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6 best kids’ clothing rental services for shopping more sustainably

Children grow out of their clothes in the blink of an eye – these solutions can help eliminate clutter as well as unnecessary production waste

Jennifer Barton
Wednesday 10 March 2021 11:23
<p>Our mini testers have been living in these clothes</p>

Our mini testers have been living in these clothes

The fashion rental revolution is well underway for us adults, as circular businesses like ROTARO and Hurr Collective have introduced the benefits that come from accessing a fab designer wardrobe you don’t have to pay flat-out for, store for extended periods of time, or eventually, get rid off. 

With an estimated 350,000 tonnes of clothing (valued at £140m) going to landfill annually in the UK, it’s no surprise that the rental revolution is coming for the kids now, too.

Designed to minimise production and textile waste, these kids’ rental clothing brands are a convenient and affordable solution for parents who are eco-aware – and who want to minimise clutter in their homes.

Read more: 8 best fashion rental services for a more sustainable shopping experience

Kids will typically outgrow clothes within a period of several months (or, in the case of babies, just a few). While kids’ clothing costs are relatively low compared to larger purchases (e.g. a buggy, a cot bed, music lessons), any parent will tell you how easy it is to overspend on kids’ clothes, especially if you’re seeking out eco-friendly, ethical brands specialising in organic fibres.

According to Wrap, if we can extend the life of garments by nine months of active use, then carbon, water and waste footprints could be reduced by as much as 30 per cent apiece.

Which is one of the reasons kids’ clothing rental makes a lot of sense: these items can be rented out multiple times, dyed and repaired as necessary, and parents aren’t left with the inherent waste that comes with having to dispose of hand-me-downs.

With all of the pros these services offer parents: having a rotating wardrobe of gorgeous, ethical kids’ brands at your fingertips, reducing the cost of money spent on clothing over a period of time and saving space in the home, helping the environment isn’t necessarily the primary reason these rental services appeal to parents. Another plus? Delivery and returns are included in your subscription cost.

Read more: Fairtrade Fortnight 2021 – Conscious swaps to make today and always, from chocolate to coffee

“Most of our customers have been much more mainstream, rather than parents who use reusable nappies and only dress their kids in hand-me-downs or secondhand clothes. People think this is a great idea because it gives them the opportunity to keep dressing their kids in beautiful clothes, but without the guilt,” Charlotte Morley, founder of kids’ rental service, thelittleloop, says.

On a personal level, we found that the thrill of choosing the garments online – a bit like an indulgent shopping spree, but with fewer financial or eco-consequences – was a big selling point for our testers, and for us. Our biggest stress was that our testers would dirty (read: destroy) the garments, but we needn’t have worried; the rental sites have policies that allow for typical kid “wear and tear,” which includes staining. Renters are advised to wash the garments – but not to tumble dry them – and the clothes are sanitised and quality inspected before they’re sent off to the next customer.

In fact, our kid-testers tended to be more careful with these rented garments than their own clothes – a happy side effect.  Another eco-advantage? We found we were using the washing machine less frequently: we laundered the garments once or twice before returning them (typically, we find ourselves washing kids’ clothes daily). 

This isn’t to say we haven’t gotten a lot of mileage out of the items: our testers have been living in these clothes for the past month-and-a-half: playing, dancing, homeschooling, cooking, crafting and heading out in these clothes, day in, day out.

The kids’ rental market has many different niches, whether you’re looking for baby clothes bundles or one-off designer pieces (ideal for occasions or snowy weather). You can even rent from beloved trend-setting Scandi fast-fashion label Arket now thanks to a new partnership with Netherlands-based Circos

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism acrossThe Independent.

Thelittleloop has much to recommend it, from the variety of vibrantly hued, cheerful garments on offer to rent from the likes of Kite, Frugi, Mini Boden, Little Green Radicals and Grass and Air to the substantial sizing available (18 months through five years; thelittleloop is aiming to stock up to age seven by April). The site features exactly the types of clothes that kids delight in wearing, from ethical brands that appeal to eco-conscious parents, too.

Our mini-testers were over the moon when they got to pick their clothes, including rainbow-striped and sunflower print skater dresses from Frugi (£28, thelittleloop.com), a red pinafore from Little Green Radicals (£30, thelittleloop.com), a sloth-print tee from Boden (£18, thelittleloop.com) and a space print dress from Kite (£29, thelittleloop.com)– with pockets that the kids especially adored and found useful. They insisted on wearing these items near-daily.

