Clothes Swapping: A Thoughtful Alternative

When many people think about fashion, they think about buying brand new, looking trendy, or how they can emulate that to die for look they saw on a LFW catwalk. Many also think about buying more and maximising what they can get for the cheapest prices. However, this relationship with fashion is not sustainable for either the planet or our wallets. The fast fashion model, a model that promotes multiple micro-trends in one season, wants you to think that you need to buy trendy, you need to buy new, you need to buy more. But you don't.

Instead, you can try a thoughtful alternative: a clothes swapping event. What is clothes swapping? Put simply, it is the exchange of clothes between friends and strangers. It is a simple and cheap (or even free!) way to acquire new clothing and pass on pre-loved items that you no longer wish to see hanging in your wardrobe.

On Thursday 18th of January, the group ‘Just Love London’ organised a clothes swapping event. We were ten women, sharing our clothes, bits of life and munching on biscuits while soaking up the relaxing atmosphere. Compliments were forthcoming from all sides. We brought our pre-loved garments to exchange them with others’ clothes that were ready to experience a new lease of life. It was not only our wallet or our wardrobe that benefited from such experience but also our self-esteem. I knew none of the women there, but I felt a sense of connection that I would not usually feel if I just headed down to Oxford Street. I tried on clothes that I would never usually wear and still got compliments. I tried on clothes that I thought made me look fat and short, but I was reassured that all of this was all in my head and that I was looking stunning in that pair of jeans (I will add that I ended up taking them home with me and still love them today!). People say that clothes are like therapy well this event certainly proved that point.

What is also great with a clothes swap is that there is no rush, no queue at the checkout, no crowd you have to fight your way through to grab some clothes that you'll only wear once. You have the time to observe the item, to think: 'do I really need it?', 'do I have something similar?' and 'will I wear it more than five times?' At the event, I first looked at everything, and then I decided what I wanted to try on. In total, I did three 'hunts' at the clothes table before deciding what I wanted to bring home: a pair of light-wash jeans, a purple blouse and a pair of yoga pants.

None of the items I picked up needed mending, but there was a table with needles and thread to fix things that did. This mending process allowed everyone to not only to share stories and exchange tips and skills but also to connect with the clothes that they owned. Taking care of your clothes makes you treasure them more: if you fix them, instead of throwing them away, you are recognising the value that they bring to your everyday life. You make them last because you have put your time and energy into mending them and you will feel so freaking proud of yourself!

Looking at the bigger picture, an exchange of clothes helps advance what we call a circular economy as you are reusing instead of throwing out, and thus your clothes travel in a 'circle'. You received garments from someone else, and once they have served you well, you can pass on the love again. Circular economy is much more sustainable for the environment compared to the linear pathway from cradle to grave of our current fast fashion model.

Next time you want to buy some new clothes ask yourself whether you need any more, and if the answer is yes, instead of going to Primark, H&M, Zara, or any other fast fashion retailer, organise a 'clothes swap' with friends: trust me it is so much more fun!

Love and solidarity,

Noémie x


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