How Carousel Clothing Library began

Sarah Wolf, Founder & Chief Curator

Sarah Wolf, Founder & Chief Curator

I got the idea for Carousel Clothing Library while I was working at an environmental not-for-profit in Hamilton, New Zealand. I was pushing the message about sustainability and looking for a project as a requirement of my Permaculture Design Certificate.

I love clothes and see the way we dress as a form of self-expression. I am also conscious of the multiple challenges that are a direct result of our buying habits. The fashion industry has a poor human rights track record and an equally terrible environmental impact. This poses a problem for a person who loves to experiment with style but has a social conscience.

I think that consumerism is ingrained in us now - it is part of our culture, a habit that is going to be hard to break. Most of us are familiar with the sudden urge to buy something we spot while passing a shop window, the rush of an impulse-buy that soon fades a day or two, if not hours, later. I took a look in my wardrobe and realised that I only wore a tiny fraction of what was in there. Some garments still had labels on, maybe bought impulsively, later realising they really weren't my style or I didn't have the right shoes... Maybe I liked the idea of trying the pin-up look, but it wasn't me and I felt like my figure couldn't pull it off. What a waste!

How can we continue to have fun with fashion and continue to wear beautiful garments but reduce the harm done to people working in the industry and to the planet?

What if we all shared more?

The approach is influenced by Sarah Lazarovic’s Buyerachy of Needs is a re-imagining of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs that motivates human behaviour.

Lazarovic's "buyerarchy" of consumption is a great way to approach purposeful consumption. By moving up the pyramid with buying only as a last resort, we minimise the waste that we produce and create less of a drain on resources. The goal of using the “Buyerarchy of Needs” is to save money and keep it for future purchases where buying is the only option.

I recommend saving this image to your phone and referring to it when you are thinking of buying something. Also, ask yourself whether you really need this thing, or if you just want it. If you just want it, how long are you going to want it for?


I looked at collaborative consumption models around the world like car-share companies, and toy and tool libraries. Why does every house need a lawnmower when you only use it for maybe 30 minutes a week? 

These are good examples of how we don't have to own everything we use. Being part of a system like this not only saves us money, but also dramatically reduces the amount of finite resources that are used up and the amount of waste that ends up in landfill. Buy less; borrow more. 

It's not a new concept for clothes either. I discovered that there are other fashion libraries around the world so I knew it was a model that works. And so the library was born - a way for us to be more mindful in our purchases, to buy garments we will love for a long time, and use the library to dress up your wardrobe, have fun, meet seasonal needs and try new looks.

Like Vivienne Westwood says "Buy less, choose well, make it last"


Sarah Wolf
Chief Curator