LANA is creating a platform for you to rent out your own wardrobe. They are finishing up their MVP and will be launching this October in Australia.
Mike: How did this great idea come about ?
Edda: In 2011, I co-founded a runway show called Undress Runways. It’s a fashion show that promotes sustainability and ethical fashion on the runway. It’s an annual show where we showcase everything from swimwear to couture collections that have been made sustainably.
We are based in Australia and we’ve toured to Sydney and Melbourne. Our goal is to educate and inspire people to be more conscious consumers of clothing.
Undress is ongoing, we did our last show at the end of last year but we’re putting it on pause for now to focus on a new concept.
After six years of educating and inspiring a change to shift the market towards a more sustainable consumption, we are still not seeing a big change in people’s shopping habits.
Mike: What do you think would impact more change in people’s habits?
Edda: I think it comes down to the accessibility of sustainable fashion. It is perceived to be difficult to find and expensive, which is not always the case but sometimes that’s true.
Sustainable fashion comes at a more premium price than fast fashion, as it should! We’re used to paying $20 for garments, which is silly. Clothes are expensive to produce so when you see a $20 price tag you know that someone in that supply chain wasn’t looked after properly.
I think it does take a serious commitment and a major shift in your relationship with clothes to have a sustainable wardrobe. You really have to rethink your yearslong habits.
The new idea was to create a tool that could change people’s habits without them even realizing that they were being sustainable. I thought if we could create a community and facilitate the action of sharing clothing by renting, then that would be a huge sustainable move.
When you hire a beautiful designer dress, it doesn’t really feel like you’re being sustainable. If it’s beautiful and super affordable and gets delivered right to your door, then it’ll be a better option than spending heaps of money on clothes at the shops. That’s the goal. It’s like sneaky sustainability.
Mike: Could you tell us more about your pricing model?
Edda: Anyone who uploads their items to the platform sets their own price and we just approve it before it goes live.
There’s no subscription or upfront costs, so you can join for free. Just upload your clothes and you’re set to go. LANA then takes a 15% commission on items that get rented out.
Mike: What about the shipping, delivery or returns?
Edda: At the moment, it is a face-to-face exchange between the owner and the borrower. We’re the platform that connects people, but we want to integrate a courier system or a ride-share option where you could order a car to pick up your item and get it delivered. That’s something that we’re playing around with at the moment in our live beta test.
We are also looking into offering a wardrobe management service. For example, if you’ve got a couple of jackets in your wardrobe that you really can’t be bothered with the hassle of renting them out, we can do it for you. You just need to let us know by shipping the clothing pieces to us and we’ll make sure to put it on our platform and send you the money once it gets rented out.
Mike: What do you believe will be your biggest challenge in making this a success?
Edda: I’ve got a few different challenges, but I’d say that the first challenge is normalizing what we’re doing.
It is going to take a shift in societal attitudes, which might take a couple of years to get to. Soon we will get to a point where it actually feels normal for you to put your clothes on the internet and for other people to borrow them. We hope to boost this process through educating and ensuring our platform is safe and secure to use.
I think we’ve also lost the ability to take care of our clothes like people used to in the 50s. Back then, clothes were investment pieces that you really looked after. Today, we live in a real “throw away” clothing culture – because of the increasing variety of cheap fast fashion labels. The ability to repair items and knowing the best way to wash things isn’t common knowledge to young people these days.
“I don’t know if we’ll be able to bring back the repairing skills and respect for clothes that people had in the ‘50s – and I don’t think it’s realistic that the mainstream will go back to that DIY culture. But I think textile technology will introduce new fabrics that might be self-cleaning or don’t tear, or are just easy to look after.”
Do we know how to get 100 wears out of our clothes today? For the shared economy to work, we have to be able to rent out our clothes over and over again.
Mike: What has been you biggest challenge as an entrepreneur ?
Edda: Raising money is always a challenge!
Getting sponsors onboard for the runway show or raising capital for LANA – it’s not an easy job.
