Arket said that the partnership will allow between eight and 10 families to share the same piece of clothing, and when the product wears out, the materials will be repurposed to make new garments.
“Many of our team are parents themselves and share a dedication to developing practical products that endure and enhance the lifestyle of curious children. We also feel a genuine responsibility to contribute to a better future for our children,” Arket said of the partnership.
According to a lifecycle assessment by Danish consultancy firm PlanMiljø, Circos customers help save an average of 242 litres of water and six kilos of CO2 emissions per month compared to parents who buy all of their children’s clothes.
So, why aren’t more brands exploring kidswear rental?
Lack of category innovation
Camille Reed, founder and CEO at Australasian Circular Textile Association (ACTA) is surprised there aren’t more brands innovating on more sustainable options for this category.
“Presumably, this is one of the biggest markets which should be focussing on alternative business models. We know childrenswear is quickly outgrown, shared between family and friends and often boxed up to be stored away indefinitely,” Reed told Inside Retail.
“The Australian marketplace hasn’t yet evolved beyond formal wear in the kid’s rental space, think mini-tuxedos and outfits for photoshoots. We know Country Road does lease their ladies range via [rental platform] Glam Corner.”
According to the ACTA, consumer apparel makes up approx 40 per cent of the textile waste that ends up in landfills each year.
“There is a great deal of waste in this category,” Reed said.
“Speaking with a former employee of a supplier for budget retailers, I distinctly recall the clear opportunity presented in redesigning more sustainable infant and kidswear. Kidswear overall does face similar trends to high-street woman’s fashion – [like] the ease of shopping online and social media influence for all demographics – [meaning] this apparel category is not exempt from fast consumerism.”
Reed points to international designers and companies such as Petit Pli, which has created adjustable kidswear that can be resized as they grow, “theoretically offering a more sustainable solution”.
Perhaps the potentially higher risk of stains and wear and tear in kids clothing has deterred some brands from exploring rental. However, that’s not an issue for Circos. When customers return the items no longer wanted, Circos takes care of all laundry and dry cleaning, and there are no extra fees for stained or damaged garments.
Reed doesn’t believe that stains or tears put the category at a greater risk for rental.
“Kids often thrash around outside in their clothes and often stain them beyond recovery, this is a risk – however, there’s certainly a market for flexi-renting kidswear, because the vast majority are in good condition given the short period of time they’re actually worn. Their life span should be far greater than adult everyday wear,” she said.
“This also suggests durable fabrics, smart design and quality assurance wouldn’t go astray in producing a product which can withstand the life of a playful child.”
But with fast fashion giants churning out low-cost clothing to the masses, how long can these garments be expected to last?
“Looking at the waste hierarchy, we should consider options to repair and reuse where possible with all apparel. No doubt, rental companies repair and mend on a frequent basis to ensure they’re making a return on investment for the garment while keeping it in use for as long as possible,” Reed advised.
“Associate this with circular design principles, looking at best practice, procurement, and garment production – with the prospect of a kidswear rental market, quality products would remain in use for longer, increasing their lifespan. Coupled with repair, it would be a great option to work with brands, designers and offer jobs for skilled community members to keep the product in optimal condition.”
Reed says it’s an exciting time for the industry and believes rental models, integrated consumer-facing services for mending and repair, and end-of-life collections should be embraced as businesses strive for growth and stability following a dramatic year.
“Never has there been a better time to revamp by taking a step back to see how such great opportunities can work. These are just a couple of add-ons which can offer revenue streams for companies as well as supporting best practices. The rental economy will continue to grow. Kidswear is a perfect fit.”