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H&M’s COS Brand Tries its Hand at Fashion Rentals in China

Consumers across the globe are looking to rental models as a means of augmenting their wardrobes, and brands of all kinds are capitalizing on the trend.

H&M Group-owned COS is the latest label to try its hand at rentals, partnering with Chinese subscription rental program YCloset to reach the country’s more eco-minded consumers.

On Friday, H&M Group’s innovation department, dubbed The Laboratory, along with COS and YCloset, announced plans to test the viability of a subscription rental model in China for three months.

The program is part of the fashion group’s method of exploring new modes of doing business in the interest of transitioning more permanently to a circular economy, according to a release on the company’s website.

H&M Group is the world’s second-largest fashion company, and YCloset is China’s largest fashion rental platform (with 15 million registered users). Partnering for a trial run will provide H&M Group with valuable insights into the Chinese rental market and allow the company to learn more about customer demographics.

“Subscription rental has been on our radar for some time and we feel this is a very relevant model for us to explore,” Laura Coppen, circular and sustainable business development lead for The Laboratory, said.

“With our learn by doing approach, we will test subscription rental in China and iterate on learnings as we go,” she added, explaining that the test would allow H&M Group to explore the program’s potential to scale and examine different sustainability factors.

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In an attempt to make the current platform more environmentally sound, customers will be able to buy their rented COS garments at a reduced price when the rental period is over. The Laboratory hopes that this incentive to buy will prevent the clothing from being recycled too early once it’s out of rental rotation, prolonging its lifespan.

“COS collections are designed and made to last; longevity has been an integral part of the COS design ethos since the brand began twelve years ago,” COS managing director Marie Honda said. “We believe the quality of our collections will lend themselves well to the rental system.”

It’s important for the brand to test new approaches through collaborative efforts like this one, Honda added, as a means of servicing the community of consumers responsible for the future of its business.

While the COS program is in its early days, it isn’t the fashion group’s first dip into the rental market. H&M Group is also testing the waters with its eponymous label.

In November, the H&M brand launched its own rental service out of its Sergels Torg store in Stockholm, featuring select styles from its Conscious Exclusive collections. The line’s ethos centers around eco-friendly materials and constructions that highlight H&M’s sustainability work, and shoppers can take home up to three garments for a week for the the cost of around 350 Swedish kroner per piece (about $38).