Written by Nina Gbor @eco.styles - founder of Clothes Swap and Style
It’s no secret that the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. Globally we’re consuming about 80 billion brand new garments every year which is 400% more than we were consuming just two decades ago. Australia happens to be the second-largest consumer of new textiles after the US. In 2017, ABC TV’s War on Waste series reported that we throw out 6000 kg of textile waste to landfill every ten minutes! 85% of the new textiles we buy each year ends up in landfill. It’s a vicious cycle of buy - wear once, twice or not at all - bin it - then buy new all over again. I’ve read a stat that the average woman only wears 20% – 40% of her wardrobe. While donating to op shops is a great way to divert from landfill, sadly, op shops are only able to resell about 15% of donated clothing.
Alarmed by these stats? Well there’s a partial but effective alternative. Enter the circular economy of fashion i.e. clothes swaps! A clothes swap is a sustainable fashion ritual or activity where participants can exchange their quality preloved (secondhand) pieces and acquire the same from others in a fun environment. Swap parties are becoming increasingly popular in Australia and around the world. I’ve been hosting clothes swaps for nearly a decade. So, if you’d like to try hosting your own swap party, consider this your basic how-to guide.
1. Find a venue
Get a space with enough comfortably hold the number of desired participants with a corresponding number of tables, chairs and clothes racks.
2. Set a date
Choose a date and time that will be most suitable for your target audience. Getting this right sometimes can be a process of trial and error.
3. Rules and guidelines
Set rules and guidelines for how the swap will work and also set rules of conduct for participants. For example:
- number of items people can bring
- quality of clothes accepted into the swap
- whether you will be using a token exchange system where people can exchange quality for like quality
- you might decide to flip a coin if two people want the same garment
- the swap officially begins when the organisers declare the swap open
- no fighting or insulting anyone at the event, otherwise they might be asked to leave.
Tickets – Decide if your swap if paid or free. You can use platforms such as Eventbrite or Humanitix for your guests to register. It’s a good way to create a mailing list if you will be hosting clothes swaps regularly.
Theme - You might decide to have a themed swap for example, a fundraiser swap, summer clothes swap, costume swap, swap for dress sizes 16 to 26, swap for children’s clothes, formalwear swap, etc.
You can make it more fun by adding the word ‘party’ to it then serving wine, having music, door raffle prize and/or decorations to make your soirée even more attractive.
Send out invitations, create a Facebook event and post the event to all your socials. Invite people. If it’s a public swap, then ask people to share the event and invite their friends.
Leading up to the event, it’s essential to consistently post videos, text, images to spread the word, get your audience excited about the swap and to increase ticket sales. This tip is useful to keep people engaged even if your swap is a private or internal swap like an office swap.
7. Gather swap materials
Essential: volunteers (depending on number of expected guests), mirrors, racks, tables, hangers
Optional: refreshments, music, decorations.
8. On the day
Use the first 30 minutes of event to welcome and register guests and allow the the organising team to sort, fold and hang clothing. It’s also essential to vet clothing and remove pieces that are not up to par. Your guests will thank you for this. It’s also crucial that everyone begins the swap at the same time, therefore let every guest know in the invitation and upon arrival that they can only begin taking pieces after the organisers have officially declared the swap open. (i.e. 30 minutes after set arrival time).
9. Decide what to do with leftovers
I usually donate leftover clothing to an op shop. You can also ask shelters for homeless people or shelters for victims of domestic abuse if they would like to receive the donations. Or you might even save some for another swap.