HomeFashionAmsterdam 'fashion library' takes aim at clothes waste

Amsterdam ‘fashion library’ takes aim at clothes waste


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Amsterdam’s “fashion library,” billed as one of the world’s only physical centers for renting used and new clothing, the “big shared wardrobe” in the Dutch capital is a response to clothes waste and fashion industry pollution.

Hundreds of brightly colored trousers, coats and overalls are sorted by brand or style, each with a tag indicating a sale price or how much it costs to rent the item per day.

The daily rental price varies from around 50-euro cents ($0.55) to a couple of euros, depending on the customer’s loyalty – how often he or she rents clothes and how many are borrowed.

Globally, the equivalent of a truckload of clothes is burnt or buried in landfills every second, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a charity focused on eliminating waste and pollution.

The textile industry is also a major polluter, causing between two and eight percent of global carbon emissions, according to the United Nations in 2022.

In the era of fast fashion, the average person buys 60 percent more clothing than 15 years ago, while each item is kept for only half as long, the U.N. says.

Fashion is responsible for one quarter of the pollution of the world’s waters and a third of microplastic discharges into the oceans – toxic substances for fish and humans.

All this prompted Elisa Jansen to open “LENA, the fashion library” in a trendy area in central Amsterdam, with her two sisters and a friend.

“Why did we open in 2014? Because the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world,” she told AFP.

The library also has an online section, plus drop-off and collection points in other Dutch cities.

Customers sign up for a 10-euro fee, allowing them to borrow or buy clothes from the collection. There are more than 6,000 members but not everyone is a regular borrower, admits Jansen. Her top priority is the quality of her garments, always preferring longer-lasting brands.

LENA was “really one of the first of its kind” when it opened nine years ago, said Jansen.

Similar initiatives have been launched in places such as Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Scandinavia and Switzerland, although Jansen said the Scandinavian outlets appeared to have closed since.

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