Illustration by Gemma Milly
I’ve never been very good at throwing away things, especially clothes. Even before the environmental impact edged its way into my subconscious (how do you recycle denim?) there was always that nagging little voice, suggesting that “maybe I will wear it again someday”. Or, more frustratingly, “but someone else might like this”. Who is this someone else? And how are they supposed to make use of my cast-offs when they’re hanging despondently in the back of my wardrobe?
Then one day I found my answer. I stumbled across the concept of clothes-swapping; also known, since its rise in popularity, as “swishing”. The idea is simple – swap clothes you no longer wear for other people’s clothes that they no longer wear. It’s economical, it’s environmentally friendly, and it’s fun. Not surprisingly, more people are getting involved, whether it be through swishing events (bring your items, and take as many items away with you), clothes-swapping parties in clubs, and swishing websites.
My introduction to swishing began online. I found a website where you can list all of your unwanted clothes and accessories, and then swap them with the neglected items of other people. I was intrigued… but could such a system really work?
Illustration by Aniela Murphy
With two years of clothes swapping behind me now, I assure you it does. I still use the website on an almost daily basis, window-shopping when new items are uploaded. I browse with the thrill of retail therapy, but without suffering from consumer guilt. The only money spent is on postage, and suddenly my “not-quite-me-but-too-good-for-Oxfam” clothing items have become precious currency. Imagine if you could go into a vintage, second-hand clothing, or high-street shop and pay for your purchases with clothes you don’t want anymore?
I have found some of my favourite items this way, and when people ask where I got my bag from I’m not afraid to tell them I swapped it for a blouse.
In fact, another great benefit I hadn’t considered when I started is the freedom I have felt in trying new styles. Experimenting with fashion is a lot easier when there is no real money at stake, and I for one have become more creative in wearing the same item in various ways. Unlike shopping, if the items you swap for don’t work, don’t fit or are not as expected (which does happen, but that’s the gamble) you merely swap it on for something else again. This can even be a good thing, as adding new items updates your wardrobe and keeps your ‘currency’ fresh and interesting. I have found that no matter what you have to offer, there is always someone who will be interested.
Of course, while the fashion and financial benefits are clear, another great reason to swish is to prevent waste. The truth is that we live in a society where shopping is a hobby, not a necessity, and where clothing is so cheaply and readily available that we no longer keep items for as long as we once did. The amount of clothing which ends up in landfill each year is heartbreaking. There is also desperate confusion over fashion and trends, and too often items are bought, worn once, and never see the light of day again. The silver lining of the recession was that it made us wake up to our “wear once, then toss” frame of mind, and instead of worrying about being seen in the same dress twice, we are slowly regaining the art of recycling our outfits. So put your credit card away, dig out the discarded items in your wardrobe (I bet you have at least one thing with the labels still on – right?) and make several positive changes at once.
Illustration by Gemma Milly
Two Tips For Smart Swishing
A lot of people ask me: what stops other swappers from stealing? Naturally there is an element of risk, but using common sense will help prevent being conned by “swaplifters”, those (atrociously tight-fisted) people who you agree to swap with but who never send their item. This does happen, but I have never had this happen to me and I attribute this to my two main rules:
1) The “Post-First” Rule.
Almost every swap website has a feedback system in place, and most regular users like to enforce the “post first” policy – where, if someone has lower feedback than you do, you can ask them to post their items first. Don’t post their item until you receive yours. If someone is unwilling to oblige this, then they’re not worth swapping with. Everyone who starts out is asked to abide by this rule, and you work your way up the ladder of trust.
2) The “If in Doubt, Don’t Swap” Rule.
My second rule is that if I think someone is untrustworthy or unreliable – (and you can often gauge this by their feedback, the authenticity of their listings, and their attitude in communication prior-swap) – I don’t trade. Taking a risk is never worth the time and frustration. Of course, if this ever does happen, then do remember… it was something you didn’t want anymore.
- Fashion Swap!
- Introducing the Closet Swap community from Channel 4: Don’t Shop – Swap!
- Visa Swap UK
- Clothes Swapping
- My Visa Swap weekend