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Role of Fashion Rental Services on Shifting Personal Clothing Consumptions for Sustainability

Empirical Analysis of a Consumer Behavior Experiment in Japan

Published onJun 20, 2023
Role of Fashion Rental Services on Shifting Personal Clothing Consumptions for Sustainability
Eri Amasawa1,2,*, Koji Kimita3
1 Department of Chemical System Engineering, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan; 2 Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan;
3 Department of Technology Management for Innovation, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
*Eri Amasawa

Extended abstract

With the advent of fast fashion business models, clothing became more accessible due to its inexpensive pricing, but also made them more disposable. One estimate reports that clothing production volume has doubled in the past twenty years while the lifetime wears has halved (Amasawa et al. 2022). In the recent years, fashion rental services have been attracting attention as an innovative business model to potentially reduce clothing consumptions while meeting consumer demands. Fashion rental service is often referred as one type of collaborative fashion consumption, which covers a wide range of business models alternative to purchasing garments. Among them, fashion rentals of casual to office wears present a particularly interesting business model for sustainability (Amasawa et al. 2022, 2023)(Amasawa et al. 2022, 2023). Unlike occasion wear rentals that are rented for a short-term, most casual wear fashion rentals adopt a subscription model, where customers access a specific number of garments monthly. While the garment rented in occasion wear rentals are generally worn only once during its rental period, the nature of casual wear rentals provides an extended opportunity to wear the rented clothing, which could increase the lifetime wear and reduce clothing purchases. As a result, fashion rental services of casual wears could reduce the environmental impact through mitigating personal clothing consumptions; however, how the rented garments are worn and the extent of changes in clothing consumption are highly uncertain. For instance, one study on dress rental has found that the average rate of replacing purchasing by renting was 70% (Amasawa et al. 2022), indicating that rentals could augment clothing consumption. Consumers of fashion rental services have been investigated for their motivations for the service use (Amasawa et al. 2022) but the changes in consumer behavior using fashion rental services are yet to be understood.

To clarify the environmental potential of fashion rental services, we examine the changes in personal clothing consumptions brought by engaging in the fashion rental services. We conducted a consumer behavior experiment where 22 female participants were asked to use a fashion rental subscription service renting casual to office attires for three months in Japan. The fashion rental service allows subscribers to rent three garment pieces selected by stylists each month. We used a subscription membership with unlimited exchanges, which allows participants to freely exchange garments they did not like. The experimental design applied One Group Pre-Test-Post-Test from Pre-Experimental method (Amasawa et al. 2022). The data collection process contains in-depth interviews performed before and after the experiment, and a monthly survey. The in-depth interviews aimed to understand the consumer attitudes and perceptions on their clothing consumption. The monthly survey asked for the number of garments they rented, the number of wears for each garment, the level of satisfaction on the rented garment, and garment purchases. The survey questions on clothing consumptions are analyzed for two main themes: absolute reduction of consumption and intensifying use. The former refers to whether the clothing rental replaced purchasing to reduce the overall clothing consumption, and the latter refers to increasing the lifetime wear of the garment relative to when owned.

In the preliminary analysis, we quantitatively examined the garment purchasing behavior and wear time of rented garments. The total number of garments purchased by the participants ranged between 20 to 33 pieces whereas the monthly average prior to the experiment was 37 pieces; engaging in the rental service appears to have a limited influence on their purchasing behavior. Out of the purchased garments, 2 to 3 participants purchased garment pieces from the fashion rental service, indicating that fashion rentals can encourage users to purchase garments. Also, many of the purchased garments were winter clothes (i.e., knit wears and coats), which also suggests that the rental service alone is especially challenging to suffice clothing demand in a winter season.

With respect to the wear time of rented garments, we first found that only 60% of the rented garments were actually worn; thus, there exists a mismatch between consumer preference and stylist’s choice of the garments. We also compared the reported value from the experiment with our previous study (Amasawa et al. 2022), which contains a survey on average number of wears for a purchased garments by design such as skirts and tops. When the wear time of skirts, pants, tops, and a casual dress from the survey was compared to that from our experiment, rented pieces had a greater wear time per day relative to the survey for every garment piece. We are currently analyzing the qualitative data, which would help to understand consumer motivations for their behavior.


Sustainable fashion, subscription service, social experiment, behavioral shift, collaborative consumption


Amasawa, E. et al. (2022) ‘Designing sustainable fashion rentals based on environmental benefit and consumer preference’, in Conference Proceeding of the 15th Biennial International Conference on EcoBalance (EcoBalance2022). Fukuoka.

Amasawa, E. et al. (2023) ‘Can rental platforms contribute to more sustainable fashion consumption? Evidence from a mixed-method study’, Cleaner and Responsible Consumption, p. 100103. doi: 10.1016/j.clrc.2023.100103.

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Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2017) A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning fashion’s future.

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