Swapping styles and buying smiles: the clothes swapping events tackling the war on waste

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by Sarah Halfpenny

Looking for a savvy way to rejuvenate your wardrobe without breaking the bank or harming the planet? Clothes swapping events are on the rise, and they’re a win-win for your wallet and Mother Earth!

The Clothing Exchange, an Australian initiative founded by Kate Luckins in Melbourne back in 2004, has been leading the charge in these fashionable sustainability gatherings, which have been likened to raiding your friend’s wardrobe or visiting your favourite op shop. Their events, hosted professionally in several states in Australia, bring together like-minded fashion enthusiasts to exchange preloved garments and create a sense of community.

So, how does this fashion-forward swap work? It’s simple! Firstly, it’s free to participate. Bring along your gently used, clean, and quality clothing items, shoes and accessories including jewellery and scarves. The best items are those you once cherished but are no longer wardrobe staples or the perfect fit. Each piece you contribute earns you a token, like ‘fashion currency’. With tokens in hand, you can then select new-to-you garments from the swap. (Keep in mind that you need to be emotionally detached from the items you are giving away, as once they’re in the swap, there’s no turning back!)

The Clothing Exchange has some simple criteria for the garments they accept: they should be in good condition with a long potential lifespan and free from significant faults. This way, you’re giving your once-loved pieces a chance at a second life with someone who’ll adore them just as much. They won’t accept anything pilled, overly worn, or far from perfect, and items like underwear and swimwear are a no-go. There’s a quality screening process in place to ensure fairness and satisfaction among all participants. Any items left over after the event are donated to local charities.

Swapping extends far beyond the shores of Australia. Around the world, similar events have gained traction, promoting the ideals of sustainability and community. In the UK, these gatherings are fondly referred to as “swishing,” and they’ve become a trendy way to freshen up your wardrobe and reduce fashion’s environmental footprint.

So, whether you’re in Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart or any other corner of the world, clothes swapping events offer a delightful way to embrace sustainability while looking fabulous. Give it a try, and you might just discover your next fashion treasure at the next swap near you!

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