First Cars, Now Clothing? Fashion in the Sharing Economy

The success of Airbnb, Uber and the like have proven there is a new economic model that consumers are willing to partake in. In the sharing, or performance economy, consumers are foregoing ownership. Instead, they are choosing to pay for what usage they get out of an item. Some of the reasons behind this change is due to lower costs, environmentalism and the consumer’s choice to spend their almighty dollar on experiences instead of things. This begs the question, could fashion ever comply with this model? Apparently some think so. Westfield reports that found that 58 percent of Millennials in London are interested in renting clothing. This is an impressive number, but what are costs and benefits to implementation?

Benefits of Sharing Economic Model

Reduced Carbon Footprint

Fashion is one of the most wasteful industries and causes such strain due to all of the resources it takes to make one article of clothing. In addition, this has only worsened due to the rise of fast fashion.  If less goods are being consumed overall then this would save millions of gallons of water per year, reduce emissions and the list is endless.

On top of reducing the amount of resources used, the performance economy would also recycle clothing that has reached the end of its life. The circular model attempts to fully close the loop. At this point H&M is at the forefront of the circular model with their recycling program in which clothes are given second life or ground up to make new textiles.

Challenges of Sharing Economic Model


If consumers are simply renting garments, then the costs of maintaining the quality of said items falls on the company’s laps. There would have to be a large investment in high-performance textiles, repair, and modification. Business of Fashion explains that, “the performance economy requires a shift from manufacturing to labour intensive, localised, processing, caring and mending, posing a problem in developed countries where labour is expensive.” Depending on the region, this could make or break whether this is even a viable option.

Fewer Options

As mentioned above, fast fashion has begun to dominate the market. People have gotten use to an endless supply of fresh wares hitting stores every other week. The way in which we consume fashion directly clashes with the performance economy.

If companies were to start making clothing purely in a circular manner, then they would not get to be as creative with current trends. All things considered, fashion is still meant to be fun and meant for self-expression. It would be too large of an investment for many companies to manufacture a new t-shirt that will go out of style in a season, therefore losing its potential to be rented long-term.


Fashion brands have the potential to be successful in the sharing economy. It has been proven so in case of Rent the Runway. Although, with any company pioneering a movement, there will be kinks to work out. Still, an entire overhaul of the industry and the way in which consumers partake in it is highly unlikely. Just like with the prevalence of Uber, people have not stopped purchasing cars entirely. It will be the same with fashion but with companies becoming willing participants in the sharing economy, consumers will have more options than ever. The two different ways in which to consume goods will simply coexist.



Christine Duff

Author: Christine Duff

Storytelling is my passion in life, whether through words across a page, a styled outfit that speaks volumes, or directing a photoshoot that expresses it visually. I live my life driven by my love of people, art, and the pursuit of happiness.