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Rental fashion: How luxury streetwear is changing the industry

Alize Demange

If your budget doesn't stretch to the price of a designer item to wear this weekend, you could always just rent it.

Alize Demange, who has put together a pop up shop in London to do just that, thinks this could be how many people get new outfits in the future.

"It might seem strange, but it could be something that becomes part of our normal," the 27-year-old says.

"An iconic bag - you might want to wear it for a week but not want to invest all the money into buying it."

At The Drop, you can rent items such as a Neneh Cherry homage T-shirt for less than £10 or, if you're feeling a little flush, you can rent a Marques Almeida jacket - worth over £1000 - for £200.

'I think there's a bit of a stigma behind it'

Image copyright Matt Alexander
Image caption This Marques Almeida jacket can be rented for a fraction of the sale price

But the stylist admits that in a world where fast fashion rules the high street, there is still a challenge to convince people to spend money on clothes they won't own outright.

"I think there's a bit of a stigma behind it, there's an idea that it's not as cool to not actually specifically say you owned that item and had the money to buy it in full," says Alize.

"It's a sad idea. You don't have to own something in its entirety to prove to everyone else you could have afforded it."

And experts agree that we no longer want to own something as much as we want to experience it.

"This idea of possessions that you keep forever is one that's becoming slightly redundant," says Emily Gordon Smith, the director of consumer product at Stylus Media Group.

"People are much more interested in experiencing something or enjoying something for a period of time and the whole rental economy obviously taps into that brilliantly."

Emily says she is already in discussions with brands launching their own rental services and believes we will see a huge growth in the industry over the next two years.

How urban music helped make streetwear the high street's most-wanted

Image caption All of these clothes could be yours - for a brief period of time

But there's something else unique about the pop-up, which Alize was asked to put together by Westfield Stratford City. You won't find expensive evening wear there - she's only renting sportswear.

"When I started my styling career, no one wanted to touch streetwear," she says.

"It was similar to urban music. No one wanted it or thought it would make any money and no one took it seriously."

She believes there's a direct link between the rise of urban music and how streetwear has become a luxury product.

"It's been phenomenal for me and important for people I grew up with that we have representation within our culture and community and on a mainstream and global level," says Alize.

"I think it's become more acceptable to dress in streetwear on a day-to-day basis and not feel like it's ghettoised or from a specific community."

Image caption The Fiorucci bag is one of Alize's personal favourites

And as the popularity has grown, designer labels are sitting up and taking notice.

"It's what luxury means to younger consumers," says Emily.

"If you think about the whole Supreme model, the community that creates and they way they operate.

"What we've been seeing is more traditional luxury brands have start designing into that sort of product, but also they've started operating like those more streetwear-based brands as well."

This has meant more one-off items and "drops" where limited pieces are available for a short time only, their limited availability making them hugely desirable pieces.

Could fashion rental help combat problems caused by 'fast fashion'?

Image copyright Matt Alexander
Image caption Profits from the store will go to Big Up Uganda, an initiative founded by Adwoa Aboah and photographer Felix Cooper

There's hope that stores like The Drop could not only provide people with the one-off, weekend glamour they crave but also go some way to counter environmental problems caused by cheap, "fast fashion" items that are discarded after being worn just a handful of times.

Discarded clothes are ending up in landfill at an alarming rate, warns MPs, and man-made fibres are ending up in our oceans.

"Where it's throwaway, where it becomes that you can't keep them for a long time, you can't physically keep them, we need to think about that - quality over quantity," says Alize.

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