Rentals are seen as a big business opportunity in the new decade as retailers and brands clearly hear the call to cut down on excess production and waste. The concept also allows shoppers to constantly update their wardrobes without a lot of financial outlay.
Rent the Runway was among the first to enter the business back in 2009. Since that time, a lot of other companies have jumped into the fray including Bloomingdale’s, Express, American Eagle, Vince, Rebecca Taylor, Loft Urban Outfitters and others.
MarketWatch is projecting that the global online clothing rental market, which was $1.2 billion in 2018, is estimated to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 10.76 percent through 2023.
While the product is different depending upon the company, one thing they have in common is that by and large they’re for women only.
So what’s a guy to do if he wants a sustainable fashion option and the opportunity to refresh his wardrobe on a more-frequent basis? Well, there are a couple of companies that are targeting men, with more coming on board later this year. That includes Scotch & Soda, which launched what a subscription service for men in the U.S. last fall, as well as The Mr. Collection, which has quietly been renting clothes to men as far back as 2012. There are also a couple of other small players, including the Rotation, which specializes in streetwear for men, and Seasons, which debuted in November and is planning to expand outside its home base of New York to other metropolitan areas.
Vladimir Paniouchkine, cofounder and chief executive officer of The Mr. Collection, which also offers women’s rentals under The Ms. Collection moniker, said he embraced the idea of a rental model after he graduated from college and didn’t have money to buy the clothes he wanted to wear.
He launched The Mr. Collection focusing exclusively on men’s wear — women’s was added in 2014 — and now carries hundreds of brands and thousands of pieces from Tommy Hilfiger, Original Penguin, Grayers, TailorByrd and Mavi along with niche labels from the U.S. and Europe that are not widely available elsewhere. Prices start at $59 a month for a monthly subscription of three items, and go up to $89 a month for an unlimited number of packs with four items in each.
In the beginning, Paniouchkine admitted, there was a “learning curve for guys,” but they’ve since taken to the concept and the company actually skews more heavily toward men who account for 70 percent of the business.
Paniouchkine said The Mr. & Ms. Collection is still self-funded — his wife, Victoria, is cofounder and chief operating officer — but this year, they’re looking to launch their first seed round, expand their reach in the U.S., and enter the international market.
But The Mr. Collection is not alone in providing rentals to men. Regy Perlera left Nike, where he had served as a product designer, last summer to launch Seasons, a men’s rental service. Perlera, who had also been a design consultant for StockX, has an intimate understanding of the youth market and their quest for a sustainable, circular environment. So he targeted a young audience and offered a mix centered around streetwear with Seasons.
Offered only in the New York City area, the site offers brands ranging from Acne Studios, Brain Dead, Fear of God, Nike, Heron Preston and Off-White to Pyer Moss.
“I think in the next five to 10 years, people will fundamentally change how they consume product,” he said. He believes apparel brands will create and produce fewer products on a more-frequent basis, and the rental model is a perfect solution for that scenario.
Others agree and Seasons has lined up a number of investors including Reddit’s cofounder Alexis Ohanian whose Initialized Capital was the company’s first backer.
Seasons launched in November with 50 members and offers two subscription packages: $155 a month for three items or $195 a month for an unlimited number.
Although Perlera expects to continue to tweak its model and app this year, he also plans to move beyond New York and offer the service in other metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and Miami.
Adam Siegel, a former executive with RILA, the retail industry trade association where he focused on sustainability, responsible sourcing, and tech innovation, is preparing to launch a men’s rental site in the next month or so.
Siegel has raised $100,000 of his goal of $300,000 from friends and family who believe in the model and his move to extend it into men’s wear. “The market is not huge, but it’s definitely a niche and has big potential for growth,” he said. “Ten years ago, women weren’t saying they wanted a rental program. Men are spending more time on how they look than ever before. They want premium, unique clothing. But don’t have time to discover new styles or brands. So what do they do? They reluctantly gravitate back to the same tired styles and brands they know — the same brands that every other guy wears. From my research, an emerging segment of men want to experiment with new styles, and want to find new brands, and they see rental as a way to easily get what they want.”