Clothing rental is a fairly new concept in France, whereas the Scandinavian countries have been adopting it for some time now (always ahead of us… 😉 ). Coming from the Nordic countries, Erica and Oda set themselves a challenge: to become the largest Scandinavian style wardrobe in Europe. I attended their Clotheque‘s launch party, and I immediately liked the concept and style. That’s how I tested for a month the rental of a coat and a handbag. I will tell you more about my own experience in a second article dedicated to this brand, but in the meantime here is a long (but not uninteresting) interview I did with the creator.

Hello, could you introduce yourself in a few words please?

Hi! My name is Erica Nieminen, a Swedish speaking Finn based in Paris since a few years back.
Passionate about fashion, the sharing economy, sports, adventures & travel. I have a ridiculously positive “nothing is impossible attitude” and I get inspired by passionate and kind people.

I have a background in e-commerce, fashion, and strategic consulting education. My first entrepreneurial venture was a food truck that I co-founded with a swimmer friend in Finland.

When did you start Clotheque and how did you come up with the idea?

Clothèque started out as a conversation between the two co-founders around a cup of coffee, complaining over the stupidity of having a closet filled with clothes and nothing to wear. Oda, the other co-founder was invited to a handful of weddings a summer ago and did not have anything to wear, neither did she want to buy something new. So I offered to borrow a dress to her, and then all of a sudden everything made sense and the idea of collaborative fashion startup something got started, and the concept of Clothèque was starting to take form.

The choice to focus on only Scandinavian style came very natural since the both co-founders are from the north, myself from Finland and Oda from Norway. Scandinavian style and fashion has always been close to our hearts and felt like a natural choice to focus on.
“Fashion libraries” have already existed for quite a few years in the Nordic countries, so this was also a part of the inspiration for the idea. The closeness to nature, sustainability and sharing solutions are a part of the nordic DNA and these are also the very foundations of Clothèque and our values.

Can you tell us more about the Scandinavian style?

For me, Scandinavian style is laid-back but still extremely sophisticated, functional, classy and easy to wear.
Comfortable and stylish at the same time, luxurious meeting playful, and with a phenomenal attention for detail.

Sustainability has always been a part of the Scandinavian style, where we appreciate high quality long lasting pieces that can be worn for years and only getting better with time. Scandinavian style used to be very minimalistic and sharp but has been evolving towards a more colorful and edgy landscape today, yet very casual and cool.

What is your solution to combat pollution in the textile industry?

I believe that renting is an excellent option to consume smarter and make more conscious choices. By exchanging a part of buying to renting, you can already save enormous amounts of ressources in regards to overproduction, waste, water, transportation, plastic….. By renting we are increasing the lifecycle of the clothes and offering an alternative towards fast fashion and in the end game try to combat against over production.
All of this without having to compromise on your style or following seasons and trends to some extent.

I also believe that buy less but better is a golden rule. Be conscious about your choices, do some homework and go for quality over quantity.
It is the consumers that have the power in the long run. If we stop buying certain products, eventually they will stop being produced.

For which occasion is it best to rent clothes for Clotheque?

Clothèque is really a solution for any occasion. We wish for you to see us as your cool sister’s wardrobe that you can walk in to whenever you want, and use anything that you find!

You can see Clothèque as a way for you to update your everyday style, changing your coats according to the seasons, getting new bags for every month, trying out new brands and trends without having to actually buy something that you will only use for a limited amount of time.

Other occasions that Clothèque is really a great alternative is for all those special occasions when you need a fancy twist to your outfit. Just to name a few: weddings, New Yea’s party, Cocktails, formal ceremonies, when you really want to shine and be the star for a night.

How do you see the future of your brand?

The long term goal is to become Europes biggest Scandinavian wardrobe, and to being a part of creating a more sustainable fashion world where renting is as normal as buying.

There are still many things to do, and renting is a relatively new concept so people will need some time to adjust – but why not give it a try?
There are always things to improve and to constantly keep developing the brand and adapting it to the needs of the customers is obviously something on the agenda. We also strive to keep our selected portfolio of brands very exclusive but constantly updating it with new brands.
Psst we have some exciting newcomers coming up very soon….

Do you have a few words to say about your vision of ethical fashion?

I believe that first of all we need to define all the terms that exists among us “eco-fashionistas”. Slow fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable fashion, eco-fashion. It is easy to get lost in all the terminology and really know what we are all talking about. Essentially they are almost all the same things but with the focus put on different aspects of the people, environment, production or ethics.

It almost goes without mentioning, but the most of us we want to be able to feel and look good in the clothes we are wearing while also having a good conscience about it. Then on the other hand, we do not want to compromise on our way of dressing and expressing ourselves via fashion.

I believe that it is a mistake to make people feel guilty about not consuming like this, buying only these exact products etc… making sustainable choices should be fun, easy, natural and exciting – and moreover without having to compromise on your style!

I believe that our generation can be a part of changing the future of ethical/slow/sustainable fashion but only if we realize the pros and cons of both sustainable and fast fashion.

Speaking of the very term, ethical fashion, for me this term is referring to ethics of how the clothes were made, the conditions that the workers are having such as minimum wage, human rights, child labor, safety of the working facilities etc. No official definition is provided, and the definition might vary from person to person. The main goal of ethical fashion is the same – to minimize the negative impacts that the fashion industry is having on the world and the workers in the industry. Ethical fashion also refers to how the actual raw materials were made and during what conditions. Key takeaway from the term ethical fashion is human rights.

Clothèque is not only a platform for fashion renting, but also an entire concept around Scandinavian style, values, and activities. We want to spread some of that Danish hygge & Norvegian Koselig a little bit of the Swedish minimalism & lagom , and the Finnish Sisu to everyone.

A little vocabulary:
hygge & koselig: a feeling of well-being, a joyful mood and an intimate and warm atmosphere.
Sisu: sisu is a Finnish word with no exact equivalent in French, with a meaning close to “courage”, “tenacity”, “perseverance” or “determination”, which is a true state of mind in Finland.
lagom: Lagom is a Swedish adverb reputed to be untranslatable, meaning approximately “average”, “fairly” or “optimal”. It is frequently used among Swedes to refer to a quantity or quality that is neither too much nor too little.