Amsterdam Library on a Mission to Save Earth
Ikram Cakir carefully hands over a colourful blue and white blouse, then picks out a vibrant hot pink one. Welcome to Amsterdam's "fashion library."
It's one of the few places worldwide where you can rent both used and new clothes, tackling the issues of clothing waste and the environmental impact of the fashion industry.
Rows of brightly coloured trousers, coats, and overalls are neatly organised by brand or style, each with a tag showing the price to buy or rent per day.
Renting costs vary, from about 50 euro cents ($0.55) to a couple of euros, depending on how often you rent and how much you borrow.
For Cakir, a 37-year-old NGO campaign manager, the idea is "really good." "So many clothes are bought and then never used," she says. "This is an excellent way to wear new clothes without harming the planet."
Globally, every second sees the equivalent of a truckload of clothes either burned or buried in landfills, contributing to the fashion industry's environmental impact, as reported by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
The textile industry, accounting for two to eight per cent of global carbon emissions according to the United Nations in 2022, is a major pollution source.
In the era of fast fashion, where people buy 60 per cent more clothing than 15 years ago, keeping each item for only half as long, the UN notes that fashion is responsible for one-quarter of world water pollution and a third of microplastic discharges into the oceans.
Motivated by these concerns, Elisa Jansen and her team opened "LENA, the fashion library" in central Amsterdam in 2014.
"Why did we open in 2014? Because the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world," she explains.
The library, also online with drop-off and collection points in other Dutch cities, stresses its commitment to the planet with a poster: "Always new clothes. Good for the planet. Experiment with your style. Try before you buy."
Jansen, whose career started in vintage shops, wanted a more diverse style that vintage shops couldn't provide.
"That's when I got the idea of sharing clothes in a big shared wardrobe," she says.
Customers pay a 10-euro fee to sign up, giving them access to borrow or buy clothes from the collection, which has over 6,000 members. However, not everyone borrows regularly, Jansen admits.
She focuses on quality, preferring longer-lasting brands. "You won't find any fast fashion here," she says, referring to the trend of buying cheap clothes that are quickly discarded.
LENA, opening nine years ago, was a pioneer, and similar initiatives have started in Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Scandinavia, and Switzerland. Jansen notes that some Scandinavian outlets seem to have closed.
Despite the challenge of finding a profitable model initially, LENA, located in a trendy area, now mainly attracts women aged 25 to 45 who want sustainable choices without sacrificing style.
India Donisi, a 35-year-old wine blogger, is a typical customer. "It's really convenient," she says while trying on a bright pink blazer. Donisi often rents clothes for media events, especially since she lives nearby.
Jansen hopes her initiative inspires others. "I really believe this is the future. Our consumption cannot continue as it is," she says. "I hope other clothing brands will do it themselves... so you always have the option to borrow if you don't want to buy."
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