don’t let the name fool you. An effort from Selfridges, this rental service covers men’s and women’s garments with what’s being described as a peer-to-peer model. Specifically, the department store chain serves as a hub for helping consumers rent out their garments to each other. This proves to be more sustainable while also helping consumers make money off their existing wardrobe. With the service based out of their Oxford Street store, interested consumers can sign up, browse a wide spectrum of brands, and rent garments for up to eight days.
My Wardrobe HQ
Opening in 2018, My Wardrobe HQ started with womenswear before it expanded to menswear via a partnership with Belstaff. This reflects their offerings – right now, you’ll find a wide array of leather goods when you explore the men’s section. The concept continues to work both ways: Men and women get to discover high-quality garments with a try-before-you-buy model, and participating brands end up reaching a wider spectrum of consumers.
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