The (Not So) New Collaborative Economy

Everlasting Wardrobe: Children’s Apparel Rental Membership

Here’s a fun fact: The “new” collaborative economy…isn’t new at all. As a small child I often wore clothes that were my cousins, next door neighbors, Mom’s friend’s son’s, etc. It seemed that at every turn people were trying to give away this barely used clothing. At the time, my only complaint was that other kids’ clothes didn’t quite fit the way mine (or the ones bought for me) did. Also, I didn’t like corduroy…like hated it!

Luckily I grew out of that… Corduroy Rocks! However, it does illustrate the point that children are forced to share things in a way that adults might be averse to. But is that really true? Are adults less likely to share?

As I grew older, I had to go through the constant questions from my father. “Do you want any of these clothes?” As an adult my dad’s jackets and slacks are some of my favorite wardrobe pieces. Back then, I was too busy trying to look like Justin Timberlake. It feels off-putting to wear your parents clothes as a teen. Luckily, I grew out of that too.

What it comes down to is trust. My parents trusted our family, friends and neighbors to offer items that were clean and usable. Whatever I didn’t like, or couldn’t use, could be donated to families in need. In today’s economy the internet has given us tools to adjudicate a strangers trustworthiness. Ratings systems, reviews, and background checks bring people together as never before.

In recent years, the collaborative economy has become increasingly popular for children and adults alike. Millennials are a generation that value experience over materialism, or at least that’s what they will tell you. Companies are pivoting to stay on-trend. The marketplace has become more fluid and reactive. Companies have perfected their ability to provide goods and services that have previously been enjoyed by packaging them extravagantly. Rent the Runway, for instance, allows people to wear clothing they couldn’t otherwise afford for a single evening. Le Tote allows people to borrow clothing for a set price and return it at their leisure. Airbnb, Zipcar, NetJets, and Blade, to name a few, allow people to share an otherwise out-of-price range service at the click of a button. These mediums are successful where they inspire trust in the user and the provider.

With both sides being able to rate each other, accountability has engendered a massive disruption for standard business practice. No longer do people have to rely just on brand loyalty. They can access a wealth of experience through other users to find exactly what they want. Whether it be sharing cars, homes, clothes, music, bikes, or experiences; this generation has decided that being the best can mean sharing the best.

Collaborative Economy In Other Industries

The collaborative economy, across industries, promotes a cleaner more sustainable world. Nowhere is this more prevalent than apparel. Clothing that is sustainably manufactured is all the rage. We have materials being made from recycled plastics. We have sustainably grown organic materials being sourced as a priority instead of as a novelty. Because fashion trends today move so quickly, and thus waste so much, the impact on the environment has become paramount.

These models and philosophies, discussed above, are made possible by trust. My parents trusted my neighbor down the street or my aunt to hand-me-down clothing that was clean and wearable. Now customers can trust the ratings given by countless transactions occurring across platforms. Rachel Botsman, a leading mind on the subject, predicts that eventually we will all have a Consumer Score that replicates and/or replaces a credit score in many ways. This score gives users and providers a way to judge each other based on every transaction they’ve made. She speaks more to trust and it’s variables in her Ted talk. It is our hope that families will continue to share in all facets of life so we can all be healthier, wealthier, and happier… together. And, the same goes for Mother Earth!