Sydney-based stylist Shanya Suppasiritad didn’t realise how damaging the fashion industry was until she watched The True Cost – an eye-opening documentary exploring the decreasing price of clothing against the growing societal and environmental costs, such as the impact of low wages and poor conditions on factory workers and pollution caused by mass clothing production.
“I was trying to change my lifestyle and also educate my clients,” Suppasiritad says. “But it turned out trying to buy all sustainable pieces was really difficult. So, I had to come up with a different way to expand my wardrobe … in the most environmentally friendly way possible.”
Suppasiritad created Tumnus, a wardrobe-sharing platform that imitates the way she exchanges clothes with her stylist friends.
“It made me think that if I can actually expand that network, [we’ll] have more choices and people can be more creative with what we already have in our wardrobe.”
The site works a lot like Airbnb for clothes. Lendees sign up and hit “borrow now” on pieces they love – maybe an Elk silk dress or a Mister Zimi maxi skirt. They’ll then be put in touch with the item’s owner to arrange pick-up or postage. It’s up to the lender to decide if their clothes will be borrowed free of charge, lent with a deposit or rented (the latter option is usually reserved for high-end designer items). Lenders can also opt for an insurance policy to protect pieces. The quality of clothes on the site is something Suppasiritad keeps a close eye on.
“We monitor what goes up on our site, so if the items are not up to standard we simply just let [the user] know,” she says. “But we haven’t had to do that yet.”
If an item is free to borrow, the buyer is still responsible for any postage costs, as well as dry cleaning after wear, and Suppasiritad encourages borrowers to list some items too, so they’re giving back to the community.
“We’re trying to be an alternative option for people – rather than buying,“ Suppasiritad says. “A peer-to-peer marketplace.”
There are more than 200 users and 500-plus items now listed on the platform, which is national. So far only items based in Melbourne and Sydney have been listed, but they can be borrowed and posted anywhere. Suppasiritad encourages users to borrow up to five pieces at a time to help any postage fees go further.
“You’ll want to get a few uses out of it and then you’ll want to use those pieces to mix and match with your wardrobe,” she says.
Right now, the site stocks labels including Gorman, Zimmerman, Alice McCall, Scanlan Theodore, Alpha60, Romance Was Born, Willow, and Life With Bird.
“We definitely aim for more casual, more like a working wardrobe or a weekend wardrobe rather than for special occasions,” Suppasiritad says. “If you think about it, people buy more casual clothes than special occasion [clothes].”
Tumnus Premium will be rolled out within the next year; it’s a paid subscription box of five garments lent for up to six weeks. The garments will be curated by a stylist based on a user-supplied list of upcoming events and the user’s personal style. Suppasiritad also has plans to expand Tumnus to Europe, in Spain and Italy.
“They’ve got really cool styles,” she says. “Hopefully we’ll have a few partners to bring clothes back over here.”