Paris, France: In the world of sustainable fashion, an innovation has been grabbing my attention: clothing rental services. And not the American type where women rent luxury products they couldn’t otherwise afford, but the regular, day-to-day kind of clothing rental service where you borrow items that you would actually wear on a normal day. The service also allows you to swap the clothes each month, allowing consumers to regularly update their closet and dodge the “I don’t have anything to wear” dilemma while avoiding overconsumption and textile waste.
To explore this eco wardrobe concept in greater detail, I decided to catch up with Amandine Valcares, cofounder of Hylla Penderie, a clothing rental service based in Paris that puts sustainability at the core of what they do, while still offering colorful and stylish items too.
CM: What got you interested in sustainable fashion? What inspired the launch of Hylla Penderie?
AV: I was a real fashionista back then, addicted to shopping, at both vintage shops and fast fashion retailers but without necessarily realizing the impacts the industry has. I had a breakthrough while doing an internship in a sustainable communication agency about the lack of knowledge and guilt we consumers have on these issues and the need for awareness. When I was in Germany for my studies and my second internship, I discovered a concept called “Kleiderei”, which offers second hand, vintage clothing rental with the aim of promoting a sharing economy and sustainable fashion. I thought it was great for fashionistas like me who have an interest in sustainability but still want to look stylish. I had a blog back then on which I wrote an article about the sharing economy and [the concept of] Kleiderei and shared it on my LinkedIn account. And that’s how my current partner, Céline who was also in Germany for an internship, reached out and told me about the thesis she was writing on the topic of clothing rental and whether such model could be transposable to Paris. Céline had the idea about launching her clothing rental company in Paris and that’s how we met and started Hylla together – two years ago!
CM: Where does the name Hylla come from?AV: Since the concept is of Scandinavian inspiration, it’s a Swedish word meaning closet. We thought it was cute and memorable so here it is.
CM: Could you describe what Hylla is to someone who has never heard of it?
AV: Hylla is a shared closet, meaning women can rent out clothes thanks to a monthly subscription with the goal of reducing over consumption and clothing waste. We offer a monthly subscription which allows subscribers to take four articles per month either online or in the office and which includes cleaning and delivery everywhere in France.
The main goal is circular economy, reusing what’s been worn as our collection is mainly made of second hand pieces at the moment. 50 percent of the clothes come from our own selection in second hand shops (quality only!) and the other half comes from donation. Indeed, women who feel like sorting through their wardrobe can give to Hylla whether they are subscribers or not. If they are, they’ll receive the possibility to borrow more items the following month.
CM: If consumers like a piece, can they buy it?
AV: Absolutely! If there’s a crush on an item at the end of the rental period, consumers can buy it and this is exactly what we promote: a well-considered purchase following a period of reflection opposed to an impulse purchase made in the heat of the moment.
CM: As a professional in the industry, how do you think we could raise awareness about the impacts fashion to consumers?
AV: To me, it’s up to us, actors of the fashion industry to educate through our activity. At the moment, it’s true that we mainly reach individuals who are already committed to the environment, through sustainable fashion, zero waste or other aspects but we also educate consumers who are not necessary sensitized by showing them numbers about the industry’s impacts. The main challenge is to avoid blaming and rather promote style, trends and price as a priority.
CM: How do you see the evolution of the fashion industry in the coming years? More sustainability or have we reached a tipping point?
AV: From where [the brand stands], I can tell you that the demand is not extra strong yet. But I believe that new forms of consumption are to be introduced and will be successful.
It’s true that it’s particularly hard in Paris, where fashion is highly important and consumers like to possess clothes rather than use them but when you see that 10 years ago, it wasn’t even possible to consider sharing a car and now carpooling is a huge thing, I strongly believe in the evolution of our consumption patterns towards more sustainability thanks to education.
CM: As an entrepreneur do you have any inspirations? Someone you look up to?
AV: My inspiration is a woman who was able to promote ethical fashion in Paris (not an easy task!), Sakina M’sa. She is a Comoran designer who succeeded in sharing her point of view on sustainable yet desirable fashion and who remains true to herself and that includes refusing partnerships with fast fashion brands and major corporations.
CM: Where do you see Hylla in five years?
AV: I feel like I’m part of a generation that does not necessarily want to do the same job for 10-20 years so I see myself doing something else than Hylla as we’re young and have many doors open. As for Hylla, I feel and hope it will continue on growing and we will succeed in reaching the general public as we can not only rely on the niche of mindful consumers. To do so, we are counting on the press and the media but it’s not always easy in Paris, especially if you’re not talking about luxury. So we’re definitely using social media a lot and relying on influencers to share the word.
CM: How do you see the future of clothing rental services?
AV: I think it will spread but not as fast as other services and industries and definitely not as fast as in Northern countries but it feels like it is the right path to turn to, reusing the resources we already have rather than finding and producing new ones, and I strongly believe this is what the market will eventually shift into.
You can learn more about Hylla here.
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