The disadvantages and consequences of overproduction and overconsumption in the fashion industry are exacerbating day by day. The linear "take, make, waste" model of the fashion industry generates bigger numbers every day. This is not just in the outgoing transactions from your pocket moving into fast-fashion bank accounts. Globally, 175 million tonnes of primary raw materials are produced each year, and 6.6 million tonnes of textiles are consumed. Those numbers don't quite add up, do they? Where'd the rest of it go? Not to mention the exploitation of so many voiceless people. But perhaps that's a conversation for another day, another blog. For today, this article covers the topic of clothing libraries, and how to use them to save the planet, and your pocket!
It is high time we question our consumption habits, but it's not all gloom and doom here! With just a little awareness raised, and a little "extra" use of clothing, these big numbers can be reduced fast. Over the last 20 years, the use of clothes has reduced by 36%, to only 7-8 wears per item. Did you know that only an added 9 months of active use would reduce each garment’s environmental footprint by 20-30%? This comes with conditions, albeit easy ones - that the lengthened use of every 10 items replaces the purchase of 6 new garments. Buying more items while you're still actively using the original ones defeats the whole purpose.
There are many more solutions on a larger systems level. Such as producing better quality materials, and incorporating circular fashion within the society and economy. Research shows that consumer rental models generate a CO2 reduction of about 41% compared to the linear alternative. However, for this blog, we shall focus on what YOU as a consumer can incorporate into your own life.
On an individual basis, sustainable clothing consumption is already gaining popularity in the form of second-hand shopping. This is a great step in the right direction to avoid fast fashion. But many fast fashion companies misuse second-hand shops to conduct greenwashing. They use second-hand shops to say that their "abundance" of clothes will find "new life" there. So here at COSH! we promote the concept of "access over ownership", exposing you to the magical world of clothing libraries. We will introduce you to some great initiatives to help you on your journey toward sustainable fashion consumption!
Clothing libraries are, you guessed it, libraries to rent clothes instead of books! Picture a library card that lets you bring your imagination to life and be a new character every day! This is the world clothing libraries are trying to bring to reality.
Clothing libraries take the existing concept of clothing rentals further to another level. People have been using clothing rental to buy suits and special occasion wear for many years now. But as we move towards an age of minimalism where affordable access trumps ownership, this is slowly making an impact on the fashion industry as well. So the idea of a clothing library for everyday use becomes more logical each day. Their monthly or point subscription systems give you the opportunity to explore and reflect your personality through your clothes efficiently, at a more attractive cost. This also lets you avoid the anxiety of deciding the most sustainable next step for your clothing. After you are done using it, you send it back and the clothing library takes care of that headache for you.
Do you love having a variety in fashion but want to avoid owning heaps of clothes that go untouched? Then clothing libraries are your solution!
Firstly, the most common type of clothing library that is slowly gaining momentum is the adult clothing library. Some forms of adult clothing libraries have already existed for a while. Such as special occasion rentals, or luxury second-hand rentals. Sustainably made clothing brands as expensive as they are now could also be considered elitist. However, as the concept gains popularity and demand increases, the prices automatically decrease over time as well.
Until then, and even after, sustainable clothing libraries provide a sustainable and affordable solution to access these clothes. There's a type of clothing library out there for everyone, but we at COSH! focus on sustainable-minded stores. Here the collection is lovingly curated to provide access to the best sustainable brands and give good quality second-hand clothing more lives.
COSH! is pleased to introduce you to some of the best clothing libraries in the Netherlands and Belgium. All promise a shift toward a sustainable and circular future in fashion-
Lena Fashion Library is the first online and offline clothing library in the Netherlands. They have been providing the best quality clothing with sustainable brands like AFRIEK, CharlieMary, Bybrown, and King Louie for almost 10 years now! From upcoming designers to sustainable labels, and the best vintage items, you can rent anything without a subscription. You also get a try-before-you-buy system and an opportunity to save for a discount. Drop by their shop or website and find a cool "new" item to add to your fashion repertoire soon!