I’m constantly pitching my businesses as a sustainable step forward of the fashion industry. I think my ideas are often a little too early for the market, that’s why I often get
responses like “No, this is just a trend, it’s not a part of the future”. I used to hear that a lot when I was pitching sustainable fashion back in 2011.
I do enjoy the challenge even though it can be frustrating.
Mike: What would you consider your biggest character strength?
Edda: I’m not sure whether it’s my patience and persistence or my ability to build a really good team.
In terms of our success, or how far we’ve come, it’s definitely thanks to the team. It’s important to have an alternative approach to team building and creating an organization that is really centered around the team. You have to rethink the workplace when you are working with a lot of volunteers. At Undress, no one was paid, not even myself. We were like professional volunteers.
I’ve been working with the same team for nearly six years now and most of them have moved from the runway show over to LANA. And some of us are finally starting to get paid!
“When you spend years being a volunteer at your own organization, you really have to design a work environment where you love to go to work everyday.”
It’s taken a lot of time to figure out and develop a team structure and culture where everyone feels happy, and I’m still learning and improving and working with volunteers has definitely taught me a lot. I think we’re in a really good place now.
Mike: What is your biggest challenge personally?
Edda: Saying yes to things.
I often over-commit myself and squeeze too much into my schedule. It often means I fall behind schedule (arriving late for example) or end up totally exhausted.
I’m also optimistic, so when I’ve got 15 minutes to be somewhere, I am positively certain that I can have a shower, eat and get to the meeting on time. I’m working on it.
Mike: What is the biggest lesson you learned from a mistake?
Edda: So many lessons. One of the first lessons I learned is trusting other people with work. It has really set me up to be the person I am today.
I often tried to do everything; creative, strategy, finance, legals etc etc. But sometimes you just need to stop trying to always be in control and allow your team members to do their thing. People have strengths where I have weaknesses and that’s when I can delegate and leave work in the hands of my team.
Mike: What do you love most about what you’re doing right now?
Edda: It’s so exciting, especially right now because I’ve just secured some funding. As of next month, I will receive my first pay paycheck. I’m heading back to Australia and will have a physical location where the team can come together and work under the same roof. We’ve run everything remotely for a while – me in Europe and the rest of the team working from home in Australia. Lots of Skype. It’s going to be nice to be able to see people and work on projects together.
I also really like that each day is different. It’s the exact opposite of a clearly defined nine-to-five corporate job as I get to wear a lot of hats in these early days!
Mike: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Edda: I used to ask for advice all the time when I was starting Undress Runways, but it got tiring to hear people constantly telling me how to run my business – and I often got conflicting advice that made it really confusing. So, I am more selective with whom I ask for advice from now.
The best advice I’ve received was from a mentor. He said, “Your business will never take off until you’re working on it full time.”
Initially, I didn’t take his advice. I was like “yeah, right”. But now that I’ve been working on LANA for 10 months full-time, I can see his point. It makes all the difference.
Mike: How do you define happiness?
Edda: I’ve been living out of a suitcase for the past eight months. When you’re traveling, everything just gets turned completely upside-down and nothing’s normal. You’re not a local anywhere and you don’t really have any regularity.
I also really love working. I can definitely be a bit of a workaholic. I have a standing desk so I just put on my headphones, some Latin dance music, start boogieing and work away at my laptop. That’s definitely my happy place – and I’m exercising at the same time!
Mike: What book has inspired your life the most?
Edda: I’ll share two:
The first one is How to Win Friends and Influence People – classic. It’s been a little while since I read this one. They say it’s a timeless book but I’m interested in reading it again to see if it still feels relevant today.
One that I’ve recently read, which I’ve recommended to a lot of people this year is called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.
I think there are still so many questions around how to build a strong, happy and fulfilled team. The workplace is changing, generational values are shifting and we need to constantly adapt. I think it’s a struggle for many businesses, not just for startups.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, is kind of like Win Friends and Influence People because you can easily read it once a year. It’s really quick and easy to read, and it’s common sense put into real world examples. It addresses those core values of what makes a great team.
To learn more about Edda’s company, Undress Global, head over to their website.