This post is part of a sustainability advent calendar. Please don’t miss posts from the others and scroll down, to get more green inputs and ideas on how to make your Christmas more environmentally friendly and satisfactory to your conscience!
Some time ago I stumbled upon the concept of a Fashion Library. Since sustainability is a growing topic in my mindest, especially in terms of clothing, I was intrigued. There are various projects popping up from the US or Germany, but only one in Vienna, Austria – Endlos Fesch. I went to their event in November and didn’t expect much. Old clothes hanging around really. But I was positively surprised! Not only did they offer pieces by ESCADA, and other branded (vintage) garments, but they also source their clothes from independent, local fashion designers.
I once asked a stylist for help with my wardrobe. The first thing she mentioned was: “where are your basics?” and this was and is exactly the problem I tend to have. I have way too many crazy pieces that I can only wear once or twice and after that they are “old dust-collectors”. Thus, I believe that Endlos Fesch, with it’s regular pop up events, may have filled that “hole”. I can now borrow things, wear it for a month and return it to get new ones. No space taken in my wardrobe and no dust-setting on my clothes.
Since I was immediately into that project, I decided to interview Karin and Jessica – to get their view on things!
INTERVIEW WITH ENDLOS FESCH – JESSICA & KARIN
Corinna: Before there was Endlos Fesch, you founded a second hand photo project and you were members of the Zero Waste Austria initiative – can you explain how that came about? And why did you decide to start a fashion library?
Endlos Fesch: We have been active in the Zero Waste Austria community and were shocked about the high number of clothes that are not being worn and just thrown away (about 80.000 tones per year in Austria alone). With one of the poorest recycling rates, clothes can contain hazardous toxic chemicals, which release greenhouse gases when decomposing at landfills. The chemicals and dyes used leach into the soil, contaminate the land, air and the groundwater.
EF: We wanted to find innovative solutions to this problem. At first we started organizing clothes swaps and ran a second hand fashion photo project to promote awareness about the slow fashion movement (Fesch in Second Hand). As a solution to scale up the idea of sharing clothes and extending the life cycle of existing resources, the idea for Endlos Fesch was born, based on the concept of already existing fashion libraries in Germany and in Scandinavian countries. We believe in applying existing sustainable and green solutions and building a social enterprise that focuses on using zero waste technologies.
C: How did your wardrobes change throughout your projects? How many garments do you have now and how often do you shop for new things?
EF: We currently offer about 300 trendy pieces for women, which are a good mix of fair and sustainably produced fashion items from local designers (for example MaMaMu, Tutu Vienna, die Rote Zora), ex-favorite pieces, vintage dresses and mispurchases from the community. Especially in the pre-Christmas time, you can rent trendy party outfits and great dresses. We also offer seasonal outfits for every occasion, and as a special service to our customers, we even take care of the dry-cleaning.
EF: We constantly work on exclusive cooperations with local designers so that we can offer new pieces of IT-clothing at every pop up. This way, we can offer about 50 new pieces on average in all sizes and colours for each pop up event. Our wardrobe keeps growing every day and we are especially thankful to the designers and our community, who are very supportive of the project and believe in the impact of Endlos Fesch.
C: Which piece of clothing is your personal must-have? Is there a story behind that certain garment?
EF: Personally speaking, there is a story behind every single piece at Endlos Fesch, especially the vintage dresses that tell a story of a long gone past but that are still so fashionable today that they become the new must-haves! Our favourites are dresses, for example the scarlet red Escada dress that you can currently find all over the magazines. Red is the colour of this autumn/winter season and adds a spot of life into our winter wardrobe.
EF: The story behind the Escada dress is one that represents our values: it was only worn once for a photo shoot for a magazine this spring by a model. The dress was just lazing around at the stylists’ place and now that we added it to the fashion library, the trendy high quality piece can be worn again by more people. It is a special occasion dress and every costumer loves the nice feel of the silky fabric on their skin. Zero waste – great pleasure!
C: What is the biggest challenge when offering clothes for rent?
EF: The biggest challenge is finding the right clothes that our community wants. The trends are changing constantly and customers of the Endlos Fesch fashion library look for the special must-have piece – or for a classical statement piece for an occasion or work event. We therefore look for the support of our community to share their favourite pieces with the library, so that we can grow fast.
C: Kleiderei is the German counterpart to your concept – would you say you admire them, are inspired by them or compete with each other?
EF: We believe in the circular and sharing economy, and at the same time our fashion library is a social enterprise since it impacts the environment and saves resources from being wasted. This is why, we are happy to be part of a community of other fashion libraries in Europe with which we can cooperate, for example Lena’s library in Amsterdam. We visited the founders, exchanged ideas and received lessons learned from their business.
EF: We really appreciate this about the start up and social entrepreneur scene in Europe. Since we are also part of the Impact Hub Vienna and received lots of support to increase our impact, we value the other libraries and get inspiration from them. The Kleiderei is a good example of how two different ways of a fashion library are successfully run – one permanent library in a shop in Cologne and the online platform in the greater Hamburg area.
C: What presents will you buy for Christmas this year? Will you buy something new or source it differently? Is giving second hand presents okay or still unacceptable in our “consumption-based” society?
EF: Christmas is normally a time to reflect on our values, spend it with family and friends, and relax. As part of our values, we take care what kind of presents we give to our family and friends. We like to get new and second hand presents from local stores, friends who have their own small businesses in Vienna/Austria and from shops that produce ethically. Ethical consumption is the key – as customers we can dictate the future, since where we spend our money has an instant impact. We prefer zero waste gifts and second hand clothes, books, games etc. that come with some history and are therefore special.
C: And finally, how will the future of Endlos Fesch look like? What are your next steps?
EF: We believe that our concept can really make an impact, since we will be able to influence today’s and tomorrow’s customers, mainly by changing the current mindsets and informing our members about how much we actually consume and how the clothing industry works – this will promote sustainable consumption patterns and our community can take part in the sharing economy.
EF: Our next steps are therefore to expand our existing cooperations with local designers and of course to go online. We will create an online platform for our fashion library next year and hope that this will tremendously increase our impact in Austria.