Palanta offers many attractive renting options from pay-as-you-rent to subscription models. They house unique and handpicked high-quality garments from their conscious community of responsible brands and ethical designers. Next to their women's collection, they also offer organic items for babies and kids. Book your fitting appointment at their new studio in Amsterdam-West and find your perfect fit, or order online, whatever suits you best!
Are you a luxurious queen at heart, but your bank won't let you be? Iconic wardrobe brings you iconic pieces to bathe yourself in luxury at an attractive price. They house sustainable and luxury clothing brands such as Ganni, Isabel Marant and Sandro. Ask for style advice from founder Robin Hoogeveen, whose mission is to give women the ideal wardrobe. Find your next statement piece to flaunt at a museum visit or at your next wedding!Rent at Iconic Wardrobe
(Designer) clothing, accessories, jewellery, whatever you wish for, WAUWcloset has it in a huge range of no less than 10,000+ outfits and 5,000+ accessories and many different brands and sizes! Add to that their flexible renting models, and you can combine endlessly and always have a shiny new outfit at your disposal. Return them unwashed, and WAUWcloset takes care of cleaning the garments in a sustainable and professional way for the next person to enjoy. Rent online, or make an appointment to visit their showroom in Ijsselstein, near Utrecht.Rent at WAUWcloset
This Belgian clothing library lets you access a curated collection of designer clothing from conscious designers such asIda & Volta,Lies Mertens andRenēe by Zoë. They also provide benefits such as repairs and member discounts. Dressr cooperates with the environmentally conscious Dry Cleaner Voss to prepare the clothes for the next use, while also maintaining utmost quality and hygiene!Rent at Dressr
Some of these stores even give customers the option to rent out their own closets. So if you happen to have a bursting closet of mostly unused clothes and are wondering what to do with them, here's a solution! This also helps you generate a little income on the side and give your beautiful clothes a chance to be seen and loved again. Another benefit of using a clothing library is you never need to wash your clothes. Just return them after use and get them cleaned professionally.
Another lesser-explored type of clothing library is the baby or kids’ clothing library. Considering that kids grow so fast, their clothing is naturally used much lesser than adult clothing. This leads to a lot of unnecessary clothing waste, kid's clothing waste amounting to about 1/2 the times of menswear, and 1/3 of womenswear. In addition to the environmental repercussions, this is also a huge burden on new parents, financially and logistically. So kid's clothing rentals should be the most obvious solution. However, perhaps due to a natural concern for their children, and a misplaced idea of pre-loved clothing not being "good enough" for their kids, this rental concept is not quite popular yet.
For this reason, we interviewed Erik Ammann, founder of Red Orka - a baby romper rental company. They recently expanded to sleeping bags, and other kid's clothes as well in collaboration with other sustainable brands. When it comes to the effectiveness of such an idea, especially with babies considering the added certainty of stains, the quality of the material is of utmost importance. This transfers to adult clothing as well. Better quality materials last longer and are easier to repair. They also have a higher chance of recyclability at the "end" of their lifecycles. This is why Red Orka works only with high-quality organic cotton. This allows the rompers to stay intact longer through the high-temperature cleaning processes and ensures 100% recyclability.
They also educate their consumers on proper wash instructions, which keeps the rompers in the loop longer. When asked about potential obstacles with clothing libraries, Erik's passionate answer was "None!" believing that every logistical obstacle with clothing libraries has a good solution. And the only thing holding society back from fully implementing them is the lack of resources to fund these solutions.
While they only rent online, they welcome in-person visits to their office and warehouse in Amsterdam. At their warehouse, parents can see the process and the high-quality products they offer with their own eyes. They are currently having a pop-up shop in the Labour Department- a community center in Amsterdam for new parents to learn and find resources to aid their efforts in raising a new baby.
In general, if you have any concerns about sizing and personal style, all the mentioned libraries would be happy to cater to your personal needs, by providing sizing appointments and helping you find the right clothes and fit.
So, what's stopping you now? We're not saying you need to go to a clothing library right this second. Use the clothes you have at hand, but the next time you have an itch for a new piece of clothing, revisit this article. Find a clothing library that suits you and get started on your journey of sustainable fashion and clothing rentals!
Do you want to know more about other sustainable fashion consumption? Read our other article about swishing, swapping, and resale.