What is a clothes swap?
Clothes Swaps (also called clothes swap parties, clothes exchanges, swishes and swishing parties, among other things) are a brilliant way to refresh your wardrobe and get the feeling of having been shopping without buying anything new!
The idea is that people get together on a certain day, each bringing with them some clothes they no longer want. All the clothes are collected together, then everyone gets to choose some items to take home with them.
WHY SWAP INSTEAD OF SHOPPING?
Clothes swaps were the first events we ever ran as Stitched Up, back in 2011 when we were just a loose collective of six mates with a shared passion for style and sustainability!
We’ve always celebrated clothes swaps as a key tool for dressing sustainably. Not only can you find some unique gems, but they’re really affordable too.
In 2016, around 1.13 million tonnes of clothing was bought in the UK and this figure grows year on year. We discard around the same amount annually, and nearly a quarter of this (300,000 tonnes) ends up in the general waste stream. Aside from the obvious waste of resources, this causes environmental issues such as methane emissions and contamination from dyes and chemicals. Keeping your clothes in use for longer not only reduces these impacts, but has additional carbon savings if it replaces the purchase of new garments.
Clothes swaps are fantastic way to keep clothes in active use, even after you no longer want them yourself. As they say, one person’s trash is another’s treasure!
HOW CAN YOU SET UP YOUR OWN SWAP?
Over the years we’ve honed our clothes swaps so that they work best for us and our customers. We’d like to share that knowledge with you, so you can set up your own swap and spread the #sustainablestyle revolution!
1. Find a venue // epending on the scale of your event, this could be your living room, or a local community centre or library which may offer space for free or at a very low cost.
2. Decide on the rules for your swap // These can be as light-touch as you like, but things you might want to think about include:
- What can people bring: You might want to say no underwear, or all items must be clean and in good condition, or perhaps your swap is for a specific group i.e. adults clothes, maternity clothes, or plus size clothes only. Many swaps set a limit on the number of items you can bring – ours is currently 10, because otherwise check-in is too slow!
- Entry fee: A small entry fee can help cover costs or raise funds for charity.
- Token system: Providing one token per item of clothing means that people can take home as many items as they bring. We use stamps – one per item – and any unused stamps can be used at the next swap. Or you can more relaxed and allow people to simply bring and take as many items of clothing as they like.
- Grading: Checking the quality and condition of clothes as they come in can help ensure that everyone gets a fair deal from the swap – if you’ve brought pristine designer clothes, you wouldn’t be delighted to take home bobbled cat-hair-covered items from Primark. You might want to sort clothes into different categories. We have two loose categories whih we sort clothes into on arrival: Good (high street) and Great (designer and vintage).
- Check-in time: At our swaps, advance ticket holders get checked in first. Then, people buying tickets on the door get checked in. As soon as you’ve been checked in you can start swapping. Our swaps usually run for 3 hours in total.
- Drinks or refreshments: Swaps are great opportunities to get people together, and refreshments help lubricate any social event. We currently sell tea and cake at our swaps, with all proceeds donated to Labour Behind the Label. Whatever you decide, let your swappers know in advance so they know what to expect.
3. Set a date and send your invites // Facebook is an option, but use whatever method works for you and your friends or audience. For a decent swap with a variety of items, you need at least 10 or 12 people (unless you have a small group of friends who all have a similar size and taste in clothes!). Aim to give people plenty of notice to get the event in their diaries.
4. Source the things you need // Which might include; clothes rails, hangers, tables to display clothes, mirrors and some kind of changing room, any refreshments you’re going to offer, a stock of reused carrier bags for people to take their swaps home in, bin bags or other big bags for leftover clothes, a float, if you’re charging an entry fee and some music…
5. Set up // On the day, recruit a couple of friends to help you set up the swap – give yourself at least half an hour before the start to set up the room and put out your drinks/nibbles. If you’re going to ‘check-in’ clothes on arrival, it’s also useful to have 2 or 3 people to help with that at the beginning of the event.
6. Swap! // Let everyone know when they can dive in and start grabbing the items they like. If you’re using a token system, you’ll also need someone to ‘check out’ people’s items and make sure they have the right amount.
7. Afterwards // Having some helpers will make the clear up less painful. Bundle any leftover clothes into some big bags and take them to a local charity shop, or to a clothes bank. This way, all the clothes will be reuse or recycled. Whatever you do, don’t bin them!
And that’s all there is to it! If it goes well, why not consider making it a regular event? That way swapping really can be an alternative to shopping, and will keep clothes out of landfill and in our wardrobes for longer!
If you fancy checking out one of our swaps in action come along to our next one – see all our upcoming events here.
Stitched Up x