While environmentally minded voices and documentary films such as The True Cost and River Blue have helped shine some light on the dark side of the apparel sector—arguably one of the most polluting industries in the world—it appears that many of us are, unfortunately, turning a blind eye to these effects.
In fact, a recent report by Greenpeace Germany estimates that the average person purchases 60 percent more clothing items than he or she did 15 years ago.
What’s worse, perhaps, is that we’re keeping the articles for only half as long, fuelling a rapid, throwaway society that raises greenhouse gas emissions, introduces harmful chemicals into our water and land, and depletes the Earth of valuable resources, among other consequences.
It’s an unsustainable model that drove former fashion designer Kim Luu to establish Flaunt Fashion Library, a local boutique that offers designer dress rentals to eco-conscious fashionistas and those shopping for special events on a budget.
“That was the ultimate driver for me,” Luu tells the Straight by phone. “I wanted to find a way where I could still have all the clothes that I wanted but without always buying new. I did not want more stuff in my closet.”
After test-driving the idea online with family and friends over the last year, Luu opened a studio space at 215–119 West Pender Street in November, where clients may try on various frocks from Flaunt’s inventory in-person. Among the styles available are chic, colour-block dresses by Diane von Furstenberg; sparkly, New Year’s Eve–ready numbers by BCBG Max Azria and Alice + Olivia; and floor-skimming chiffon gowns by Halston Heritage.
Once the shopper—or borrower, in this case—has found the perfect dress, he or she may opt for a four- or eight-day rental. Rentals start at $45, including dry cleaning, and clients can pick up their items up to two days before their respective events.
Dresses may be returned in-person on the studio’s next opening day or shipped back in the provided mail bag. “No one’s been disappointed so far, so I’m happy,” notes Luu of Flaunt’s selection, which she describes as “sexy, modern, and youthful”.
Many of Flaunt’s designer dresses are sourced from consignment stores or purchased directly from their previous owners, though Luu occasionally buys brand-new items as well. The style-savvy Vancouverite also offers a 9-to-5 wardrobe rental service at her Gastown boutique, where she helps clients put together work-appropriate outfits that they may rent for one month at a time.
Given the city’s green reputation, Luu hopes that the studio will become a hub of conversation surrounding sustainable fashion among consumers, industry insiders, and brands. She also urges more residents to consider renting their special-ocassion rather than purchasing it brand new—especially as we enter a time of year typically marked by parties, get-togethers, and other formal wear–requiring shindigs.
“I’m hoping this will make it easy for consumers to be part of something green—without even having to do anything, you know?” she says. “I’m hoping it will be an easy transition for most people.”