Our parcel of clothes arrived in a reusable green postbag, complete with laundering instructions and a selection of inspiring art prints, featuring illustrations of superhero-caped kids with Dr. Seuss quotes, asking, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

Another element we enjoyed about this rental experience was getting to choose from three levels of wear: Brand spanking new, gently worn and well loved. These are priced accordingly: a new item will be worth around 20 credits, a well loved one will be half of that (these are stock-dependent, so you won’t necessarily access all levels of wear for each garment).

For £17.50, you receive 100 credits to spend, which will get you about six items, more or less depending on what level you’re opting for (there’s an option to get extra credits if you need them). There’s no fee to join and you can use this service as a one-off, or it will automatically renew every month so you can swap any items you want to. Once items are received, your account refills with credits for your next rental. Quarterly (£50; swap every three months) and six-month subscriptions (£90; you’ll receive between £600-£1000 worth of clothes) are also available.

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Bundlee is one of the first kids’ clothing rental services launched in the UK – and it’s brilliant and easy to use. Founded by Eve Kekeh, who has an 18-year age gap between herself and her youngest sibling, it came about when Kekeh noticed how quickly her siblings were outgrowing their clothes, and the “shocking” amount of waste being produced as a result.

Bundlee operates on the principles of sustainability, affordability and convenience, offering two packages for kids aged up to two years. For £24 a month, you get a capsule subscription of basics: this is a good one for parents joining the service with a new baby (or those still expecting), who don’t really have a sense of what clothes they’ll need yet.

Available as boys, girls or unisex, a capsule includes Oeko-Tex cotton bodysuits, onesies, sleepsuits, rompers and more from the Bundlee Basics collection, and can even be customised for babies using cloth nappies. The capsule bundle is worth around £300 and includes 15 pieces.

Read more: H&M x Lee collaboration – We’ve reviewed the new sustainable denim collection, here’s what to buy

Or choose the personalised subscription like we did, which allows you to pick your own garments, a combination of cotton Bundlee Basics and fabulous designer gear from brands like Mori and Mini Rodini. Our testers were completely obsessed by The Bonnie Mob’s printed tops and leggings (yes, dressing your toddler in a pea-print top and matching bottoms is as cute as it sounds), as well as a standout Mini Rodini jungle print dress.

We liked the helpful welcome guide included in the pack, which explains what you’ve saved, eco-wise, from renting a bundle (21kg of greenhouse gas emissions and 3,500l of blue water consumption, in case you were wondering), and features a drawing section for kids at the back.

Watch this space: Bundlee is currently testing some exciting new ideas with current subscribers, including one-off rentals, occasion-wear and seasonal pieces from brands like Patagonia. Sizes are also increasing up to age three this year. In between rentals, stains are removed and clothes are washed and sanitised. Parents can rest easy knowing they’re “scientifically cleaner than any clothes in a shop,” according to Kekeh.

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My Wardrobe Kids offers a slightly different renting experience for parents to most other rental sites: if you fall in love with an item, it’s available for purchase (creative director of My Wardrobe Kids, Sadie Mantovani, says that on average, “people will rent an item three times before purchasing it”).

It has one of the broadest size ranges of the kids’ rental companies – you’ll find clothes from baby sizes through 12-years-old – and a plethora of top kidswear designers to try, including Molo Kids, Caramel Baby, House of Minimus, and Noor by Noor (those printed tutus!). A quick browse of the site reveals a super-stylish selection of kids’ clothes: peasant blouses, boiler suits, cord dungarees, vintage-inspired smock dresses and smart boys’ button-downs. We want everything.

Our eight-year-old tester is having a bit of an obsession with cord rompers at the moment (inspired by a teacher she adores), so we were thrilled to be able to rent a gorgeous, mustard-hued design (£6, Mywardrobehq.com) from Marie-Chantal. With an RRP of £125 but costing just £6 a day to rent, we loved being able to access a designer item that would have beenway out of our price range in normal circumstances. If you do decide to buy an item from My Wardrobe Kids, you may find it’s been reduced as a result of its gently worn status – the Marie-Chantal romper is available to buy from the site for a more budget-friendly £37.50.

Read more: 9 best reusable napkins that are perfect for every meal

With options to rent ranging from four days to two weeks, this site is also the obvious choice for occasion-wear rentals – and winter wear. Our mini-testers adored the Molo printed snowsuit (£7, Mywardrobehq.com) and snow jacket we borrowed (perfectly timed to arrive as the UK transformed into a snowscape).

At £26 for four days (the RRP is 199), the printed snowsuit is ideal on snowy, cold days, or, in alternative years, that first skiing holiday. Products are intensively cleaned using the planet-friendly Ozone system, which sees every item disinfected, deodorised and sanitised between uses, while using up to 65 per cent less water and 80 per cent fewer chemicals than traditional cleaning methods.

