Photographer Maria Uhr

Emelie Dahlström: “The concept of lending clothes is more right now then ever”

Was “sharing economy” even an expression in 2009? Emelie Dahlström, founder of Lånegarderoben, was early in spotting the need for a more sustainable, yet not permanent, way of updating one’s closet. Some eight years later, the question we want to ask her is: Are we ready to rent yet?

“Directly translated, the Swedish word ‘lånegarderob’ means ‘lending closet’, but clothing library is probably a better way of describing what it actually is. In 2009 we launched Lånegarderoben as a member-based community, and the basic idea was to offer a way to renew ones wardrobe—without having to spend money on new clothes. How it works is that you as a member pay a fee for each item you want to lend, and then get to use these as much as you want during the three months that they’re yours. During this period, you care for and wash the garments as if they were your own. When the three months are up, you return the pieces washed and ironed—ready to be passed along to another member.

When we launched this project, it was often referred to as an example of collaborative consumption. A more common term today is obviously “sharing economy”. The idea of a clothing library was quite controversial back in 2009, and I remember people asking specifically for ‘new items’ when they first came to try our service.

The clothing library today contains finer second hand, selected retro and vintage as well as new items from our sponsors. All categories include both everyday and formal wear in men’s, women’s and unisex styles. As the market for sharing economy has expanded, with worldwide business like AirBnb and Uber, my perception is that the concept of sharing services and resources has become more conventional, and we’ve seen clothing libraries popping up in other cities all over the world. Two of our main sponsors, Filippa K and Uniforms for the Dedicated, have even started their own ecosystems by lending out items in their stores, which tells me that the concept of lending clothes is more right now then ever.

« Our mission was never to convince people to stop buying things, we simply wanted to provide a fun, inspiring and creative alternative to conventional shopping »

At the start, I found it very fascinating to keep dialogues with our members on shopping patterns and consumer behavior. When a member that was first set on lending a new item ended up lending a vintage one, I realized it was possible to change their patterns, and that’s thrilling! The idea of lending clothes via a member based clothing library is questioning the idea of ownership as well as consumption. We want to inspire people to rethink their consumer behaviors by offering an alternative way of temporarily renewing one’s wardrobe. Our mission was never to convince people to stop buying things, we simply wanted to provide a fun, inspiring and creative alternative to conventional shopping.

Instead of criticizing the whole idea of fashion and consumerism, we wanted to collaborate with pioneers within the fashion industry—the ones exploring new materials, dying methods and ways of reusing and recycling clothes and accessories. We communicated their methods as good examples of what the alternative ways of fashion creation could be. Our sponsors are representatives of ‘slow fashion’, and stand in direct opposition to the ‘fast fashion’ that’s defined by shorter and shorter seasons, and faster and faster trends.

It’s a non-profit culture association that runs Lånegarderoben, so our mission has never been to make a profit from the concept of lending clothes. Since we started, we’ve been working and collaborating with so many interesting and inspiring partners, and we’re very happy to see some of them running their own lending services today. I think that when collaborating with stakeholders and partners, the business model can definitely have a scalable potential.”

Emelie Dahlström is the founder of Lånegarderoben. Visit Lånegarderoben here to find out more.

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