Daring to innovate
Leading American fashion company Ralph Lauren has introduced its first subscription rental service called ‘The Lauren Look.’ This new service reflects the brand’s capacity for innovation by its ability to adapt to changing consumer needs.
Launched last month in the U.S, prices start from $125 a month.
Subscription members can rent items from the latest collections and return them once worn. Customers can swap them for new pieces or purchase items at exclusive member-discounted prices.
The online selection offers a variety of garments to rent, as well as a unique personalised styling feature.
A statement read that members will be able to “curate the ultimate fashion closet with looks from the most recent Lauren collections.”
The subscription soars
Although Ralph Lauren is the first luxury fashion brand to launch a subscription service, fashion rental services have experienced a recent uptake in popularity. Further growth in this sector is expected post-pandemic.
The pioneering platform Rent the Runway has historically been the prime leader in the rental clothing platform world, with monthly prices starting from $89.
In recent years, however, platforms such as By Rotation, the Hurr collective, Cocoon, and Rotaro have all sought to ascend into this increasingly lucrative market.
The renowned U.K. department store Selfridges launched its first wardrobe rental service in 2020 in partnership with the Hurr Collective. This leads us to wonder: are subscription services the future of fashion?
While this bold move by Ralph Lauren may appear surprising to some, there is no doubt that by tapping into changing consumer behaviour, the brand will reap the benefits of its daring new approach to retail.
The initiative allows Ralph Lauren to respond to growing consumer concerns surrounding the pattern of overconsumption in the fashion industry.
“The Lauren Look allows us to explore an entirely new model tapping into the growing focus on the sharing economy and revolutionizing how we look at fashion consumption,” said David Lauren in a press release, chief innovation and branding officer at Ralph Lauren.
“Launching with Lauren, our most widely distributed and accessible brand, is a testament to the growth we see in this space and will help us further anticipate the evolving needs and makeup of our consumers’ future closet.”
The benefits for Ralph Lauren’s loyal customers are also evident. ‘The Lauren Look’ matches an emerging generation of consumers whose clothing aspirations exceed their financial capacity.
In addition to making luxury more financially accessible, this format also appeals to affluent customers who want to keep afresh with the changing seasons in fashion.
Although this business model arguably encourages consumers to constantly move with changing monthly trends and throw out old seasons’ clothes, it does reassure consumers that they are shopping more sustainably.
The sustainable shopper
The fashion industry is one of the world’s biggest polluting industries, and there is no doubt that our insatiable shopping habits and unrelenting desire for newness are harming the planet.
According to a Greenpeace article, the global production of clothing has doubled in the last fifteen years, and £140m worth of clothing is sent to landfill annually in the UK alone.
The environmental benefits of a circular rental model, compared to wear-once consumption in our current waste culture, is the driving factor behind the rental market. These services are seemingly the circular solution to fashion’s sustainability problem.
Ralph Lauren stated that it aimed to reduce the amount of clothing waste and slow consumption by extending the lifespan of garments.
In addition, once clothes have reached their rental capacity, they will be donated to the non-profit organisation, Delivering Good, which provides families living in poverty with new clothes.
Selfridges’ rental collection is part of their sustainability initiative, Project Earth, which focuses on more eco-conscious decision-making. Ralph Lauren’s new subscription service indicates its recent pledge for a more sustainable future.
In 2019, the company hired its first chief sustainability officer and announced goals such as reaching 100% recyclable or sustainably sourced key materials by 2025, achieving a 20% reduction in total water use by 2025, and setting greenhouse gas reduction targets.
In 2018, Ralph Lauren launched the Earth Polo shirt, with each shirt made of approximately 12 recycled plastic bottles, reflecting the company’s commitment to recycling 170 million bottles by 2025.
This reveals a wider trend within the industry of companies committing to long term sustainability. The Fashion Transparency Index revealed that 54% of fashion companies are publishing their plans for improving their environmental impact.
Forbes magazine praised Ralph Lauren for this new service, reporting that the label ‘is to be applauded for taking such a bold step to adapt its business model to consumers’ evolving needs, rather than force them to keep buying more and more clothes and filling up their closets with stuff they don’t wear anymore.
The latter is a business model that is showing signs of having run its course’.
The rental model is certainly the future route for fashion, taking positive steps in the right direction in terms of tackling the industry’s sustainability problem and offering a more circular economy to the retail industry.
Although it has currently been launched in the U.S., there is no doubt that this phenomenon will expand globally, and it is only a matter of time before other labels follow suit.