People in the UK have a huge fashion obsession. So much so that our clothing consumption per person is higher than any other country in Europe, per a parliamentary report. Finding a way to please consumer, business, and the environment is inherently difficult, but some retailers are trying. And H&M's new rental service may be the key to replenishing wardrobes while reducing waste.
The high street retailer is trialling the service in its Stockholm flagship store. Shoppers who are part of the brand's loyalty scheme can rent up to three items at a time for 350 Swedish kronor (almost £30) per piece. Designs can be kept for up to a month, after which they will need to be returned or bought.
Currently, the only clothes available come from H&M's Conscious Exclusive collection. As these items are made from sustainably sourced materials, the brand feels "they are perfect to kick off this trial with," head of womenswear Maria Östblom said in a statement.
So is there a chance UK shoppers could soon be able to rent? "We have no plans to share at this stage regarding introducing this service into the UK," a spokesperson for the brand tells Bustle. "This is currently a trial and we look forward to evaluating it soon."
Metro reports that if the Stockholm trial is deemed successful after three months, other countries may benefit from the service. "We have a huge belief in rental, but we still want to test and learn quite a lot and do tweaks and changes," Daniel Claesson, H&M’s head of business development, told the Independent.
Several fashion rental services already exist, but retailers have been slow to catch onto a practice that could reduce clothing consumption. In the summer, reports the BBC, Urban Outfitters launched an online subscription model where customers could borrow up to six pieces a month.
The service, called Nuuly, is currently only available in the U.S. and costs $88 (almost £70) a month. As well as offering items from Urban Outfitters, shoppers can also rent pieces from other Urban Outfitters Inc brands like Anthropologie.
When asked if this service would be available in the UK by Metro, the company replied: "The brand is looking forward to the opportunity to further evolve and expand both their offering and geographic footprint over time."
If clothing rental becomes the norm, the fashion industry's worrying environmental statistics could be improved. High street brands have long been accused of fuelling waste through the constant release of new collections.
Textile production results in more annual carbon dioxide production than international flights and maritime shipping put together, states the aforementioned parliamentary report. It's described as "a major contributor to climate change."
Individual habits don't help. People in the UK throw away around a million tonnes of textiles each year, according to the same report. Although hefty donations are made to charity shops and the like, approximately 300,000 tonnes are consigned to the bin.
Rental certainly seems a more sustainable way to go about things.