circular economy shopping

Would you lease a pair of jeans?

One of the central concepts of the circular economy is that leasing products may be more sustainable than owning them. By leasing their products, companies can keep control of the materials and ensure they are reused at the end of the product’s life cycle, rather than being thrown away. And for customers, it guarantees that they always have functioning and up to date goods. Assuming the price is right, it should be a win-win situation, especially for expensive things that can be complicated when they go wrong – like household appliances or power tools.

The theory sounds good, but examples aren’t exactly common place. It’s been possible to lease appliances for a long time, and more and more cars are available on a leasing basis. A few places are doing fashion and accessory rentals for special occasions, but generally speaking, most things that we need in life still need to be bought. But here’s a new one: how about leasing your jeans?

MUD Jeans is a Dutch company that makes ethical denim, with their jeans either available to buy or to lease. If you lease, you pay a monthly subscription. After a year, you can return the jeans for a new pair and carry on the lease, or you can keep them. If you return them, MUD will either sell on the jeans as secondhand, or recycle the fabric to make new jeans.

I’m interested to try this out myself, next time I’m in the market for a pair of jeans. I’m also interested to see if this works as a viable business model, and if it could ever be applied to clothing less hard-wearing than jeans.

Here’s a little explainer:



  1. I don’t know about Jeans, but I have long wanted to do this with hand made wooden furniture.
    Traditional carpentry is ‘uneconomical’ because people “Won’t pay for it”: If you can make a table with chipboard in an anfternoon, the thinking goes, why would people pay to have one made over several days, unless they really, really want an heirloom table.
    But, if people would lease the table instead, paying a fairly small amount a month for five years, then after that five years is finished (and the chipboard table would be in a skip) they can give it back or keep it. As a hardwood table, well made, can last several hundred years, that would be an investment for their grandchildren. Otherwise they can return it and lease an indentical one or perhaps a different design if they prefer.

    Traditional woodwork, by definition, uses hand tools, reducing outlay for machines and electricity, so I wouldn’t have to take on a nassive loan to start the company. Even better would be making this with people with disabilities, but I’m not sure how the details would work out.

    1. That makes sense. Leasing is more common with office furniture, where people want to upgrade or refresh the look of the office every few years. But there’s no reason why that model couldn’t support hand-crafted items too.

      If that’s a business you’re considering, I’m sure it could be financed one way or another. And the more leasing businesses there are to use as examples, the easier it would be to make a case for it.

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