I first heard of Seasons in an ad read on Throwing Fits, but unlike most podcast ad reads, this was something that interested me. The partnership made a lot of sense and the so-called “jawns enthusiasts” of Throwing Fits were offering me 25% off my first month… how could I say no?
Seasons is a clothing subscription service, but unlike their competitors, they’re offering the likes of Engineered Garments, Comme des Garcons, and Bode. An additional caveat is that you don’t keep the clothes, rather you rent them for 30 days and then send them on their merry way. (Although the option to buy is still open to you if you like the piece.)
Until I encountered Seasons, I’d thought of clothing rental as something tedious. In fact, I’d rented a suit for a friend’s wedding, not because I couldn’t afford to buy a suit, but because I didn’t want one and wanted the experience to be over as fast as possible. Seasons tries to make this experience fun, allowing you to choose from dozens of high-end brands, with more coming all the time.
For my first month, I chose the Essential tier at two items, which came out to around $70 after my coupon code kicked in. The All Access tier isn’t available on the West Coast and also seemed a little excessive for what I wanted. But once I delved deeper, I began to feel insecure. Though I’ve had much access to high-end clothing though my work at Heddels and beyond, I felt gun-shy around brands like Dries Van Noten, Sandro, and Nanushka. These were pieces I was used to seeing on ssense, it hadn’t ever occurred to me that I might be wearing them myself.
Seasons came to me at an interesting juncture, after I’d sworn to take what some call a “copping sabbatical.” Basically, I wasn’t going to buy any brand-new clothing (except for the absolute necessities), but I had no trepidation about shopping secondhand…. or renting, for that matter. This was large in part because of my predilection for the brands in our niche. I have a closet full of Buzz Rickson chambrays, Roy jeans, and all kinds of Sugar Cane. I have enough well-made clothing to last several lifetimes and I’m already bad enough at committing myself to those pieces as it is.
But that can be the trouble with falling in love with well-made clothes. Once you become enamored with buying lifetime purchases, you end up with far more clothing than you can properly wear in during your lifetime. Could renting one or two pieces a month be the answer to my problems? Could it satiate my craving just enough to keep me going, without taking my attention from my own personal archive?
I was excited for some shopping without the inevitable buyer’s remorse. It took some of the pressure off and I went for two things I might not have otherwise considered. The first was a corduroy chore coat from Margaret Howell and the second, a pair of corduroy work pants from Noah NY.
The online measurements proved accurate, but I found myself disappointed. Not because of the pieces, which I both genuinely loved, but because I had gone too safe. I could have picked a Prada western or a Jil Sander fleece, but I’d rented something that I would have normally bought anyway.
Despite the fact I may be too risk-averse to fully rock Seasons’ offerings, I was excited about the pieces. They arrived in a garment bag, plastic-wrapped, and looking and smelling brand new.
Though the middle of a pandemic might be the worst time for a high-end clothing rental business, Seasons’ model could potentially become the norm. In opposition to Heddels’ mission statement of “own things you want to have forever,” Seasons’ rental methodology might not seem so anachronistic to other consumers.
There are many pros with Seasons’ model. In theory, it’s more sustainable to spread the wealth through a rental model than to simply buy clothes you’re not planning to wear. Especially in our culture of fit pics and fleeting trends, it could be a healthier and economically-savvier alternative to fully re-hauling your wardrobe. In conjunction with a solid, well-worn core wardrobe, this rotating selection of accent pieces is almost like having your own stylist, and for some, this could be a pretty desirable way to emulate that experience.
The question marks for the business model are the flip side of the pros. Does mailing packages to and from customers, (even with recycled plastic garment bags) diminish the company’s sustainability argument? And is feeding our fashion egos with these monthly packages just throwing more fuel on the fast fashion consumption fire?
Regardless of your feelings about Seasons and their rental business model, they may very well be in the vanguard of a changing fashion landscape. ThredUP‘s 2020 Market and Trend Report has seen enormous growth in the resale market, even as traditional retail has continued to slump. The report’s forecasts believe that by the end of 2021, online secondhand will account for some 75% of retail, a change largely spurred by Gen-Z and genuine concerns about sustainability.
Implicit in this change is that more and more consumers are growing comfortable with wearing someone else’s clothes, or at least clothes that someone else has worn. The taboo of secondhand and vintage as being something cheap, is rapidly melting away.
The success of large resale entities can be an alarming thing to traditional brands. In March of 2020, a judge threw out a lawsuit by Chanel against online reseller TheRealReal, for “trademark infringement, false endorsement, and unfair competition.” Though rental is an entirely different animal, as is Seasons’ method of brand partnership, the writing on the wall is already clear to some of fashion’s biggest players.
Rubber Meets the Road
Upon opening my all corduroy outfit, I realized the pants I’d ordered were too short. Seasons posts an accurate size chart, but I’d hoped I could make them work. Not so. My Margaret Howell coat on the other hand was perfect. It fit great and I wore it everywhere.
I wanted to use my one swap to do an exchange on the Noah pants, but despite the functionality of the app, there’s no simple button to hit to begin that process. I ended up finding the how-to in the FAQ section, but as life picked up around the holidays, it began to feel like too much trouble to contact someone at Seasons to initiate the process.
I began to seriously contemplate buying the Margaret Howell coat. At around $500, however; the cost was ultimately too much. I figured I’d find something on Grailed eventually to fill the void now that I knew my measurements. I was feeling warm about the whole experience until I got a call from my credit card company.
The day I mailed everything back to Seasons, I got a fraud alert on my credit card. Despite the fact that I’d paused my account, I was billed for the next non-discounted month… and then for unexplained reasons, billed this amount twice more. A total of nearly $300. I contacted Seasons, who had no record of this and I was forced to block them from my card.
My love affair with the app was ultimately marred by this bizarre interaction.
Seasons is an ambitious, and I think, trailblazing approach to retail that will likely become more commonplace in the near future. However, the app and the company have some kinks to work out in terms of the design of their interface, ease of use, and billing discrepancies. That said, customer service was always quick to respond (even if they didn’t know what I was talking about) and as promised, the rental service opened my eyes to a brand I hadn’t thought much about before.
Seasons makes the unattainable attainable, even if just for 30 days. It can educate you to new brands, but if you really like something you rent, it’s going to be hard to let it go. I hope they continue to iron out the wrinkles, but if you’re willing to take a chance, it could be a worthwhile investment.