Online Clothing Rental Market – Why Buy When You Can Rent

Millennials are not interested in buying anything, be it property, entertainment, or even expensive clothes. According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, renting figures have trebled since the 1990s. We are living in an age of virtual libraries where we stream music and films online, without needing to own any of them. People are using the same concept when it comes to their wardrobe. This ‘generation rent’ does not want to spend money on high-end global brand clothes which, in the era of social media, get ‘old’ and ‘non-reusable’ just with a click of one photo. Gone are those days when renting clothes and jewellery was only reserved for the rich and famous for a shoot or any red carpet event. There are plenty of rental fashion sites that are offering premium branded clothing line on rent for a fraction of the retail price. As people are socializing more often, they are preferring to ‘hire’ fine-quality branded dresses instead of paying the retail price for just one-time use.

Growing popularity of online shopping portals, supported by rising internet penetration and proliferation of smartphones is the prime reason of booming online clothing rental market. The advancement in technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) has further driven the demand for online shopping by making the process even more convenient for people. Growing middle class population in developing economies is further contributing to the market growth of online clothing rental.

Global Internet Penetration, Percentage of Population, 2012 to 2017

online clothing rental market

Source: The World Bank Group

Rising use of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram has surged the demand for rented clothes, especially among women. Rapidly emerging popularity of fashion vlogs across these social media platforms is also contributing to the market growth of online rental clothing globally. Increasing number of red carpet events, both across movie and television industry, is further augmenting the demand for clothes on rent for short duration, and thereby positively impacting the market growth of online clothing rental.

Global Online Clothing Rental Market Size, US$ Billion, 2019 and 2025

online clothing rental market

Source: Knowledge Sourcing Intelligence Analysis

Another reason for emerging popularity of using rented clothes instead of buying new ones is the rising awareness regarding environmental sustainability. Clothing companies are encouraging people not to throw away their used clothes and re-use them as ‘fashion pollution’ is having detrimental effects on the environment. Clothing generates its own carbon and water footprint, with the fashion industry’s CO2 emissions expected to rise to more than 2.5 billion tonnes per year by 2030. According to the figures from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), it takes 3,781 litres of water to make one pair of jeans from the production of the cotton to the delivery of the final product to the store. This is equal to the emission of nearly 33.4 kilograms of carbon equivalent. As a result, consumers as well as companies are bringing up the concept of not buying something new and expensive while diminishing the environmental footprint. With the rise of online clothing rental platforms, the reduction in the amount of new clothes in circulation will eventually help to maintain the environmental sustainability. The idea of minimalism and the option of renting clothes also offers people more opportunities to be creative and constantly changing their fashion style without even buying more expensive clothes.

Growing number of fashion-conscious individuals who lack finances to purchase clothes of their choice which are expensive are anticipated to make use of online clothing rental platforms to the fullest since renting a dress is always cost-efficient, especially in today’s world when the trend keeps changing with a blink and people do not want themselves to be seen wearing the same outfit on different occasions. As a result, the global online clothing rental market will continue to boom during the forecast period.

Rapidly growing e-commerce sector, especially in the Asia Pacific region is expected to propel the market growth during the next five years. Consumers in countries like India and China are increasingly opting for rented clothes including runway-ready outfits and haute couture fashion for various events and occasions. With social media playing a crucial role in the success and failure of brands, fashion rental startups are attracting primarily millennials who are aware of the latest trends and the best designers. Rentals help consumers save money, time and the headache of storage and maintenance of a huge pile of clothes.

Companies in online clothing rental industry are constantly trying to provide clothes on rent both accessible and affordable and are launching new clothing rental platforms in order to make a strong position in this emerging industry. In 2019, for instance, etailer launched a website called MyWardrobe HQ where users can buy and rent clothing and accessories. Rental costs are agreed between the renter and the owner or brand. In 2018, the country’s largest, the first and only official online rental platform for designer outfits as launched- BChu Runway-offering outfits from over 150 world-class brands. In the United States, a healthy clothing rental economy has also emerged with brands like Gwynnie Bee and Le Tote offering clothes on rent. Canada is also a home to various online rental companies including Atelier Privé, Rent Frock Repeat, and dresst. 

The future of fashion is expected to move beyond traditional model with a keen focus on accessibility, affordability, and environmental sustainability. With more and more efforts are being put across various industries in saving the planet, the market for online rental clothing will continue to thrive during the forecast period.


Anjali Joshi is a senior market research analyst at Knowledge Sourcing Intelligence. She oversees a team of analysts and is known for the quality of market intelligence she delivers to the clients which range from start-ups and Non-profit Organizations to Fortune 500 companies. Anjali’s keen understanding of international business and market dynamics, coupled with her years of experience working in this industry, allows her to analyse current and future trends across both global and clients’ target markets and help them in making informed decisions.