LENA: Fashion library challenges fast fashion culture

Fashion library LENA is lending clothes to customers in efforts that shun fast fashion and instead encourages people to wear clothing but not at the expense of the environment and people.

Gone are the days of buying an outfit for just one occasion, never to be worn again, and or buying clothes simply to keep up with “trends” and collections.

The Amsterdam-based fashion library, LENA, gives consumers access to a high quality collection of the finest vintage, upcoming designers and eco labels, which can be swapped whenever the customer desires.

Shoppers can borrow vintage and designer clothing for a monthly subscription (with no borrowing limits) or on a weekly basis, enabling them to enjoy clothing without them being possessions. There is also an option to buy the clothes.

Customers can also bring in some of their own clothing to loan to the library temporarily.

The idea of LENA came about as sisters Angela, Diana and Elisa Jansen were  inspired to bring about change in an over-consuming society. In Holland alone, 240 million kilos of clothing is thrown away a year.

The Jansen sisters – who opened up vintage shops, Doortje Vintage, in Amsterdam, Eindhoven and Rotterdam – teamed up with Suzanne Smulders in 2011 with a view to offering a solution to over-consumption. Three years in the making, LENA opened its doors in Amsterdam in 2014.

Suzanne Smulders, who previously worked in the sustainable fashion industry, says: “There are so many pretty and valuable things we can use more efficiently, which we try to do with LENA. With the concept we want to stimulate people to consume fashion in a much more conscious way.

“We need to make a change in the whole system. Even if brands start using eco materials, it is still about making as much sales as possible. Our opinion is that over-consumption is one of the biggest problems in the industry. There should be more focus on craftsmanship and quality in order to produce long-lasting items that we can all share together.”

The team behind LENA, the Jansen sisters and Suzanne Smulders, refer to themselves as the librarians. While they each believe that personal style is important, they agree that it doesn’t have to be at the expense of the planet.

LENA’s approach aims to get people thinking about ownership and clothing. Suzanne Smulders adds: “Our [LENA’s] aim is to make a positive impact, but also make fashion fun again. How much fun is a big commercial shopping street with low quality items that make us all look the same?

“We offer unique pieces with which you can experiment, because you can only wear them once or twice. You can try out a new style, or go over the top for just once. It is a really fun experience to our customers!”

LENA currently has 1,200 items in stock at any moment, and another 500 checked out to customers. The founders hope to expand to other cities worldwide.


Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea

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