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Swap clothes, is this the latest sustainable fashion trend? It looks like. Have you ever caught yourself fantasising about a friend’s wardrobe, dreaming of those red heeled boots you’ve always wanted to try on?
Nicknamed ‘swishing’ by those in the know, people swap clothes at special parties and events, in what seems to have become the next best thing in the sustainable fashion revolution.
Coined in the USA, the concept is simple – bring your unwanted clothes to a swishing party or event, and swap clothes for ‘swishing tokens’. Then, use these tokens to take home something new from the rails. Old to others, new to you, garments that catch your eye.
The result? An eco-friendly and economically viable alternative to the classic ‘retail therapy’. In fact, swap clothes leave you with a similar buzz and excitement you’d get from making an actual purchase, but without denting your bank balance.
Post early days of US-based swishing networks and almost a decade later we move to the UK, to find over 7,000 women engaged in swap clothes movements, with over 25,000 items exchanged every year.
The swap clothes message has been promoted by online platforms such as Wise up to Waste, Love your Clothes and Meet Up, which allow users to organise and advertise swap clothes parties and events in their local area.
The movement has a global reach now, thanks to an international swishing network encouraging fashion lovers not only to attend swap clothes events, but also to share tips on what to swap, wear, and how to start own events.
Founder Lucy Shea describes the campaign as ‘the thrill of retail therapy without the environmental side effects’. The overall aim is to make swap clothes movements ‘aspirational’, rather than shabby secrets.
Best friends and sustainable fashion pioneers Jemma Finch and Ella Grace Denton, who founded Stories Behind Things – a storytelling platform for conscious and mindful consumption – have also had a hand in putting swap clothes events firmly on the London map.
With a monthly series of swap clothes events, ‘The Big Clothes Switch’, was launched to create a community around ‘connecting as a way of change-making’. The brand believes that by developing connections and conversations around the items we own and wear, we can cultivate more conscious and considered consumption habits.
Everything is available to swap, from youth basketball socks to jumpers, hats, and trousers, as celebrations of meaningful stories of rethinking our fast-paced, throwaway lifestyles, and tap into a more ethical mindset when making purchase decisions.
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Thoughts On LFW ft. Jacket Made From Moon Cups Extinction Rebellion’s call to cancel London Fashion Week is an important outcry to promote their notion of ‘death of the catwalk’ and planned marches to signify the death of the industry. At Stories Behind Things believe the emphasis must not focus on shutting down the fashion industry itself but instead, on implementing drastic steps towards innovative models that celebrate craftsmanship, humankind and fair employment for millions of people around the world. We believe if we are to reduce the industry’s carbon emissions and change attitudes drastically, we need action from the influence within the industry to change how the beautiful beast operates. With this in mind, alongside @britishfashioncouncil we are excited to be attending the Positive Fashion industry talks and Positive Fashion Designer Exhibitions during @londonfashionweek where we will be celebrating the story behind the brands and individuals within the industry that are supporting the drastic changes that we so desperately need. “Fashion Week can provide a platform not just to show the new, but to challenge conventions and actively disrupt the processes and systems that are no longer acceptable in the face of environmental breakdown.” – Fashion Revolution, 2019 We will be documenting the things we see during the week and sharing more thoughts very soon. For now, head to our stories if you’d like to join us.
With over one million tonnes of clothes being thrown away in the UK a year, swap clothes movements are exciting, circular approaches to consumption, by reducing waste, slowing mass-production, and inciting to positive relationships with the things we wear daily.
Swap clothes, also known as wardrobe swapping is an accessible approach to sustainable fashion that has no price tag and is encouraging collaborative consumption for a collective better future.
Moreover, there’s no spending guilt ‘hangover’ after a swishing spree, so the next time you think about throwing out an unwanted item, think again. Upcycle the piece at a swishing event near you and see what you can bring home instead!