With no mercy, the phenomenon of sharing economy is eroding every industry and business type. Cars, houses, boats, services – all the things we used to pay for and own are now becoming shareable. Internet is an immense trading platform, removing the need for an institution. With Car2Go, ZipCar and the likes, driving a car in the city centre is a “pick-and-drop” experience – just as liberating as riding a bike was before. No parking, fines or maintenance costs. Airbnb can give the luxury of short stay. That is, for those who can do without luxury service. All of this is clever, but also incredibly efficient. The promise of fewer products, less pollution and more opportunity from asset ownership seems to be within a reach.
The phenomenon of sharing is moving into the personal space. Social climbers and skirt chasers of this world can now rent an expensive wristwatch thanks to sites like Eleven James or HauteVault. A Chanel handbag for just €130 per month is just as attractive an offer. The online platforms that work so well in luxury cannot be replicated in the traditional fashion domain. One cannot try on a suit or a shirt through the display of an iPhone. Platforms like Rent the Runway – the Amazon of fashion retail – are genuinely interesting, but require a lot of courage, because they are purely online based. And so an obvious gap in the market has emerged – one that it did not take long to fill.
LENA, the fashion library is moving the “new” of sharing into the physical world. At times taking a step back means progress. The membership gives access to a full closet of vintage and designer clothes at a fraction of the price. To make the idea of sharing complete, members can bring their own clothes as a loan. As simple as it seems, the small shop in Amsterdam has a revolutionary potential. Less waste, more enjoyment. A sense of community in place of bloodthirsty capitalism.
LENA, like the entire sharing economy, is much more a social phenomenon than a genuinely new business idea. Millennials – a sad generation of 20-somethings. A cohort of young people that got out of college just in the midst of the worst financial crisis in 2007 only to have their middle-class dreams crushed. Millennials are not greedy or possessive. Millennials are deliberate, slow to decide and always prepared to wait. Unlike their parents, they do not revel in “over-consumption” – the shallow pursuit of buy-to-get-rid-of. It is not the sharing economy that gives promise of a better future. It is the way in which we have all changed.