Fashion for rent

Lease instead of buy: This is now also possible for jeans and evening dresses. Does that help against the mountains of rubbish? Germans alone throw away a million tons of clothing every year.

Mud has leased 12,500 jeans to customers so far.

Eine jeans are jeans – and not a car. Or is it? At least as far as the purchase is concerned, a fashion designer tries out a surprising parallel: With the Dutch jeans brand “Mud”, customers can buy or lease their jeans, i.e. rent them for a limited period of time. Just like in a car dealership, where leasing is the most normal thing in the world. Around half of customers decide to buy a car, the other half to lease a car.

“Why shouldn’t that also work in fashion?” Asks textile entrepreneur Bert van Son. His customers pay 7.50 euros a month for their leased jeans. After a year you can keep the pants or send them back. Then you get a 10 euro discount when you order a new model. Whatever you choose, in the end you should return the jeans so the Dutch can recycle them.

In this way, the customer does not save any money (whether bought or leased, the mud jeans cost around 100 euros), but it relieves the burden on his wardrobe, in which a lot of old clothes are often piled up. And those who rent the trousers can count themselves among the good guys. After all, it does something for the environment – and thus for a clear conscience: Those who do not buy, but lease or rent, conserve resources, save the climate, reduce the size of the piles of rubbish, one of the evils of our time.

One truckload of clothing every second ends up in the trash

Renting fashion is an answer to this, an even more delicate trend on the way from the eco-corner to the middle-class clientele. Bert van Son’s leasing jeans are just one example of how the fashion industry is discovering its green heart. The alternative to the disposable fashion from Primark & ​​Co., where teenagers buy bags of cheap clothes that they bury in the back of the closet or throw away after wearing them two or three times because a new look is hip or the loosely cobbled together pieces fall apart.

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„Upcycling“: How used clothing can be turned into new, unique itemsImage: Manufacturer

It can’t go on like this, said the Dutchman van Son, who worked in the textile industry in Europe and Asia for 30 years and saw pretty much everything that he thought was going wrong there. Lots of chemicals are needed to manufacture a piece of clothing, ten percent of the pesticides used worldwide and a quarter of insecticides are caused by cotton production. A fashion freak shouldn’t even think about the consumption of water (up to 10,000 liters per pair of jeans), and the working conditions in the vast majority of factories are also sufficiently lamented. And then all the rubbish!

Every second of the day, a truckload of clothing is thrown away, most of it a few weeks old, a third even unworn. In Germany alone, almost a million tons of shirts, jackets and trousers load into the clothes container every year – with a wide variety of destinations, from the clothing store for refugees to the second-hand markets in Africa or a garbage dump in Asia.

German recycling master

At the age of 50, Bert van Son decided to put his savings into building a fashion label that does everything differently. The promise to customers: fair working conditions and sustainable management. This includes the fact that the company Mud-Jeans reworks their old, worn trousers into new ones. One part is being redesigned as “vintage” jeans with rips and patches. The majority, however, is recycled.

In a factory in Spain, buttons and zippers are cut out, then the used goods are chopped into pieces, until only the cotton fibers are left. The Dutch then use these to make new jeans in a plant in Tunisia, although they have to add at least 60 percent new organic cotton in order to achieve the required quality. “We want to further increase the recycling rate,” says the entrepreneur, who delivers to 28 European countries and Australia. Most of his customers come from Germany: “The Germans love the jeans and the idea behind our concept.”