This Library Lets You Borrow Clothes Instead of Books

Sharing is caring at this innovative Amsterdam institution.

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It rings true for most that we wear the minority of our wardrobe the majority of the time, no matter how often we buy new threads. Four women from Amsterdam are creating an outlet for clothing consumption without the guilt of watching those pieces gather dust in the dark corners of your closet.

With a background working in fashion as the creators of vintage e-shop Doortje, founded in 2008, sisters Angela, Diana & Elisa Jansen were aware of the interest in recycled clothing but felt it still wasn’t making enough impact. They joined forces with fellow fashionista Suzanne Smulders and created LENA Library – a library that lets members borrow clothing instead of books.

“It is great to see more and more people value secondhand clothing, but still the problem of over consumption was bothering us a lot,” the team explains in their business brief. “That’s when we developed the idea of one big shared walk in closet, functioning as a library. We started working on the idea late 2013, then we spent about a year on research, development, writing our business plan and testing the concept with a pilot.”

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LENA library, which launched in Amsterdam in December of 2014, was well received from the beginning. “The response so far had been amazing,” co-founder Suzanne Smulders tells Collective Hub. “Besides the large amount of subscribers, we had quite some press backing up our concept when we launched. We have more subscribers than we expected, and we are still growing every day, so yes, I can definitely say it is a success. Most people respond very naturally to the concept, and feel like it is so logical to shop this way.”

The ‘library’ system works essentially the same as any: you sign up, pay the subscription fee of 20 euros per month and borrow as much as you like. The library also allows for three free ‘accidents’ in case you end up having too much of a good time in their garments. The collection itself is built from a carefully curated mix of vintage items from the 50s to the early 90s, which they source from wholesale partners across Europe as well as the clever collaboration with up and coming designers who are invited to test their design on a new, enthusiastic audience, LENA Library is proving popular – with the concept reaching 280 members in January of this year.

And while the library is making the women of Amsterdam happier (and keeping their wallet healthier), it’s all part of a wider strategy to comment on consumption and eventually change the fast fashion industry.

“We want to change customer behaviour, and make them more conscious of what they buy,” Suzanne explains. “[But] we also want to realise a change throughout the whole chain. Quality needs to go up, [there needs to be] less damage to the planet and the people involved in production and a new business model needs to be implemented throughout the industry in order to really change the system.”


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