How to run a clothes swap
Fast fashion can be polluting, wasteful, and draining on our planet’s land and water supply. The rate we’re producing and consuming fast fashion means good quality clothing is being chucked away when it still has life in it (in the UK, we throw away up to 11 million items a week! - Oxfam, 2019), and that’s clothing that could be loved and enjoyed by someone else. That’s why we love clothes swaps as an alternative to the way we currently shop.
New outfits don’t need to break the bank, or the planet. Clothes swaps are an accessible, fun and social way of refreshing your wardrobe whilst saving you cash and reducing clothing waste in landfill. They can be as big or as small as you want, from a pop up in your living room with mates, to a full-scale evening event with tickets and party vibes. This guide will give you some tips and tricks for setting up, running and getting the word out about your very own clothes swaps.
A venue or a space
You’re going to need to find a place to host your swap, as big or small as you’d like. This could be anywhere from an evening in your living room to adding a permanent swapping rail at your workspace.
Clothing rails and hangers
It’s good to set up some rails if possible, to give the swap a more shop-like experience. It also allows people to view the clothes better and keeps things organised. Borrowing some hangers from home or from friends (or even asking people to bring their clothes on hangers) will also make swapping a lot easier and will keep things tidy.
Then all you really need to do is tell people to bring some clothes they'd like to swap, but you could add a theme, make specific requests for styles/materials, or just lucky dip!
You might decide that you want a specific organisation system. This could mean having clothes split up into sizes, for example, or a section for jumpers, one for denim, and one for t-shirts. This can then match up with different systems of swapping listed below.
Your clothes swap can work however you want it to, but here’s a few tried and tested ways to get you started.
The no-system system
The most straightforward kind! People bring unwanted items along and take what they want. It doesn’t matter how much they bring or how much they take. The aim is to redistribute unwanted clothes and if someone wants something, then they can have it!
Bring one item to swap, get one item back in return – simple!
Larger, more organised swaps work well on a token system. So if people bought 5 items, they could get 5 tokens in return to collect another 5 items to take home. You could also 'price’ more expensive things like denim, knit or coats to be 2 or 3 tokens instead of 1. This method ensures people leave with items of a similar quality to the ones they brought to swap.
Whether it’s on your friend’s group chat, Facebook groups or through Instagram hashtags, get the word out about your clothes swap and how it will work! The more the merrier. Planning on hosting another swap in the future? Setting up a WhatsApp or Facebook group is a great way to keep everyone in the loop about upcoming swaps and what (or what not) to bring! If you’re going to host in the same spot regularly, it could be a good idea to stick up posters.
You might want to add some other activities onto your clothes swap like screening a fashion documentary before or after, bringing snacks & drinks, or having materials to repair and upcycle alongside swapping.
If you get to the end of the swap and there’s clothing left over that might be slightly worse for wear, make sure they end up at a textiles recycling bank instead of the bin. You can find textile recycling bins local to you here.
Not a fan of public events or not near a swap? No worries! Online swapping is a growing trend on platforms like Depop, where users are increasingly offering swaps for similar items or for items of similar cost and size. Have a browse and you might be surprised what you could get your hands on!
Need a bit more inspiration to bring your clothes swap to life?
Check out our guide below on running a ‘Street Store’ from a campaign we ran encouraging community clothes swaps. You can also find some resources like posters and social media posts here to help you get going.
Want more on how to make your wardrobe work for you and the planet?
Tune into the new season of our podcast ‘Down to Earth’ to explore everything sustainable fashion in conversation with designers, experts and changemakers.
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