Two friends and one idea: Thekla Wilkening and Pola Fendel started Germany's first "apparel library" in Hamburg two years ago. At the end of last year, they finally took Kleiderei online. Here, the two explain the context of their idea, what obstacles they had to overcome and how important the social media aspect is for their website. Interview by Juliette Tafreschi

What is the history and background of Kleiderei?
Kleiderei is Germany’s first clothes sharing platform. We started it as a shop in Hamburg two years ago and launched kleiderei.com in December 2014. The basic idea of a “clothes flatrate” always stays the same: you register, pay a monthly fee (34 EUR) and choose the clothes you like. You rent them until you get bored - then you send them back and choose new favorites. Buying less and using what is already produced is the most sustainable way of consuming fashion, so Kleiderei is not only saving your wardrobe - everyone who is taking part is helping to make the world a little better.

Can you describe how the website is structured and how it works?
The site is powered by an eCommerce System called "Boutique", which has been created by Atelier Disko and customized especially for us.

Customers can select different looks at Kleiderei.com
Customers can select different looks at Kleiderei.com

How did the website originate? When did you launch it and what was the initial reaction?
We got so many questions from different cities in Germany that we felt the need to give everyone a chance to be part of Kleiderei. Launching a website seemed natural and the best way to make the idea available 24/7, even for tiny tiny villages. The reaction after the launch was overwhelming. We had so many registrations and love letters, we never ever thought of - we really were and are extremely happy and grateful.

How many members does the site currently have and how many are you looking to have in the long run?
That’s a secret of course. But we doubled the number of memberships already in the first month of kleiderei.com - and we are expecting a great new year.

How often do you update the site?
We're continually updating the site and adding new features along the way. Never stop. One doesn't have an eCommerce site, you must run it.

How have you evolved since the website has launched?
Ever since the launch, Kleiderei suddenly felt like evolving from an idea to a real business. In a very good way. A “the baby grew up” kinda way - more work and more power, professionalization and maybe most important: we learned to give away competences and to really fucking focus. We closed the shop which is sad of course, but it was way too local for the greatness of the idea and it was eating up all the time we needed for other things. So basically we went from a small store to a nationwide start-up that might change clothes consumption forever.

What have been the biggest challenges of running the site thus far (problems)? And the greatest joys?
Performance wise: 4,000 simultaneous users active on the site. Not a problem thanks to the fine preparation work and technical skills of our agency. The biggest problem is actually the greatest joy: the great success of it! We didn’t expect it at all so we didn’t have enough clothes online and beneath a few days EVERYTHING was borrowed. It’s unbelievable, we always lag behind, photographing and uploading new stuff as fast as we can and it’s still never enough.

What services are you offering through it right now?
You can either chose four pieces and have them shipped to you, or you chose less than four and have your box filled up by our stylists. A surprise box based on your style. We call that curated borrowing and it is big fun, we promise!

Selection of brands that Kleiderei.com is offering
Selection of brands that Kleiderei.com is offering
What new services or columns are you planning to add in the near or long-term run?
In April kleiderei.com will also feature a shop where we present our design cooperation and sell selected pieces in addition to the renting. Long-term plans are an internet forum to enhance the community feeling and to give like-minded people the chance to exchange their thoughts, comment on favorite pieces, give outfit tips and and and. Another long-term plan is of course to grow step by step from national to international.

How do you stay in touch with your members? How important is the social network aspect for this website?
The social component is super important to us and to the costumers. In the whole shareconomy TRUST is a key word: You share stuff, you wanna know who you are sharing it with, who is behind it, etc. So we use social media to introduce us and Kleiderei members. We always answer personally to personal mails and requests and write all our texts ourselves. Plus: the more fun something is, the more likely you are to join. That is our philosophy, you won’t change the people by telling them what they do wrong, but by showing them how much fun the alternative is and that message is best transported in social media.

Which section, service or part of the website do you personally like the most?
The blogging and the curated borrowing definitely for they are the most interactive and creative parts.