Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Accessibility for fashion sustainability

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Ron Lach, Pexels

Fashion has a deeper impact on the environment than we may actually think. COP26 is highlighting the urgency of the climate issue and setting important goals to reduce carbon emissions worldwide. However, it is not just the way brands source their raw materials and produce their goods but also our personal choices that can leave a dark mark on the ecosystem.

In the light of the COP26 discussions, equal attention should be brought to our shopping choices as fashion consumers. A smart solution like clothing rental can, indeed, reduce our carbon footprint.

One side of the fashion industry - the one aiming at a more generic consumption - is a major protagonist in the current exploitation of the environment and its natural resource. The mass of garments and accessories produced to be 'eaten', consumed and discarded seasonally grows at a fast pace in countries like the UK. The rental business model proposed by Isabella West, founder of the multi-brand rental platform Hirestreet, is an alternative to fast fashion. Here are some notes from the tech entrepreneur and Forbes 30 under 30, Isabella West who believes that 'true sustainability in fashion cannot exist without accessibility'.

Some top UK Fashion companies have recently shared their commitment to a green switch thanks to innovative production systems. On the other hand - to make this change really happen for the people - renting premium clothing represents a sustainable option by allowing everyone accesses to high-quality brands affordably. The personal financial benefit also aligns with climate change goals with 1 in 5 garments needs to be consumed via the circular model to reduce carbon emissions.

Isabella On Fashion In The UK

'In the UK 50% of money spent on clothing by women is going towards fast fashion. When comparing fast fashion purchasing across Europe, the average female in the UK buys 11.1kg more of clothing than those in France or Italy. Hirestreet’s strategic positioning in the market has facilitated their rapid growth - already saving customers £2 million by renting instead of buying. Customers are substituting buying a £30 fast-fashion item and wearing it once, with hiring a £150 item for the same price. For 2022, consumers should aim for 1 in 5 of their items to be consumed through a circular model.'

Why Renting?

'Rental fashion is more than just providing temporary access to designer items, it’s about giving consumers alternatives to traditional consumption and making the best use of the resources we have. Some of the most popular pieces on Hirestreet are from high-street brands like Whistles and ASOS. Rental compliments it does not cannibalise - retailers now understand that when implemented strategically - with the right product and price mix - temporary-access models reduce customer acquisition costs, increase loyalty and drive up LTVs.

An Example Straight From Your Wardrobe

'A standard polyester dress bought new releases 24kg of CO2 into the atmosphere over its retail lifespan, but 90% of this happens during the production phase - so when fabrics are produced and dyed. This is particularly worrying when we consider that Brits are spending £ 2.7bn on items that are worn once... that’s a lot of emissions and a lot of waste. Hirestreet items are being worn as much as 50+ times - reducing their associated carbon footprint per wear by 85%.'


One of the goals set by COP26 is to work towards cutting carbon emissions on a global scale so as to secure net zero by 2050. A daunting mission.

Isabella West concludes: 'The success of the conference will be closely tied to two things: how ambitious the plans put forward to reduce CO2 emissions are, and how binding they will be. 
We need fast, drastic action - the fashion industry must find a way to reduce its emissions by 50% and rental will play a key part in that.'