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H&M Group, the second largest fashion group in the world, has just announced that its high-end brand COS has partnered up with Chinese rental subscription company YCloset to launch a trial rental program in China. The announcement follows H&M’s opening of their revamped central Stockholm store, which debuted its first ever in-house rental, recycling and repair service just last week. The move is a signal that circular business models are becoming more openly embraced by the traditionally polluting fashion industry, especially as companies begin to recognise that appealing to an increasingly conscious consumer market requires stronger sustainability commitments.
COS, which is an independent brand owned by H&M Group, has just started a 3-month trial of a rental subscription service in China in collaboration with the country’s leading rental platform YCloset, the country’s version of Rent The Runway. Currently, YCloset is China’s largest rental platform with 15 million registered users who pay a monthly subscription fee to loan pieces of clothing. Users are able to purchase garments as well, if they wish to keep select pieces after renting them. With the new partnership, Chinese YCloset users can loan from COS’s collection of high-quality, modern and minimalist fashion pieces which are designed with “longevity” in mind.
Commenting on the subscription service launch, Laura Coppen of H&M Group’s innovation department The Laboratory siad: “We feel this is a very relevant model for us to explore…and iterate on learnings as we go. This will allow us to explore consumer demand, potential to scale and different sustainability factors.”
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The move comes as H&M debuted their first ever in-house rental, recycling and repair service in their revamped Stockholm flagship store. Shoppers are able to loan a limited range of gowns and pieces from H&M’s “conscious collection” with a fee for each item, and bring garments in for repair. In addition, old pieces can also be dropped off, which will either be sent for second-hand resale, or spun into new upcycled textiles.
The climate in China is ripe for the launch of COS and YCloset’s partnership. To avoid the constant polluting cycle of purchasing new clothes and throwing the old ones out, Chinese consumers are embracing the more sustainable option of sharing, renting and swapping platforms. According to a WEF report, the rental fashion economy will take over 20% of the country’s GDP by as soon as 2025. This shift is happening all over the world as well – figures in a 2019 ThredUP analysis say that rental will equate for 2% of the total retail landscape within less than 10 years.
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Many players in the fashion industry are now capitalising on the consumer appetite for sustainability commitments by adopting circular business models and other green initiatives. Banana Republic, which is owned by Gap Inc. is lending out clothing pieces for a monthly subscription rate as consumers become increasingly concerned about their footprint. Upmarket department stores such as Harvey Nichols and Selfridges have installed repair stations in partnership with The Restory to encourage restoration as a means of extending the life-cycle of a product. Earlier this year, global luxury label Gucci announced that they have gone entirely carbon neutral by supporting reforestation projects and switching to renewable energy throughout its supply chain.
Lead image courtesy of COS Hong Kong.