Rent your clothes, change the world

Rent your clothes, change the world

Posted On

Aug 20, 2018

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Looking for a job can be as expensive as it is stressful. In addition to needing great answers for possible interview question, job seekers also need to have something professional to wear to that interview. This is where clothing libraries come in. New York Public Library members are now able to borrow everything from suits to briefcases to help them make a great impression on potential employers. Some branches of the Philadelphia Public Library have set up a “Tie-brary” of neckties members can sign out.

For folks in Toronto, we’re happy to report a similar service is also being offered a little closer to home. Very close to home, actually. 215 Spadina is now the site of the Fresh Fashion Library, a pilot project of Fresh Rents (who came to us via Agents of Change: Climate Solutions, a program out of our Climate Ventures initiative).

We checked in with co-founders Samia Syed and Zoey Wen (seen sharing a high-five below) to get their thoughts on what public libraries are doing to help folks get jobs, and what role social enterprise can also play.

What is your biggest hope for the Fresh Fashion Library and Fresh Rents? What does the world look like if all those hopes come true?
Our hope for the Fresh Fashion Library (and FreshRents) is to create a network of local, community based hubs around the world where people can access, exchange, and recycle fashion items waste-free, guilt-free, and hassle-free. We envision a world where borrowing is more attractive than buying, and access is valued over ownership; people are conscious about the impact of their purchases, and companies about their production practices.

What do you think of what the New York Public Library is doing? What do you think it would take for something like it to happen here?
We love seeing other clothing libraries around the world! The program offered at the New York Public Library is cool because it’s available to all library members for free (as long as there are low or no fines on their account), which makes this service very accessible. The long lending period (up to 3 weeks) allows adequate time for someone undergoing the job-searching process to attend multiple interviews without having to worry about their wardrobe. Although similar concepts already exist in Toronto through companies such as Dress for Success, the level of accessibility is still limited to a subset of people and primarily focused on women. As a city, we believe that we already have everything we need to make something like the New York Library program happen here; the key factors being people, inventory and space.

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Is someone able to “sponsor” a rental, to allow another woman to use the library for something like a job interview even if they can’t afford it?
Absolutely! FreshRents was founded on the premise of Sisterhood so we can help each other out in times of fashion / styling needs (check it out in our blog). Members may purchase and transfer their library credits/points to someone else by simply dropping us a note with the request.

How is the Fashion Library different from Fresh Rents?
FreshRents is a pay-per-use rental service of designer dresses / occasion wear that is available to all public through our website freshrents.co. It’s perfect for those looking for a special outfit for specific occasions / events, but do not want to break the bank and buy something they’ll likely never wear again. The fashion library on the other hand, is a subscription based service that is currently only open to a small group of pilot members. It is designed to serve as a compliment to your basic closet of essentials, carrying both casual wear as well as occasion wear – ideal for those who are looking to replace a part of their regular clothing purchases Our goal is to merge the two within the next couple months and extend both service models to all women in the city.

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How can CSI members (or anyone!) get involved in either project?
Both projects are built on the foundation of our community and we rely on member participation to grow and succeed together. Members or non-members can get involved with Fresh in multiple ways:

  1. Lend: instead of throwing away underused items or having them sit in your closet, lend them to us and earn cash for each rental transaction or credits towards your library card.
  2. Borrow: instead of buying a trendy piece you may only wear once or twice, borrow from us so you can keep your closet clear and your wallet full.
  3. Become a partner or affiliate: we’re always excited to work with other businesses or brands on various collaborations. Just drop us a note (hello@freshrents.co) and we’d be happy to discuss.

BONUS QUESTION: What do you think was the most socially innovative part of Beyoncé’s cover story in September’s Vogue?

Beyoncé’s cover story was very powerful and inspiring in so many ways. Her belief on Freedom in particular really resonated with us. Our creativity when it comes to how we think, act, dress, is often limited as a result of our own preconceived notions or societal norms, and stereotypes. We love that Beyonce uses her performances (ie Coachella and OTR II) to push the boundaries of creativity and create positive social change among men and women across the globe.

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Do you have a big idea that can change the world? Become a CSI member, and let us help make it happen.