Dream no more ladies – The Clothing Exchange is a National Swap Day! My Green Australia was lucky enough to have a chat with Juliette Anich from The Clothing Exchange to get the low down on the best swap meet ever! *free in the sense that you have to swap your clothes for new ones!
So, tell me about when and where The Clothing Exchange started?
Juliette: The Clothing Exchange was started off the back of Kate Luckin’s Masters Thesis back in 2004. In that same year, as luck would have it. Melbourne L’Oreal Fashion Festival got wind of these crazy swapping events and invited us to hold an event as part of the festival – that year we attracted 170 swappers to the museum! It was totally out of control and really exciting to see something that was essentially just an idea come into fruition. In about 2006, after 2 years of just holding this event annually we decided to offer this alternative mechanism to purchasing something ‘new’ on a monthly basis. Again, the universe was smiling, and the first venue we sort to hold our events said yes… and I guess the rest is history!
How does The Clothing Exchange work for people wanting to swap out their old clothes?
Juliette: So the way The Clothing Exchange works is that an event will be held where people can purchase tickets to; swappers bring up to 6 garments that they value but no longer wear. Upon check in, all of the garments are inspected for quality and this is the only way the garments are judged – to ensure that they are wearable and if there is a problem with it such as a missing button or a hem that needs fixing then we pop a red dot on the garment – just so that when the garment is being ‘swapped’ the new owner can be aware of the fault.
The garments are bought in, checked for quality. We don’t judge on fashion or style because we believe brands are flawed and style is individual; therefore our swaps are all run on the basis of a one to one swap. The given in clothing is exchanged for buttons that act as the currency for the night. The clothing is then taken away and a pop up shop is created in the space. We occupy a range of spaces from pubs to cocktail lounges to larger spaces like Federation Square in Melbourne and Carriage Works in Sydney. We have also held events in board rooms for businesses and council chambers for councils! So once all the clothing is collected in and the shop is set up then the swap can begin. We call together all the swappers and give a quick introductory speech – why swapping is a great sustainable act and the rules of engagement (which is being generally kind to everyone, elbows in, no boxing day sales type behaviour allowed!) and then the swap is on!
There must be rules to what you can swap, I have a worn once bridesmaids dress that is a simple black dress, would this make the cut?
Juliette: Absolutely! The aim of the clothing exchange is to offer a solution to the worst offenders of consumption – those garments that we only wear once (but at least we have worn them! I can’t tell you how many articles of clothing we get with the swing tags still on them!)
In terms of the quality standards, we ask all our swappers to double check their clothing is still wearable, no pilled or damaged beyond repair and is in a neat, clean state.
There must be a lot of clothing left over – what happens to the garments if unswapped?
Juliette: Luckily we don’t have a massive amount of left over clothing. With the clothing we do have left over we have a couple of alliances with different organisations to donate to. The corporate attire or office friendly work clothes is donated to Fitted to Work and the rest is donated to the Brotherhood of St Laurance in Melbourne to go into the Hunter Gatherer stores.
Now, Tell us a bit about your style and your wardrobe, which I am going to guess is huge!
Juliette: Ha! I wouldn’t be running an organisation that promotes sustainable fashion if I had a huge wardrobe! Its not extensive but I do suffer from the 80:20 rule where i wear only 20% of my wardrobe and the vast majority of it just sits there. As I have been travelling alot over the past 4ish years its been cut down alot to the bare essentials. My personal style is very casual but with a tailored twist. I love comfy jeans and flat shoes, but I can’t keep my hands of a cute jacket with a large lapel! Overall I love a good 1950’s look! I had a baby earlier this year though and I’m yet to fully rediscover my waist line so the few vintage 50’s pieces I do have, are in a bit of remission at the moment!!
I always get asked what my favourite piece of clothing that I have gotten from a swap is but of course because I’m running the events I don’t often get the opportunity to swap. I do have an amazing turquoise plastic ring though which I am very fond of. I love a great accessory !
How can people get involved and what are the next steps they should take?
Juliette: Swapping is a great because it can happen formally, informally and at a variety of scales. The Clothing Exchange has obviously formalised something that has been done casually forever! So if you are in one of the capital cities feel free to come along to one of our swaps – we hold them monthly in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and soon to be Brisbane. If you’re not able to access one of these venues then hold your own swap … its fun and a great way to pick up some new pieces without hurting the planet or your pocket!
Thanks Juliette for letting us know about The Clothing Exchange, it sounds like a fabulous idea to give fashion and clothing new life!