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The Sharing Economy: All for one and one for all

The More You Give The More You Have The sharing economy is the latest buzz word seemingly everyone is talking about.

The Sharing Economy’s monetary value is currently worth £301bn globally, estimated at £22bn in the UK alone, and about double that in the US. And it is expected to grow by at least 15% over the next 5 years. These numbers include areas such as car, bike and ride sharing, impromptu B&Bs, sharing knowledge and hobbies, or household goods from outdoor gear to lawn mowers.

The recent nearly explosive growth of the sharing economy represents the unique characteristics of how these business work – it is clear that these are businesses of the future, and the first signs of how business models are shifting. The conversation around how to account for the benefits of sharing becomes as a consequence even more critical.
Even more so, as suddenly a whole breed of people emerges that quite literally lives off the money they make by sharing either their skills or their possessions. Some even go as far as to claim that the Sharing Economy is the ultimate Panacea to remedy austerity measures, poverty, and the human impacts of climate change.
The development as quickened to a degree that even fairly mainstream marketers and PR companies have to take note and try to jump on the bandwagon.

“Whatever we possess
becomes of double value
when we have the opportunity of
sharing it with others.”
Jean-Nicolas Bouilly (1763-1842), Writer & Politician

Of course the legislator is never far to either curb novel activities, or at least impose restrictions that might – potentially – put a severe break on its development:
For example, in the US, Chicago’s Business Affairs and Consumer Protection department proposed new regulations that would prohibit car services from using electronic devices to measure the time and distance travelled as a way to determine fares for riders. (Further details here and here)

Sharing Economy and Fashion
In fashion, the concept of sharing has never quite disappeared entirely. Wedding dresses, ball gowns, kilts, graduation outfits, morning coats for black tie events – all these have been available as rental for a long time, and the rental concept has never entirely disappeared as a consequence of the sometime outrageous prices these outfits demand if purchased.

Forum for the Future's 'Community Couture' scenario animation.

Even three years ago, business models that would capitalise on either swapping or sharing clothes seemed entirely unrealistic. The concept of clothing libraries was introduced in Forum for the Future’s ‘Fashion Futures ‘Community Couture’ scenario – the result of a larger research projects which looked at how the fashion industry may develop in response to climate change demands.

Dragon Rouge's 'Future Brands' Primark scenario.

However, just over two weeks ago, at the occasion of the Sustainable Brands Conference in London, branding agency Dragon Rouge published their ‘Brand Future‘ scenarios, amongst which we find – surprise, surprise – one scenario focused exclusively around the UK’s super-cheap, super-fast fashion retailer Primark. Suddenly the sharing economy isn’t that far away even from what this buy-to-trash retailer par excellence is. Resource scarcity, increase in shipping costs are the keys to unlock the door to this business model change.

It can hence safely be said: The topic has been raised, and first – adventurous? – ideas released into the public. At the same time, the sharing economy for clothing – from Swishing over Shwopping right through to professional services or peer-to-peer rental schemes are part of everyday reality already.

We can only guess what the next development will look like.

Clothing rental – Links:
Here a small list of European online clothing & accessories online rental sites.
For more places where to rent – including the US – check out this article.

  • FashionLend – Find and lend fashion in your local neighbourhood. Germany based, Europe-wide for now, with global ambitions.
  • Formal Affair – Wedding suits and dresses. UK based.
  • Maternity Exchange – does what it says on the tin. UK and Singapore based.
  • Fashion Hire – handbags for rent. UK based.
  • Rent Your Rocks – Jewellery Hire. UK based.
  • Ski Togs Hire – does exactly days. Based in Oxford, UK.
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