Fashion for hire lifts corporate sustainability for Country Road and Witchery

Customers’ worries about waste draw Country Road and Witchery to a rental fashion market where customers are happy to try before they buy

  • Nicky Rowsell, Witchery head of marketing,
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Formals and special occasions once had the mandate on fashion hire but everyday fashion basics are edging into this niche market, partly because customers are worrying about fashion’s environmental impact and partly because people like to try before they buy. 

Country Road Group labels, Country Road and Witchery, have partnered with GlamCorner’s fashion for hire service as part of the group’s sustainability plan, The Good Business Journey. This plan sees the two labels and their customers reduce their fashion footprint by hiring clothes which cuts down on manufacturing waste and the environmental impact in its supply chain, and by reducing unused clothing.  

Witchery head of marketing, Nicky Rowsell, said the label’s venture into clothing rentals is about improving sustainability and delivering an offer that complements its retail sales. 

“Partnering with GlamCorner to extend the lifecycle of Witchery styles via the rental market is an exciting step forward in supporting the circular economy and ensuring we not only reduce our impact but make a positive one within the environment," she told CMO.

GlamCorner rents out clothes by one-off hire and monthly subscription service. Surveys of its customers show they wear just 40 per cent of their wardrobe, that 52 per cent are dissatisfied with fashion purchases and that 57 per cent believe a new top is no longer ‘relevant’ after a year. With textile production contributing to 10 per cent of global carbon emissions, GlamCorner said hiring clothes reduces the energy based on the insight that GlamCorner on average rents a garment 20 times or more. 

The Good Business Journey is designed to help the Country Road Group explore ways to become more sustainable and circular as a business. As much as 90 per cent of Witchery’s apparel items, for example, have at least one sustainable attribute, through initiatives including sourcing all leather through Leather Working Group, and using cotton rated by the Better Cotton Initiative, as well as organic linens.

In summer, Witchery’s swim collection will be created entirely from recycled polyester – from plastic bottles, industrial waste and even used garments. 

Nicky RowsellCredit: Witchery
Nicky Rowsell

“While still man-made, the swimwear gives new life to plastics and garments that would otherwise be discarded,” Rowsell said. 

The environmental problem is not confined to materials and manufacturing processes. Individual waste is huge because we throw away nearly as many clothes as we buy.

A House of Representatives Standing Committee Report, From Rubbish to Resources: Building a Circular Economy (2020), found the average Australian purchases 27 kilograms of clothing and disposes of 23 kilograms to landfill each year. Australians also buy 60 per cent more items of clothing than 15 years ago and keep them for half as long.

In May this year, Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, the Hon. Trevor Evans MP, told a roundtable sitting to solve ‘unfashionable problems’ that we “discard clothes and textiles at a rate of 15 tonnes every 10 minutes,” or almost 800,000 tonnes annually.

Fashion consumption consciousness

Witchery has observed customers becoming increasingly aware of their own environmental footprint when consuming fashion. 

“We are strongly committed to creating positive change, therefore we use our marketing channels as a means to tell the stories of our valued partners, the work we’re doing to ensure a positive impact in our environment, and most importantly, help drive change by educating our engaged audience along the way,” Rowsell said. 

“We’re proud to have established our ‘Know Your Clothes’ hub on Witchery’s website, which allows us to regularly communicate with our customers about important initiatives and innovations.” 

The hub also gives tips on environmentally friendly ways of laundering clothes and recommends GreenEarth as a more sustainable dry-cleaner. 

“GlamCorner’s subscription model allows customers to access numerous styles while assisting them [to] significantly reduce the impact of new or unused clothing,” said Rowsell. 

The Sydney-based hiring service, which has been running for nine years, has moved from special occasion clothes to everyday basics, offers one-wear hires and subscriptions. A ‘starter’ subscription at $99 a month delivers a box of three chosen garments, while a $149 subscription delivers unlimited boxes. GlamCorner’s offer includes free shipping nationally, drycleaning and styling. The service has picked up a lot of labels in the last few years as more brands wanting to reduce fashion waste have opted into partnerships. 

“The past year has seen our customers’ engagement with fashion shift,” Rowsell continued. “Many fashion labels, including Witchery, introduced a leisurewear/working-from-home offering within their collections as comfort was the main priority. With the option of rentals, we’re able to offer the Witchery woman an assortment of seasonal pieces they may wish to wear once or pair back with basics they’ve purchased, but possibly not commit to owning.”  

Glamcorner's figures also highlight the ripple effect Covid has had on fashion hire during the 2020 lockdowns. When people didn’t need to dress to impress so often because Zoom meetings took over, people subscribed to hire tops and jackets for ‘top-up’ dressing. When restrictions eased, Glamcorner found suits and other office wear being chosen again.  

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