The Kleiderei: Hamburg’s Lending Library for Clothes

Owners of The Kleiderei

The Kleiderei: Hamburg’s Lending Library for Clothes

Why buy when you can borrow? A clothing shop in Hamburg lends clothes for a monthly fee.
September 12, 2013 by Caitlan Carroll

The idea of a sharing economy gets a lot of traction in Germany these days as people seek new ways to cut down on their consumption. Some young entrepreneurs in Hamburg have a fashionable take on the concept.

Pola Fendel and Thekla Wilkening opened the clothing shop the Kleiderei in the fall of 2012. Kleiderei customers purchase a monthly ticket for 14 euro. In return, customers can borrow a couple pieces of clothing a month. The clothing must then be returned dry cleaned within seven days.

The store’s motto is “lend like a friend,” and the shop operates a bit like a best friend or sister. The owners have added many of their own clothing pieces to the lending wardrobe and enjoy helping customers find new looks to try out. They say their store makes it possible for people to experiment with different styles and wear high quality clothes without having to pay a high price tag—a benefit for those who want to keep up with rapidly changing trends.

The Kleiderei’s not the only borrowing concept in Germany. There are also Tauschringe, or lending circles, which can be found in most cities. These groups share or exchange individual skills and products among members. For instance, a group member who can sew might hem another’s pants and gain a few credits. Then the sewer could ask someone who is good with bikes to fix a broken wheel.

An event called Swap in the City is touring through Germany. The event organizers invite women to bring in their clothes to swap with one another. All the clothes not taken home at the end of the night are then donated to charity.

As alternatives to buying become more popular, the Kleiderei seems poised to capitalize on the trend. Since the shop opened, the owners have had a flood of interest from customers and the media. In an interview with the Hamburger Abendblatt, owner Pola Fendel talks of plans to open a shop in Berlin. She says, “It would be a dream if we had a Kleiderei in every major city.”

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September 12, 2013 by Caitlan Carroll