Friday, 22 February 2013

You Don't Own These Jeans

We've all, at some point in our lives, come up against the concept of clothes rental. If you've even been on the top table at a wedding, you'll understand the acute squirming embarrasment of paying a small fortune for uncomfortable clothes that don't quite fit.
In some ways, though, clothes rental makes sense from an eco-point of view, especially if you bear in mind the mantra of Pier Crush Vivienne Westwood's Climate Revolution: Buy Less, Spend More, Make It Last.
Dutch company Mud Jeans are taking this model to the streets, by offering a package which lets you rent a pair of their designer jeans for a year. Here's the breakdown. 20 euros for deposit and admin, then 80 euros spread over twelve months. At the end of the period, you either keep the jeans, send them back, or pay a bit extra and get a new pair. The jeans will either be washed, repaired and reused or shredded and returned to the factory. They're made from fine Turkish organic cotton, and come in several fits and styles. Great idea, no?
Well... no. I get the concept, but the idea simply hasn't been applied to the real world. What happens if you get the jeans and they don't fit properly, or you simply don't like them? What happens if your body shape changes over the course of the rental period? What happens if the shape goes catastrophically off-style, or your tastes change? What happens if, as is the case with most of the pricier jeans I've worn over the years, the seams start going after six months? And why on earth would you pay more money to simply send the jeans back after a year, leaving you with nothing for your €120 investment?
The idea sounds great for Mud Jeans, but I'm worried about the impermanent nature of the enterprise. Renting clothes for a one-off occasion makes sense, but for a long period you'd need to be wearing the jeans all the time to make the investment worthwhile, leading to increased wear and tear. And if they start looking tatty, you're more likely to stop wearing them, and all of a sudden you're paying five euros a month for something that's just taking up hanger space. Couching the idea in green or sustainable terms doesn't make it any less of a bad idea for the consumer.

In fact, if you were feeling uncharitable, you could level the accusation that Mud Jeans were designing their rental clothes to fall apart over the course of the year, making the customer more inclined to carry on spending their hard-earned on a new fresh pair while returning the old goods for repair or reuse. A very cheeky way of building a cradle-to-cradle model, don't you think?
As you might have guessed, I won't be investing in a pair of Mud Jeans, although I'll be interested to see if the idea takes off. The subscription model can be made to work--I'm an enthusiastic user of Spotify, the music streaming service. But then, the sounds I choose to listen to are always fresh and there's a ton of choice. Unlike Mud Jeans, which will offer me one pair of denims that's going to look very battered very quickly. I know which model works best for me.

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