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In addition to offering baby clothes rentals from newborn through to aged two (with coveted brands like Pigeon Organics, Little Green Radicals and Mori), Belles and Babes is also the go-to site for pregnant women wanting to hire a maternity wardrobe, with brands like Séraphine and Isabella Oliver to get them through those nine months. For kids, choose from a monthly, six month or 12-month baby clothes subscription, which can be customised by age and gender (boy, girl or unisex), as well as accommodating special requests, like a particular brand you want to try.

A bundle of 18 items of organic baby clothes is £35 a month, which includes delivery costs. Not everyone enjoys clothes shopping or children’s clothes selecting, so this is an especially clever solution for those who don’t have the time or inclination to pre-select each item.

We received an adorable bundle of leggings, tops and sleepsuits, including rocket and deer-print sleepsuits from Little Green Radicals and a floral pj set and spot-print pinafore that delighted our youngest tester, both from Kite. A Mori striped sleepsuit, in the brand’s thermoregulating organic cotton-bamboo combo, which typically retails for £32.50, was another happy discovery in our pack (each bundle’s clothes are in nearly new condition, and worth as much as £400).

You can also hire printed baby snowsuits from Nimbus by Kite and Little Green Radicals (sized up to age five) for £35 for the whole autumn/winter season. Expect personalised service from owner Emma Gillespie. Our pieces arrived in a colourful, reusable bag with a rainbow and cloud print, which you drop at a convenient pick-up spot (ours was a local dry cleaner) when you’re ready to send the items back.

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Opening our rental bag from Graceful Changes felt like a real treat: not only did we discover the gorgeous garments our five-year-old tester had lovingly pre-selected, like a yellow bobble poncho and contrast knee patch sweatpants from Kite, all packed in a reusable flamingo print bag, but we also really enjoyed the special attention to detail, which included treats for the kiddos: a mini Tony’s Chocolonely bar and colouring-in sheets for kids.

Items were in fantastic condition – expect a mix of new and preloved clothes – and are from brands like Frugi, Muddy Puddles (which has been especially popular this wet and muddy lockdown) and Little Green Radicals, so there’s plenty of stylish, made-to-last merchandise available. The Edinburgh-based kids’ clothing rental service also promotes smaller local businesses like Biau-Biau, purveyors of handmade organic clothes.

For £30 a month, you can choose up to 15 items, or pick five for £12.50. According to owner Josefa Buckland, demand for Graceful Changes is at an all-time high: the site “trebled the number of subscribers in 2020.” All items are washed, sanitised and quality-inspected upon their return, before being sent off to another customer. Returns are straightforward: just pop some tape around the reusable bag, stick on the prepaid, addressed Royal Mail returns label, and drop the parcel off at any post office. Graceful Changes also offers gift vouchers, which can be an especially helpful gift for new parents looking to economise

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Set up by a working mum with a background in design, Sarah Bracken, The Little Rental Company is all about ensuring that your precious bundle is dressed in organic clothing from a Fair Trade source, from birth – and knowing that your well-dressed tot’s wardrobe won’t produce a ton of wastage once they’ve outgrown those clothes. Pure organic clothing is better suited to babies’ sensitive skin, as well as typically causing less waste-pollution than non-organic alternatives.

This kids’ rental company is another one that takes the hassle out of finding clothes for your little ones: simply choose a boys’, girls’ or neutral bundle (sizes from newborn to 24 months are available). For £42 a month, you get 21 items of organic clothes, in a large, organic canvas sack: think six bodysuits, four sleepsuits, a couple of onesies, a few shirts, a few bottoms, some shorts or dresses and a couple of jumpers. Inside your package, you’ll discover brands like Mori and Little Green Radicals.

We were delighted to come across Newbie in our parcel. One of our favourite kidswear labels, the Swedish brand is renowned for its magical prints, retro-style pieces and commitment to sustainability – and we didn’t spot Newbie on offer at any of the other kids’ clothing rental sites. Our youngest tester particularly enjoyed prancing around in the green ribbed Mori leggings and floral Newbie dungarees. All clothing is cleaned using Bio-D products. You’ll find a biodegradable liner inside your parcel; to return, simply drop it to your local Hermes drop-off point.

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The verdict: Kids’ clothing rental services

thelittleloop is our pick for its selection of sizes and vibrant clothes our kids were desperate to wear. The ability to pick more-worn garments and easy returns (just drop at your local Hermes-compliant shop) were the icing on the cake. For a seamless rental experience that gives you the choice of personalisation or the convenience of pre-selected basics, Bundlee is your best bet if you have kids up to the age of two. We love My Wardrobe Kids for giving us a chance to test-drive designer brands and skiwear that would have been too expensive without a rental scheme in place.

We’ve also found best reusable and eco-friendly nappies that are kind to your baby and the planet

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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