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 Kleiderei Köln | Photo: Dörthe Boxberg
Kleiderei Köln | Photo: Dörthe Boxberg

Fashion in Cologne

created by Katja Peglow | |   urban culture

Cologne’s Kleiderei is a prime example of sustainable fashion consumption

Only by sharing garments can we extend their lifetime

You still can’t seem to find a suitable outfit, even though your wardrobe is bursting at the seams? For two years now, the eclectic style mix of Cologne’s Kleiderei has been providing a remedy to shopping fatigue and the familiar problem of feeling like you have nothing to wear. In its only offline bricksand-mortar store, the online rental shop for everyday clothing offers everything from elaborately embroidered denim jackets, casual overalls by Yves Saint Laurent from the 1980s and feminine floral dresses in vintage hippie style on its beautifully presented clothing racks. The store opened in 2016 in Cologne’s hip neighbourhood of Ehrenfeld (Venloer Strasse 459) under the management of vintage and slow-fashion lover Lena Schröder. She explains the original concept as follows: “We’re a second-hand shop but what makes us unique is that we offer memberships. A perfect offer for people who like to have variety in their wardrobe, but still don’t want to indulge in consumerism. That means you’ll have more space in your wardrobe at home, and a huge selection waiting for you in our store!”

For a fixed monthly flat rate of 25 euros, or 22 euros for students, customers can borrow four garments from the collec tion at a time. As soon as a garment is brought back, members can choose another one to take home with them. “As often as you want!” emphasises Schröder, who describes Kleiderei as an “outsourced wardrobe”, which, since its renovation last autumn, now also offers menswear.

The idea of ownerless clothing comes from the founders Pola Fendel and T hekla Wilkening, both in their late 20s, originally from Cologne and meanwhile based in Hamburg, which is where they also opened their first pop-up store based on the sharing economy. To set up their first permanent store, however, the two young entrepreneurs were only too happy to return to their old hometown. And in Lena Schröder (who Wilkening did a work experience placement with), they found the perfect partner for the Cologne branch, where, until recently, Schröder had been running her upcycling label Trinkhallen Schickeria. Now in her mid-30s, Lena Schröder is well networked in the local fashion scene, regularly organises design markets in Cologne and also finds the time to run the hipster fashion boutique Todd at Brüsseler Platz. “But for the concept to work, we also have to sell clothing,” emphasises Schröder, pointing out that, as well as exceptional vintage pieces, the collection also includes a lot of bespoke fashion from smaller local Cologne labels. Schröder is also entering more and more into exclusive cooperations with young designers who produce sustainably and fairly. After all, the sale of second-hand clothes or fair fashion is also a big step towards more sustainable consumerism. For customers it has also become increasingly important over the last few years to treat resources more responsibly, especially in times of dwindling resources and increasing pollution. Throwing clothes away is definitely out: only by sharing them can we extend the lifespan of garments to a maximum.

And so far, the concept has been going down well in the cathedral city. The store has been able to almost double its number of memberships in the last six months. “Our ethos is all about keeping the fun in fashion but still acting sustainably,” sums up Schröder. And she’s on the right path: statistically, one out of five items of clothing bought is never worn, so Kleiderei is definitely an important step in the right direction.

Kleiderei Köln, Venloer Strasse 459, 50825 Cologne

(by Katja Peglow)