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Store Owner Fights Consumerism by Renting Out Clothes Instead of Selling Them

Do you buy too many clothes? Or do you often buy new garments only to wear them once before throwing them away? Research shows that you are not alone; a recent YouGov survey in Australia has shown that roughly a quarter of Australians have thrown away an article of clothing after wearing it just once.

Entrepreneur Sarah Freeman was so shocked by these findings that she decided to do something about it. She has founded a “clothes library” in Sydney, where customers can rent clothing instead of purchasing it; this way, you can still only wear it once, but without being wasteful.

Photo: The Clothes Library/Facebook

“Today’s society just seem to wear clothes like condoms. They wear them once and they throw them away,” Sarah says. “That’s not how clothes are supposed to be designed. The clothes nowadays are manufactured for six wears, I think, which is terrible.”

The statistics support what Sarah is saying; research from consulting firm McKinsey & Company suggest that global clothing production doubled between 2000 to 2014! When it comes to modern clothing, the old cliche: “they don’t make them like they used to” rings true. Clothes these days can sometimes only last two or three washes before they need to be replaced.

Not only are these disposable, short-lasting clothes not good for your wallet, but they are also terrible for the environment. The majority of these clothes are produced in third world countries, and their factories use up huge amounts of energy and pollute the waterways nearby.

A major benefit of Sarah’s clothes library is that not only is it a great way to get fantastic designer clothes at an affordable price, but it is also good for the environment. In comparison to a regular clothing store, Sarah’s business hardly produces any waste at all.

But how exactly does it work?

Customers can pay a monthly subscription fee (just like with a Netflix account) and enjoy 4 to 6 items of clothing per month. They can also purchase items outright with the incentive of reduced rates. Should members want to make a little extra cash, they can sell their own clothes on consignment.

Sarah thinks that her clothes library can really make a difference and hopes to see one in every mall: “Hopefully it will catch on and people will start being more conscious and just make an effort to not go out and purchase the fast fashion items. I mean if we stop demanding it, then they (retailers) have to stop supplying it.”

But will it catch on? Reading books that have been read by another person is one thing, but to wear clothes that have been worn by others is another. But with great brands such as  Carla Zampatti, Boss, Marc Newman, Calvin Klein or Zegna available to rent, it’s certainly worth giving it a try.

Interestingly, the clothes library concept isn’t new. The very similar Fashion Library in Amsterdam made news headlines in 2015, and others have sprung up in other places around the world as well.