Will Vestiare Collective, The RealReal or Armarium truly become our Uber of Fashion? Could you see yourself not owning any clothes and just rent everything?
- Caroline Zaidan
That we are part of a society that is being fuelled by consumerism is certainly not new to anyone, neither that our on-demand economy and services are shifting more and more from owning towards sharing (Mind Flashback ‘Are we Humans or Consumers’). However, nearly a decade ago a new term integrated into our vocabulary; share economy, which was described by the Economist (2013) as "in which people rent beds, cars, boats and other assets directly from each other, co-ordinated via the internet.". Perfect examples that pop into mind are the well-known giants Uber, Spotify, Airbnb and Netflix. Words and on-demand services that have become part of our routines and sentences nowadays.
Airbnb of Wardrobe
The sharing economy has woven itself into the foundations of many industries, from transportation and music to hospitality. Although happening at a slower pace the fashion - or probably the correct word to use here - clothing industry has not been exempted from this phenomenon. Postmark, Rent the Runaway, Armarium, Vestiaire Collective or The RealReal - to name a few - are attracting more and more customers every day. Some of these companies offer a platform to buy and sell luxury, pre-owned, vintage products, while others provide an online destination for luxury rentals. People can even rent from one another thanks to the "Airbnbs of Wardrobe" which are more localised like the Village Luxe in New York.
Will Vestiare Collective, The RealReal or Armarium indeed become our Netflix/Uber of fashion? Could one see him/herself not owning any clothes and just rent everything? The CEO of one of these companies who would like to put fast fashion out of business said recently "In the future, we do not own things forever".
Layers of Love
From a psychological perspective, one would not agree entirely with such a statement. Rewinding to the beginning of clothing: why one dresses up? Humans started to cover their bodies to protect these, from the elements, injuries… History of dress has then shown that men communicated a possession of wealth through clothes. Although, this can also be interpreted as an indirect act of protection by impressing the other. One thing is for sure; clothes are in direct contact with our body, which envelops our mind and emotions, our naked body or in a certain way our vulnerability. Thus clothing can and is often described as a second skin. Moreover, clothes partly shape our identity whether this process is conscious or unconscious. One has undoubtedly felt more confident, stronger wearing a specific jacket, a certain dress, a particular pair of heels… a phenomenon explained by enclothed cognition, which brings us to an interesting question and perhaps even fascinating perspective for further research: can this phenomenon mainly occur because the item is (perceived as) one’s property? What is the influence of ‘ownership’ related to clothing on the wearer's psychological processes? Does walking a mile in someone else's clothes see life throughout someone else's perspective? Would you be able to feel just as - or maybe even more - confident, beautiful or create/have (good) memories knowing you are wearing someone else’s clothes?
The companies mentioned above are definitely putting a positive spotlight on recycling and opening up opportunities for the beauty of ‘second hand’ within the fashion industry. They might even contribute to people’s realisation of the necessity of buying fewer clothes. However, would it stop people from actually wanting to own something as intimate as our second skin, our clothes? Will our clothes become just as shareable as our home or our car?
We don’t have the answer(s), but there is one thought that we can’t shake for now:
Would you see yourself renting, reselling your underwear? Probably not…. yet.