People who get a buzz out of compulsive buys, only to be hit by the guilt of fueling fast fashion have found a new way to get their kicks without increasing the estimated £100 million worth of clothing waste that goes to landfill in the UK every year: Swishing.
The concept is simple: You bring clothes you no longer wear to an event and swap them for clothes other people no longer wear.
You begin to build up a new wardrobe, your bank balance is barely affected and you’re not contributing to the 350,000 tonnes of annual clothing waste.
Laura Jordan, 29, set up Rags Revival swishing events in Brighton in 2013. Her aim was two-fold: encouraging people to be thrifty, while looking after the planet by reducing clothes waste.
At a Rags Revival event, customers pay a £5 entry fee and bring the clothes they’d like to swap. They get one token per item of clothing and each token can be used to purchase another item of clothing brought by somebody else.
“I watched Kirsty Allsop’s ‘How To Live For Less’ and she did a feature on a swish up in London and I instantly loved the concept,” Jordan told HuffPost UK.
“I have always loved shopping in charity shops and grew up working with vintage clothing in a fancy dress shop called Masquerade.
“From the age of 14, I was captivated with vintage clothing and my boss used to let me buy some of the pieces or gave them to me from the shop.
“After watching the show, I did some research and found that there was no regular swishing event in Brighton.”
Jordan asked family and friends to donate their unwanted clothing and added some herself to create an initial stock. She bought rails, found a venue and the swishing began.
Since launch, Jordan has noticed the number of people attending the events has increased. As well as loyal customers that have been there since the start, word of mouth is bringing new customers in.
“People are becoming so much more educated in regards to clothing waste and becoming conscious shoppers,” she added.
“As people are watching their pennies, they are turning to events such as swishing or clothing exchanges and this in turn is giving them the means and the information to make responsible choices when it comes to fashion.”
Jordan said swishing gives her the same thrill as a bout of retail therapy.
“You get the buzz of getting a bargain without having to trail the shops, as everyone is bringing the clothes to you,” she said.
“It gives you the opportunity to let someone else breathe life into garments that have been collecting dust at the back of your wardrobe and gives you the chance to be more experimental and take risks with your clothing choices as there is no huge price tag attached.
“People just keep coming back because they love it so much.”Ierfino
Diana Ierfino, 33, set up a similar event in London - swapAholicsuk- in 2011. What started as a gathering in her living room is now London’s largest clothes swap event.
Similar to Rags Revival, customers pay a £5 entrance fee and receive a loyalty card token showing the number of items they’re able to swap.
In the past five years, interest has increased so much that they’ve had to add additional swapping events throughout London.
Ierfio set up swapAholicsuk with the intention of bringing together like-minded people who have a desire to build a better future and improve the environment.
“At the beginning, most of the people I knew were students living on low wages with little money to buy clothing, but who still wanted to change their wardrobes once in a while,” she said.
“We held a swap at my flat. Several friends came over and exchanged clothing. We had such a wonderful time that we wanted to continue this in our community.
“Ensuring we place more value on our clothing by swishing, up-cycling and finding a new home for pre-loved clothing is very important to me.”
Ierfio agreed that swishers still get the “thrill” of finding new items to take home. She loves seeing the smile on people’s faces when they find something they love.
“There is so much power behind a community that works together to share and save the environment,” Lerfio said.
“Not only are you reducing your carbon footprint, by reusing and recycling clothing, but you are saving money too.
“We’ve had swishers say they’ve saved up enough money to purchase a house or travel, because they aren’t spending money on buying new clothing anymore.
“Now, we want to promote swishing in schools to the next generation and explain how it works.”
More and more swishing events are popping up across the country as women are learning first-hand the benefits of clothes swapping.
This August, Laura Thomas, 30, set up her own event in Tooting, London. |It was such a success, Thomas has decided to make it a regular occurrence.
As well as reducing clothing waste, Thomas will donate the £3 entry fee from customers to a local food bank after each event.
“I’m very sensitive about the environment in other areas of my life too: I don’t eat animal products and have dabbled in composting,” she explained.
“Trying to reduce clothes waste and not feeding the fast fashion machine is a natural extension of that.”
To find swishing events in your local area, visit swishing.com.
This September The Huffington Post UK Style is focusing on all things sustainable for the second year running. Our thirst for fast fashion is dramatically impacting the environment and the lives of thousands of workers in a negative way. Our aim is to raise awareness of this zeitgeist issue and champion brands and people working to make the fashion industry a more ethical place.
We’ll be sharing stories and blogs with the hashtag #SustainableFashion and we’d like you to do the same. If you’d like to use our blogging platform to share your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org.