Ditch shopping – try swapping

13 October 2010

Written by: Jean Kemshal-Bell

How would you feel if you took a pile of clothes out of your wardrobe and swapped them for a new pile?  Now, how would you feel swapping your beloved clothes with a complete stranger?  Director of The Clothing Exchange, Juliette Anich, explains why so many people are leaving the malls behind and opting to swap their clothes with total strangers.

For many people shopping is a social event; meeting up with your friends, grabbing 10 cups of coffee and a nice long lunch, all while browsing racks and racks of clothing.  Anich believes this social aspect of shopping is the reason why people love their events.  It’s not lost when you decide to become a ‘swapper’, but what is gained is the ‘opportunity to be involved in a gentler form of capitalism, reminiscent from times gone past – swapping is not a new concept, we have just forgotten to do it’.

‘It is exciting to be part of something that is going against the current tide of consumption… People are really excited about the prospect of hunting down a new piece of clothing that would essentially cost nothing, but also about being able to give new life to their old clothing.’

This concept relies very strongly on consumers wanting to be ethically conscious with fashion, but is this whole idea just a trend?

‘I don’t believe it’s just a trend.  There is definitely a rising interest in this area due to some fairly significant factors, such as the extreme consumerist culture that we live in, the polarisation between the haves and the have nots, and the lack of accountability surrounding all this.  I think this desire around being ethically and environmentally aware is not a trend but a cultural shift.  It’s here to stay.’

The Clothing Exchange events are continually growing; in the beginning there were seven swappers and now each event gains around 40.  In 2004, they teamed up with the L’Oreal Fashion Festival and held an event with over 170 people participating.  ‘To this day we have never had to cancel an event.’  So maybe Anich has a point, maybe this isn’t just a trend.

What can you expect to find if you go to one of their events?  ‘Lovely, fashion loving, environmentally aware, intelligent women.’

And some might say more importantly, what can you expect from the clothes?

‘Absolutely everything from formal dresses, corporate suits, beautiful casual jumpers, high-end branded goods, homemade amazing pieces and very much sort after vintages pieces. The scope is incredible diverse – you never know what you’re going to see!’

Anich believes it is important to practice what you preach and so she too tries to be more eco-conscious.  ‘I try to make sure the designer is environmentally aware.  I try to buy directly from the designer so that the money I spend goes directly to the person who put the effort into the piece. I also spend a lot of time ensuring I limit my ‘house fill’ so that my wardrobe doesn’t just fill up with clothing I don’t wear. I keep a fairly small wardrobe and I wear almost every piece a lot. I do this to ensure that my impact on the planet is minimal and I’m only taking what I will use.’

So if you’re after a fun and social way to be ethically conscience with your clothing then perhaps its time you head to a Clothing Exchange event.  Their National Swap Day – October 25 – might just be the perfect way to try out this very cool concept.

Bec Foulston is a Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University. This piece was originally published on her blog Sneaky Bug.