If we can airbnb some guy’s apartment and we can uber-jump into some lady’s car, taking out some other girl’s dress for a weekend party doesn’t sound like the craziest idea… It almost seems logical.
The sharing economy (or collaborative consumption) has taken over society to the benefit of us all… an alternative system created by the people, for the people. At least this is how dreamers would see it, at least until local governments started taxing the most popular platforms.
The concept of the “borrowed” or “inherited” wardrobe is not new; several generations before us have lived through this in their efforts to save money facing the all-time female perception problem of “having nothing to wear”. Whether it was thanks the best friend or the older sister, women were always able to sort out the need for variety without necessarily emptying their pockets.
Now, in times of hyper-connectivity, though it took a tiny bit longer compared to other services, the fashion rental system has become widely popular in regions like Australia, North America and Europe, with some slight variations on the service according to the market.
In the US, probably among the most emblematic platforms, renttherunway.com is actually solving one of our biggest issues: what to wear to that wedding/ graduation/ special event? Honestly, paying thousands of dollars for a beautiful evening dress that we will probably wear two times on a lifetime seems absurd compared to the idea of choosing from a large online catalogue, to then wear it, and finally just return it for a small percentage of the retail price! This is genius, why did it take so long?
But, what about our daily clothes? What about those pieces that we actually keep, at least a full season? How does this apply? Well, let’s check how things used to work before social media era:
If the item was basic or inexpensive, no worries, we would probably toss it, most likely on donation to the church or the Salvation Army. Eventually a thrift shop would find it a new owner (though we don’t really care, it has already paid its price). On the other hand, if the item was from a nice, expensive brand… we would probably keep it in the closet though we’re no longer using it… just think on all the money that you paid for that Céline blouse that doesn’t seem to fit anymore… you keep it (you’ll probably be that size again eventually right?).
Well, gracious entrepreneurs have also brought a solution for each situation. Platforms like VestiaireCollective.com will allow you to sell your (well preserved) designer/luxury items within a community of international fashionistas, at the same time you will be able to take new picks within the pre-owned luxury world. Think of it as a high-end, attentively curated online thrift shop
At the opposite end of the spectrum, when it comes to regular ready-to-wear, sites like GwynnieBee.com won’t be neither renting or buying/selling you a piece, it will be giving you a subscription to their virtual closet! Yes, like Netflix for clothes. With several subscription plans available, members can keep the items as long as they want (though there is a limit on the number of pieces to keep according to your plan) and the moment you send one of them back you’ll receive the next one on your wish list. Not bad at all.
So, with all these options available, it seems like the way we consume fashion will be changing soon, but most importantly, the impact of our never-satisfied consumption need will change as well. These alternatives are not only cost-effective for the customer but it also allows us to extend the value of clothing. One piece of clothing or accessory that continues to rotate is one piece of clothing or accessory out of the landfill waste. Not only do we keep women happy but we become more environmentally friendly as well.
Now, as stated before, all the cases mentioned above belong to regions such as North America, Europe, Australia… how does this apply to South America? Again, we’re a little behind the global trend. Reasons may be several.
Latin users are just as tech minded as any North American; that we must point out clearly. Then again, software development and tech start-ups are not our strongest points. It is only natural that these platforms are being tested and become solid in their own markets before even thinking on stepping in this region. Even if they did, they would have to take the following under consideration. For starters, this whole sharing economy movement appeared at a time of economic crisis. One of the reasons why people responded so well was because most of the population found itself challenged by the global recession. However, when just when the economies in the developed countries started to slump, South America was blossoming while experiencing a new industrialization and trading era. Though our economy was of course affected by the international crisis, things were still pretty good compared to 20 or 30 years before. Nowadays things are slowing down, but the market is still very active and people continue to use credit and prove their economical/professional success through their consumption practices.
Another thing to keep in mind is that, though systems and platforms like Uber are slowly kickin’ in, fashion may take a bit longer. In our region there is still a stigma when it comes to second hand clothes. Although the hipster movement made a tiny space for the “vintage” style, buying used clothing is normally associated with money problems and so thrift shop businesses are not very common. On the contrary, fast-fashion and big retailers cover the need of novelty with their ever-changing collections and low prices.
Still, this does not mean a collaborative fashion platform would not work in this market; it’s only a matter of taking into perspective the region’s specificities. As a thought, many new local designers work vindicating artisan labor with limited editions articles, what about a swap system in order to have access this unique pieces? I’ll be waiting for our own Latin start-up to take the scene!