A few innovative European fashion brands are paving the way for a slow fashion-inspired clothing rental industry. Read on to see why clothing rental is a brilliant idea for both consumers and the earth!
With resources such as Spotify and Netflix giving us all the music and movies we could ever want, all at the touch of a button, I’d take a wild guess that Millennials no longer feel the need to “own” all the entertainment that they like to indulge in. Long gone are the shelves of CDs and DVDs that we once hoarded, all to make way for a more chic and minimalist home. Well, could the same be said for clothing in the not-too-distant future?
There are many ways to be environmentally conscious when it comes to consuming apparel. The most obvious is to consume second-hand, another to purchase fewer items of higher quality from ethically-sourced brands, and the third, to rent. The latter is the one we’re discussing today. We’ll look at different ways clothing rental can be useful and environmentally-friendly.
I guess the ideal would be for everyone to have their own carefully-curated capsule wardrobe of garments they love, that were either purchased second-hand or from conscious brands. However, if we’re trying to move a society-at-large obsessed with fast fashion over to a slower way of doing things, there has to be something intermediate on offer. For fashionistas used to a high turnover in their closets, could there be a way to satisfy this need for “new” without the environmental effects and human rights concerns we’re plagued with?
Vivienne Westwood recently released the bold statement that we should not buy anything. That’s pretty remarkable coming from a fashion designer in an industry all about collections a year ahead at a time. Fashion design is undoubtedly an art–and a beautiful one at that–but could there be more focus on how to work with what you have perhaps, rather than always needing to consume more? Could designers place more emphasis on how to pair new season with old season items?
If we could move more towards timeless fashion without an “end of season” doomsday, I believe we could eradicate fast fashion once and for all. A great way to offer lots of options to those passionate about fashion and creative in their dressing is through a rental company. But rental companies are also useful for those wanting a minimal closet of only a select few items. And then perhaps the most brilliant idea of all, rental options for new-born babies soon to outgrow their clothing. The possibilities are endless.
At present, it seems there is a lot of back and forth debate about whether clothing rental can truly be environmentally-friendly. What about the packaging and shipping? These are very important concerns indeed. The only way such schemes will work on a large scale is if packaging is both minimal and recyclable (preferably cardboard rather than plastic) and if shipping is carbon-neutral with plans to become zero-carbon. However, if these kinds of businesses became more widespread, they would be more accessible to us. That would mean being able to visit the “stores” in person rather than having to rely on shipping. Just a thought.
So, while this list is not exhaustive, here are three companies doing–in my opinion–great work in the slow fashion sector. They are bravely paving the way, and I hope that we’ll see others follow suit in the not-too-distant future.
Lena, The Fashion Library, Netherlands Lena is a great option for those wanting a high turnover in their closet. Perhaps for those wanting to wean themselves off of shopping ’til they drop and then being left with an abundance of items they don’t like or wear. Lena offers “the pleasure of online shopping and eliminating a great part of the problem of modern-day consumption.” You can ship & return via their website, or swap at several “swap points” around Amsterdam where they are based. They offer a few different subscription services and a points system, so there’s incentive to experiment with your wardrobe and dress creatively.
MUD Jeans, Netherlands
Another stylish Dutch offering, MUD Jeans focuses on circular denim, i.e. the option to rent a pair of jeans for the duration of their lifetime. When they become too worn to wear, simply swap them for a new pair. Their ethos is “a world without waste,” which is extremely admirable. CEO Bert van Son spent many years in the textiles industry in China, horrified by the environmental effects of fast fashion. He decided to start his own company back in the Netherlands and offer an alternative to all the waste. This grew into their famous “lease a jeans” scheme. Within this scheme, you rent a pair of jeans. You pay a monthly cost for them, then when they are too worn out, you return them. When they are returned, the fabric is shredded and blended in with virgin cotton to make new denim yarn.
Now, the above scheme has an initial cost of €20, followed by €7.50 per month thereafter. With something like this, you have to decide what you value, what you want to invest in, and what your budget is. If you typically buy designer jeans, this would be affordable. If you currently purchase your jeans from thrift stores, this would be a hike in price. If this is a sustainable alternative for you, however, it’s a great way to support a company striving to do good. If you like a minimal wardrobe, this might be an absolute staple for you. Few things are more vital than well-fitting jeans, after all.
A third way that clothing rental services can be incredibly useful is when it comes to clothes for tiny humans. Babies grow and grow until they become adults, and rental services like Danish Vigga are wonderful for parents who simply can’t keep up with how quickly their children are developing. Rather than wasting resources and having to constantly buy new pieces, why not subscribe to a service that simply gives you larger sizes when required? Every item is chemical-free and made with organic cotton. This makes them safe for the most sensitive of babies and is good for helping reduce the carbon foot print and water consumption of each family who uses them.
So you see, there are many ways that clothing rental can be a sustainable alternative to purchasing new items. I hope we see more companies (from European fashion brands and beyond!) with innovative ideas like those mentioned above making rental fashion more widely available to us around the world.
What do you think of rental fashion? Have you ever rented a garment from one of these innovative European fashion brands? What was your experience?
Also by Kat: Cotton: The Hard Truth about this Soft Fabric
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