Rent and Return: What You’ll Be Wearing in 2025


As someone who absolutely adores clothes but is dedicated to eco-reframing my lifestyle, I’m very aware of what I need to do to shape up my fashion appetite. I’ve swapped fast fashion for thrift store, luxury designer for eco designer and even reined in the inner consumer beast that remains within my corporeal awareness (chomping wildly at the bit, I might add).

But, I think I’ve come up against the last frontier of my journey from mainstream to eco fashionista. A fascinating report by trend analysts Forum for the Future and denim brand Levi’s, predicts that the days of owning things are coming to an end.

It makes for a fascinating read. Estimating profound clothing shortages by 2025, the study provides four scenarios that explore how we will buy, wear and think about fashion in the future. Scenario two, called community couture, suggests that new clothing from expensive synthetics or virgin raw materials will be purely the province of the rich-exorbitantly beyond the means of the majority. Clothing, like many other goods that will be in short supply, will be handled within the framework of the community. We will get our clothes from fashion swap meets – with tailors and stylists on hand – and community-clothing libraries, where people will borrow and return clothing, just like books in a conventional library.

No, I don’t collect Wedgewood, jewelry or nail polish colors but I do admit to being curator to a relatively humble clothing collection. Would I be prepared to give up my hoard for the sake of a fresh look?

If you’ve seen a homeless person pushing along a cart of treasures, you know it’s human nature to want to collect things. And, sentimental value is a huge part of owning things. Recently, I was deeply touched when a friend who suffered the misfortune of having her house burn down demonstrated how meaningful the connection is between clothing and memory. Amid the overwhelming debris and chaos, her husband went back and salvaged her sooty and smoke damaged wedding gown from the remains of her closet, sensing its loss may prove the straw to break this brave lady’s back.

I’ve no wedding dress, but lined up in the back of my closet are twelve years of dresses I’ve bought to wear to weddings, Christmas parties or other special occasion. The memories of those nights flood in. But beyond the nostalgia, I’m curious – why are they unlikely to ever be worn again? None of them are so dated that I couldn’t pull it off with a twist or flourish provided by a strategic accessory or two. While celebrities are routinely dinged for wearing the same thing twice, the fear of being seen wearing the same dress again seems well, irrational. And despite having a closet full of outfits, I dare you to count the times you’ve rushed out and grabbed a cheap knock-off of the latest runway look because you just wanted the thrill of wearing something au courant.

Interestingly, there are several early examples of the clothing library concept in the unlikely form of designer clothing rentals such as Bag, Borrow or Steal, Rent The Runway and WearTodayGoneTomorrow. Armed with new insight, I spent a heady half hour fancying myself for one night only in a Hervé Léger bandage dress that normally retails for $1050, but that you can rent for $100. Or consider for only $75, an of-the-moment beaded jumpsuit by Proenza Schouler that you wouldn’t dare invest in beyond this season. Don’t forget the eye-catching accessories that rent along side your dress for $15-$50.

While I’ve always felt that designer clothing rentals were the epitome of promiscuous consuming, since reading the report I’m starting to slowly rethink. As I imagine an eco designer rental stocked with designs from Linda Loudermilk, Edun and Stella McCartney to rent and return, I think I might be able to give up my nostalgic, hoarding ways after all. Viva la Future!

Image: Iván Santiesteban

Rowena Ritchie

Rowena is EcoSalon’s West Coast Fashion Editor and currently resides in San Francisco, CA.