We all are familiar with the motto sharing is caring. Applied to the pursuit of making the fashion industry more sustainable, I am proud to be a founding member of The Nu Wardrobe! This new innovative app is pioneering the way we look to dress & alter our fashion decision making processes. The rise of the sharing economy via platforms such as The Nu Wardrobe using tech for good have extended our closets and clothes life cycles alike.
Having won the 2017 London City challenge to provide circular fashion solutions to LDN & the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers programme, the 3 key pillars of this community are:
- Access a revolving wardrobe – choosing from 100’s of beautiful pieces and experimenting in curating your own style
- Being part of the climate solution – doing right by the planet and borrowing instead of buying. You are able to more easily and trade the reduction of your carbon and water fashion footprint
- Giving your wallet a break – wearing a variety of quality pieces without costing the earth. This involves paying once rather than per piece for your membership!
The launch event took place in August where this likeminded sustainable fashion tribe met to inaugurate The Nu Wardrobe!
For a 6 month platform membership (£35 / £5.80 a month) we are currently playing with the content, exploring the tech sneak peaks, connecting clothes and accessories with homes in this community where they will be loved.
How does it work?
- Upload X3 items (this includes clothing, accessories and shoes) quality only makes it onto the platform
- Browse the wardrobe
- Arrange borrows in the Nu Chat space (to be used for arranging the returns as well, also to ensure security for both users)
- Meet up and share (there is also a borrower lender contract built into the user process to ensure both parties are protected in case of damages/unreturnable conditions)
- Wear the clothes (there is no specific time limit on how long you are able to borrow the clothes for!! It could be a one occasion dress or a winter season coat, the limit does not exist, the main intention is to cultivate a platform that provides a home to garments that already exist and would otherwise be in landfill!
- Return the outfit!
In Conversation with Aisling Byrne, The Nu Wardrobe Founder
Aisling’s passion and drive for this shared community is infectious, I caught up with her to give a little more context to The Nu Wardrobe.
Q: What inspired you to start The Nu Wardrobe?
A: I spent the Summer in India in 2013, the same year as the Rana Plaza building collapse that killed over 1,100 people. I was always interested in fashion but before this I had only ever thought about it as something on the shop floor and from the perspective of a designer. I had never considered where my clothes came from and what happened to them after they left my wardrobe.
Whilst, in India I saw first-hand the devastating social and environmental impacts of fashion. The amount of pollution was terrifying and I was exposed to how truly exploitative the industry was to garment workers. I was angry that I had been complicit in this but also felt completely lost as to what to do. The industry is so global and has so much power that it’s hard to think of how you can change it.
I came home, a broke university student, and two years later met my friend Ali who had also had the same experience. To us sustainable fashion solutions often felt far away, a luxury, and something we couldn’t afford. We began searching for alternatives and it didn’t take us long to realise that we were already doing something about it.
For nearly every event that would happen we’d borrow clothes from friends – clothes would constantly get passed around and have far better social lives than us! This turns out to be one of the most sustainable things anyone can do, simply get wear out of the clothes we already have.
It was sometimes complicated, but always wonderful to borrow and outfit and wear something ‘new to you’. And so, we started building The Nu Wardrobe – a social network to share clothes with women in your local area, the same way you would share with friends.
(for some context – myself and Ali set it up but she got offered a masters at Oxford and left to pursue that – she’s now super involved in the London community. I left my job and started working full-time on Nu, moving to London in April 2018 and by April 2019 had built a team (some full-time, some part-time) Masha, Gráinne, and Lucas and raised our first round of funding)
Q: How important do you think community is in the sustainable fashion movement?
A: I think community is vital to the success of the sustainable fashion movement. We are in a race against time to find solutions that help us to reduce the impacts of climate change and we won’t be able to do this alone. We can get there faster collectively through sharing ideas and supporting each other.Aisling, The Nu Wardrobe Founder
One of the hardest things about watching the world burn around us is that so many people feel so powerless to do anything about it – being part of a community of people who understand, feel the same and are also looking for solutions can be a real motivation to keep going.
Q: What are your thoughts on the shared economy?
A: I love the sharing economy. I don’t really understand why we own so many things individually that we never use. The way I see it, nothing is ever really ours to keep anyway.
Everything we own is made from finite natural resources and I believe that as owners of these ‘products’ we have a responsibility to give them a full life. If we can’t do this individually, which is the case with so many of the things we own, we must organise ourselves to do this collectively. The sharing economy is a perfect example of this. However, I do feel that the ‘rental’ economy is often dubbed the ‘sharing’ economy – I see them as two different things as rental can often be inaccessible to many people and in order to really solve our climate problem, we must be creating solutions that are accessible to all.
Q: Where are your favourite places to find clothes?
A: My friend’s wardrobes! Or just generally looking at what the people around me wear. I love to see how people style pieces and this always helps to influence how I’ll build my own wardrobe.
I love a good thrift shop or ethical and sustainable brands like Birdsong, London and Veja – I rarely buy clothes anymore though – I share and borrow them on Nu!
Q: If you could change one thing about the fashion industry, what would it be?
A: AH, just 1!?
The model of fast-fashion – the very specific model of producing millions of garments (sold for a cheap price) from polluting materials with quick turnaround times, exploitative conditions and deliberately constantly changing trends.
This model is the root of fashion’s social and environmental impact – no matter what brands say they cannot continue with this model and produce clothing in a sustainable and ethical way.
Q: Who is your sustainable fashion icon?
A: Livia Firth – pioneer of the Green Carpet Challenge, co-producer of The True Cost documentary, and founder of Eco-Age fashion sustainability consultancy.
Q: What is your favourite sustainable fashion brand?
A: Birdsong.London – they are the best! All their pieces are designed and made in East-London in partnership with women’s groups.
Q: What is your most beloved second hand piece that sits in your wardrobe?
A: My dusty pink summer jacket. I was just looking for a piece like this for a year and one day it came into my life at a swap shop! Love at first sight.
Q: Starting a platform is no simple feat, what have you found most exciting and also the most challenging aspects of this?
A: One thing I did find challenging was getting support. I’ve talked to lots of people who belittled our idea, told me it would never work, brushed it off as ‘a little lifestyle business’ (mostly older white men) and I spent way too much time listening to them and giving what they said weight, when actually they were not the people putting themselves out there each and every day for something they truly believed in. I think with anything like this, there is a chance the business may not flourish, a chance that whatever it is people are trying to achieve might not happen in the end – but my view on actual failure now is that it simply doesn’t exist. I’ve had the most amazing experiences, met wonderful people and learned more than I ever could in a lecture hall. Most importantly – I’ve built an incredible relationship with myself – because I stopped making decisions based on the words of other people and started making them based on my own thoughts, values, and aspirations – so no matter what the outcome I can own those decisions as my own and keep going without regrets.
I think the most exciting thing is getting to wake up every day to work on something that I really care about and believe in – it is a real privilege.
Final words for your hope and vision for The Nu Wardrobe?
Ultimately, what we’re hoping to build with Nu is a global clothing sharing movement. We are developing a blueprint so that people anywhere in the world can establish a Nu sharing community in their local area and with the right support and tools that location can begin sharing on the nu app. For anyone interested in joining Nu in London or starting a Nu sharing community in your own area you can sign up here.
As we continue to explore the app, stay tuned and follow via social channels for updates. You can read more about The The Nu Wardrobe’s mission and follow the journey here!