As the fashion industry continues to face criticism for its impact on the environment, more and more consumers are looking for ways to shop sustainably. Clothing libraries offer a unique solution to this problem, allowing members to borrow and exchange garments instead of buying them outright.
Clothing libraries are a form of sustainable fashion in which members pay a fee to borrow clothing items instead of buying them. The idea is to reduce the environmental impact of fashion by promoting the reuse of clothing items and reducing the need for new clothing production.
Clothing libraries typically have a membership fee, and members can borrow a certain number of items per month or per year.
There are several benefits to using a clothing library. For one, it can help reduce the environmental impact of fashion by promoting the reuse of clothing items and reducing the need for new clothing production. Additionally, it can also be more affordable for consumers, who may be able to borrow high-quality clothing items at a fraction of the cost of buying them outright.
Benefits of using a clothing library
Try before you commit: Renting clothes offers the chance to try on and evaluate items before committing to purchase.
Easy access: Many clothing rental services provide door-to-door delivery and pickup, allowing for easy and convenient access to new clothes without having to leave your home.
Environmental friendliness: Clothing rental services provide an opportunity to revamp your wardrobe without adding to the negative effects of fast fashion on the environment, including textile waste and depletion of natural resources, making it more sustainable.
Wide range of options: Renting clothes allows for access to a greater variety of clothing than one's own budget or closet space may allow for. This is particularly useful for special events like weddings or parties.
Inclusivity: Rental services provide people with limited budget, lower credit score or students the chance to wear luxury or designer clothing on special occasions and events.
Continual freshness: The ability to frequently change out your wardrobe helps keep your style exciting and current.
No long-term obligation: Renting clothes eliminates the need to worry about storage or disposal of clothes you no longer want.
Affordability: Opting to rent clothing can be a cost-effective solution, particularly for high-end or designer items.
Clothing Libraries in the Netherlands
Clothing libraries are a relatively new phenomenon in the Netherlands and not yet widely available, but their popularity is increasing as the idea of sustainable fashion gains more attention and support.
The Netherlands has now over 20 clothing libraries, with some cities like Utrecht, Amsterdam, and Rotterdam, which count at least one or two clothing libraries.
It's worth to notice that clothing libraries are not yet widespread in Netherlands, but increasing the popularity in few years.
Lena Fashion Library
We are thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with Elisa, one of the founders of Lena Fashion Library, about their innovative clothing library.
We asked her a series of questions to learn more about the inspiration behind her business, how it operates, and what she envisions for its future.
What motivated you to start a clothing library?
“ I started the business with two of my sisters, and now we there still two of us managing the business. It's certainly been a challenging experience, but still rewarding. We got the idea for the library because we noticed a lot of overconsumption and waste in the fashion industry, and we wanted to offer a more sustainable alternative that's also affordable. I had been managing an online vintage store for 12 years prior to this so this felt like a natural transition”
Can you explain how the library works and what kinds of garments are available to members?
“We have a smart system in place where each item in the library has a daily price and credits. For example, a dress might be four credits, and one credit is 0.25 euros a day. Members can borrow items as long as they like, and we keep track of how much they've borrowed.
There is only a one-time minimal fee of € 10 to become a member. This fee is used to cover the operating costs of the library and to maintain the collection of clothes and accessories. After that, they can borrow items as they please, and they only pay for what they borrow.
We try make the membership as flexible as possible to make it easy for people to try our service. We really believe in the idea of “try before you buy”, only by wearing something you can get a real feel of the garment. Members have the option to purchase an item at discount after renting it.”
That sounds like a really accessible way to enjoy fashion. Can you tell us more about the kind of items you offer?
“We have a wide range of garments for women, from basics to more unique pieces. Our goal is to provide members with a variety of styles so they can experiment with different looks without contributing to overconsumption. We feature a range of sustainable brands and also vintage items and have a small range of home products on sale. We don’t have garments for men yet but that could come in the future.“
What do you see as the future of sustainable fashion, and how do you think libraries like yours can contribute?
“I think the future of sustainable fashion is really promising. More and more people are becoming conscious of the impact their choices have on the environment, and there's a growing demand for sustainable brands. However, sustainable fashion can be expensive, and I think libraries like ours offer an accessible and fun way to enjoy fashion sustainably.
The concept of the library also creates a community feel. Members feel like this is their shared wardrobe. Members often share advice and compliments with each other and also give us feedback on the concept.
By borrowing and experimenting with different styles, members can reduce waste and consumption while still enjoying fashion.”
It sounds like you've made borrowing clothes very convenient and affordable for people. I'm curious, what are some of the challenges you face in running a clothing library, and how do you overcome them?
“The biggest lesson we’ve learned is to talk a lot about the concept and collaborate with other businesses. That was important for us to grow. One of the biggest challenges is changing people's mindset about fashion and consumption. We want to promote sustainable and ethical fashion practices, but not everyone is aware of the impact of their choices. We try to educate our members about the benefits of borrowing clothes and the negative impact of fast fashion, but it's an ongoing process.
Overall, these challenges are just part of running a clothing library, but we believe that the benefits of our service outweigh the difficulties. We're committed to making fashion more sustainable and accessible for everyone, and we're excited to see more people joining our community.”
Can you tell us a little bit about the process of selecting items for the library?
“ A bit of trial of error. We focus accept high-quality, sustainably-made, and ethically-produced items. We also look for items that are versatile and can be worn by a variety of people. There is only one way to know if the quality is good enough and that is to try it. So that is another advantage that the concept. After multiple washes we can see how a garments holds out.
The quality and aftercare of the garment is paramount, sometimes an item can be sustainable but not resistant to washing so we have to look out for that. The nature of the concept also allows to provide feedback to brands regarding the after care of their garments to help them improve.”
Can you tell us about one of your favorite items?
“One of my favorite pieces is the vintage jacket. We’ve had this piece for over 8 years and despite all the use and washes it still looks great!
How do you ensure that the items are kept in good condition?
“We have a rigorous cleaning and maintenance process that each item goes through before and after being borrowed. We also rely on our members to take good care of the items they borrow. We have a system in place where members are responsible for any damages or stains that occur while they have the item, and they have to pay a fee for the damage.”
So, what are your plans for the future of the library?
“We are always looking for ways to improve and expand our offerings. We want to partner with more sustainable brands and designers and continue to grow our community of members. We also have plans to open more locations in different cities so that more people can experience the benefits of borrowing clothes.”
So, for people who are interested in becoming members or learning more about the library, where can they go?
“They can visit our website or follow us on social media. We also have an app that members can use to browse and reserve items. And we always welcome people to come to our physical location to see the items and learn more about the library.”
Thank you so much for talking with me today and sharing your story.
This leaves us with the thought that clothing libraries like Lena Fashion Library offer a new and innovative way to reduce waste and promote sustainability while still enjoying the latest fashion trends.
We encourage everyone to try it out and see the difference it can make in our consumption habits and help reshape the future of fashion.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out Lena Fashion Library for more information about their sustainable clothing library.
Comment down below if you have ever tried a fashion library or if you would be interested!