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How to make money through fashion rental sites

How to make money through fashion rental sites
As rental fashion hits the mainstream (even Kate Middleton’s doing it), Jennifer Barton looks into the costs—and benefits—of renting out your wardrobe
From resale to rental to repair, 2022 was a big year for rethinking our fashion choices: buying less, but buying better; looking for fast-fashion alternatives; promoting circularity and making our garments last for as long as possible.
Rental fashion in particular is booming—according to some figures, the online clothing rental market is set to reach $2.33 billion by 2030—and has been adopted by mainstream retailers (we’re looking at you, M&S). However, it’s the peer-to-peer rental fashion platforms like HURR and By Rotation (and, in the US, Tulerie) which look to be particularly exciting for consumers. Not only can they rent their next occasion dress on these apps, but they can use them as a potentially lucrative side hustle, earning a passive income from the clothes hanging in their wardrobes.
"It’s the peer-to-peer rental fashion platforms which look to be particularly exciting for consumers"
“It only takes two minutes to list your items on the app. You can choose the pricing, the dates the items are available and confirm the rental after communicating with the renter,” explains By Rotation founder, Eshita Kabra-Davies, of the lending process. “Our ‘Rotators’ are often renting out their outfits for numerous occasions, such as weddings, graduations, or birthday parties, and have made thousands of pounds from doing so in return.”

How does renting out your wardrobe even work? 

As far as side hustles go, loaning out the fabulous frocks and designer handbags languishing in the back of your wardrobe requires very little work upfront. Simply download one (or more) peer-to-peer rental app, create an account and start listing your items, adding photos and descriptions for each one (it typically takes a few minutes to create each listing). Some apps, like HURR, are looking to feature items from specific brands and designers which must be less than two years old and have a retail value over £120, while By Rotation lets you rent out vintage but restricts fast fashion items from being listed on the site.
Typically, these apps take a commission (usually 15 per cent) and charge an additional amount to “manage” a wardrobe (for example, take care of postage and dry cleaning for a lender). Since most lenders are keen to maximise earnings, they’ll handle the cleaning and postage themselves, like Karen Spencer (@karenanna_s), an Essex-based CEO of two colleges and mum to 12-year-old twins. 
Karen
Karen Spencer rents her clothes alongside being CEO of two colleges and raising her twins
Karen estimates that she’s made around £18,000 a year from renting out garments (before dry cleaning, packaging and postage costs, which are around £2,500), since she joined the By Rotation app 20 months ago; prior to discovering the app, Karen would resell many of her designer items from Scandinavian labels like Ganni, Stine Goya and Baum und Pferdgarten, on eBay. 
She describes being a lender on By Rotation as a “nice, easy process…I fit it around my life and don’t find it too difficult.” She manages her rentals on the app with a bit of at-home organisation, including a rail in the hall to organise clothes that are being sent out and a small area dedicated to her parcels, with pre-printed postcards, return labels and bags (these are provided by the app). 
"As far as side hustles go, loaning out your wardrobe requires very little work upfront"
Since she started renting out her garments, Karen has become a “bit of an expert in fabric care,” noting that you can save time and money on various garments which claim to be “dry clean only” since these can often be washed, too. While she does go to the post office regularly (and, helpfully, so does her husband), Royal Mail will collect parcels direct from your door.

How do I know if my garments are worth putting on a fashion rental app? 

“If people have complimented you on something you've worn out, it's usually a good sign that it's got mass appeal,” says Jess S (@jesswithdresses), a 34-year-old from Buckinghamshire, who works in food and drink innovation. She started posting her garments on By Rotation and HURR six months ago, after receiving numerous compliments on her wardrobe. So far, Jess has earned £1,800 across both platforms, or around £250 a month, after postage and cleaning costs are taken into account.
Rather than buy new items, Jess’s approach to renting out her fashion is “to make what I have work really damn hard.” She’s even found a seamstress who will patch up any tears or make adjustments to items to increase their lifespan. 
Jess
Jess earns around £250 a month through fashion rental apps
According to Jess, while certain styles tend to be popular (like midsize midi and maxi occasion dresses, with long sleeves), there are some designer brands that are surefire winners, like Saloni’s Camille bow dress, which Holly Willoughby wore (and rented, from HURR). “If you have one of those in your wardrobe, you could make that pay for itself in four rentals,” Jess says.
The Vampire’s Wife dresses are another sure thing that renters always go for. “I managed to buy one on Vestiaire Collective for £250 pounds. I rent it out for £80 to £90 a go—it more than pays for itself,” Jess says. Another ByRotation lender has made £5,152.62 from renting out a dress from The Vampire’s Wife with an RRP of £1,000. 
One note of caution for those tempted to put their favourite frocks on a rental site straightaway? “If they are your ‘Marie Kondo, give you absolute joy’, don't rent them,” she advises, noting that delicate and embellished dresses may not come back looking exactly how you sent them out. 

How to make your clothes stand out on the apps

As rental apps increase in popularity, lenders are curating their own mini shopfronts on the sites and using Instagram to draw attention to their fabulous garments. But clothes are only part of the appeal: renters and lenders form bonds within the rental communities they belong to thanks to in-app and Instagram messaging.
“Fashion has been a way to forge new friendships,” says Jess, who uses her philosophy of “dopamine dressing” to dress and brightly and boldly as possible. It's both a survival mechanism and a conversation starter after being diagnosed with stage three cervical cancer in March 2020 and going in for chemo-radiotherapy treatment during the pandemic. “You talk to the women who want to rent dresses from you. What you're focusing on is a wonderful occasion they've got coming up in their lives that they're excited about. There's a real moment of connection like no other I've experienced.”
By Rotation fashion rental app
By Rotation fashion rental app
In addition to building up those connections with renters—and cementing them through positive communication, responding to messages in a timely manner, posting garments so they arrive on time, following up with renters—the photographs you post of the clothes can also make a difference. 
“Make sure as far as possible that you've got nice pictures that attract people's attention,” says Karen. “It makes your listing stand out if people see an influencer wearing the dress on Instagram and then they see the influencer on the app.”

Is renting out my wardrobe for me? 

Some are now turning to renting out their wardrobes full-time and earning over £30k a year across multiple apps, while others, like Karen and Jess, fit wardrobe renting around day jobs
"Some are now turning to renting out their wardrobes full-time and earning over £30k a year"
For Jess, every pound she earns from the fashion that brings her joy is being directed towards her goal of starting a family (receiving a cancer diagnosis during Covid meant there was no chance to retrieve eggs ahead of starting treatment).
“The rental income is going straight into fuelling the dream to have a family in the future,” she says. 
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