Sustainability in Style started several years back as a series of ‘Green Couture’ clothing swap events at the University of the Sunshine Coast. These were developed as a way to encourage mindful consumption of fashion, for students to update their wardrobe for the cost of a gold coin donation, and to raise funds for the campus’s emergency food fund (for students struggling to find the funds keep themselves fed).

A clothing swap is a fun way to update your wardrobe and can run with very little operating costs either at a large scale or among friends.

There are two main ‘ways’ to run a swap; the ‘Drop off and Sort’ approach or the ‘Come and Go as you like’ method.

The ‘Drop off and Sort’ approach:

Requires swap participants to arrive at a designated time to drop off their swap goods. When dropping off items the swap hosts will give tickets or tokens for the items to swap and the participants will mingle while the ‘swap shop’ is being set up. This is a great option for those who are running a swap with friends or as part of a group or organisation. You can set up drinks and nibbles so that swap-ees can mingle and chat while the swap shop is being constructed. It also is easier for those hosting the swap as it allows for time to set up and organise a beautifully arranged swap shop.

The ‘Come and Go as you like’ method:

This method sees the swap shop being set up for an allocated time. As the ‘Sustainability In Style’ swap events were run at a University it was only fair to run a more fluid approach to swapping as students are in and out of classes all day. This meant that the swap shop was open for three hours and swap-ees could bring their goods during the three hour time frame. Goods were swapped for tickets at the door with a gold coin donation and students could come an go as they pleased for the duration of the swap. This method has greater flexibility but is messy and stressful for the swap shop hosts.

How to swap:

One of the biggest decisions you will have to make is determining the value of swapped items. Sustainability in Style swaps were run purely as a ‘Sustainability Education’ project and a way for students to save money on fashion I worked on a one item= one swap ticket policy. So if you brought in a pair of shoes and left with a jacket that was fine. You may like to break your swap tickets down to item for items (i.e. shoes for shoes) or perhaps give a value for more expensive items (i.e.  a designer handbag= 5 swap tickets while a high street handbag = 1 swap ticket). It is your swap so work out your economy as you see fit. If opting for a more complex system of trade than one item=one ticket, it would be wise to run a ‘drop off an sort’ style swap so you have time to work out swap ticket numbers.

For a swap you will need the following:

  • A venue
  • A plan (drop off and sort or come and go?)
  • Racks, rails, boxes, or tubs for sorting clothing
  • Tokens, tickets or coupons to swap for each item
  • Mirrors
  • A changing room or toilet block nearby so people can try on items.
  • A set of visible rules for swapping. I work the ‘rock, paper, scissors’ rule for dispute resolution.
  • Advertising. Big or small a swap doesn’t work without swap-ees.
  • Helpers to set up and sort clothes, and
  • Work ethic (swaps, especially big ones require a bit of work)

Some things I have learnt from hosting clothing swaps:

  • People will take advantage. No matter what the intentions for your swap there are people who will try to swap their dirty underwear or ripped up tracksuit pants. Having a clear set of guidelines means that you will avoid conflict (and junky swap items).
  • You will be left with clothing at the end of your swap. Even though the idea of a swap is to bring something leave with something else, there will be people who drop off more than they take. After my first (ABSOLUTELY MASSIVE 500+ atendees) swap I was left with so much clothing I couldn’t fit it in my car. Fortunately my ever helpful boyfriend (who had patiently cut up swap tickets all day for me) when and got his ute so we could drop off the unwanted items at the Salvation Army.
  • It is hard work. If you are using a venue there will be set up and pack up (not to mention running the swap itself). You will be tired at the end of the day. Let yourself relax with a beverage of choice.
  • Hosting a swap has its advantages. You will definitely find some great stuff.

Feel free to share any clothing swapping experiences below and happy swapping!

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