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Tired of Fashion Overconsumption? A Clothes Swap Might Be The Answer

14 June 22 words: Addie Kenogbon
photos: Nigel King

There’s been no getting away from discussions on how the world of fast fashion is taking its toll on the world’s resources. However, clothes swap events are hoping to make a change by providing people with a chance to get their hands on great pieces in a more environmentally-friendly way - and Nottingham’s Big Swap Events have become leaders on the sustainability front here at home. Our Fashion Editor, Addie Kenogbon, was invited to review their latest event at Nonsuch Studios, and to find out if one person’s trash can really be another’s treasure…

Big Swap Events have become a popular staple in the calendars of many since launching last July, with visitors flocking from as far as Sheffield and London to attend. The project, formed as a collaboration between Style Swap Events founder Sarah Jackson and Big Swap founder Zoe Sussmeyer, aims to be as size-inclusive as possible, while allowing people to swap their unwanted clothing for other preloved pieces donated by swappers. 

May’s event was held at Nonsuch Studios on a sunny spring afternoon. Approaching the gates there was already an excited throng of people waiting to get in. I myself brought ten items from my wardrobe and I was looking forward to seeing what treasures I’d be able to swap them for. 

Each visitor pays an £8 ticket fee and is able to bring up to ten items including clothing, shoes and accessories, and, in turn, can take home a maximum of ten items. The rails were all neatly separated by size and category and were all well-stocked with a range of amazing pieces. From Topshop and Whistles to Guess, New Look, Zara, ASOS, Ralph Lauren and more.

“We always have an eclectic mix at our swap events and it’s all about the thrill of the find, because you genuinely do not know what you’ll get,” Sarah explains. “We have had premium High Street pieces like Whistles, Reiss and Zara, but it’s the vintage ‘fits that are interspersed within that that make it more interesting.

The events have helped to keep 2,950 pieces of clothing in circulation, with 296kg diverted from landfill this year alone

“It’s never been about label snobbery, it’s about things that still have a lot of life in them that someone’s going to enjoy. And that might be something from Primark or Prada. When I first started the swaps, there was a real confusion about that and people used to message me all the time like, ‘What if I bring something from Whistles and I only get something from Primark?’” Sarah continues “It’s about bringing something that’s in good condition that someone can get enjoyment out of and wear for a long time. And, when people walk away with things they genuinely love, and they can’t wait to outfit-build with their new finds, that’s what makes these events special.”

Zoe adds, “We’re starting to see more vintage and retro pieces come through too, which is great.  Now we’ve introduced plus sizes, it’s really diversified our offering. Last July we only had one rail of plus-size; at this event, we had five rails. That’s almost fifty percent of our stock.” 

Seeing the bustling mix of women from all walks of life all mingling excitedly and flicking through the rails, it’s clear to see that Sarah and Zoe have created something special that goes far beyond the clothes. “You walk through the High Street and it’s sad to see all the shops closing,” Zoe explains. “But to see how people do shop and how they are considering how they consume, it’s just so different now.”

The pair tell me that May’s event was their busiest event so far, with over seventy attendees. Since launching last year, the events have helped to keep 2,950 pieces of clothing in circulation, with 296kg diverted from landfill this year alone.

Any garments that aren’t able to be swapped on the day are donated to Nottinghamshire Hospice, who have been partners of Big Swap Events since last year. “We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without Nottinghamshire Hospice. They really helped me out with my second event,” Sarah explains. “And I loved that we’re getting the opportunity to support a great local charity that helps many families across Nottinghamshire. It just made it even more special.”

“The entire ethos around our events is championing zero waste and the circular economy, but it’s also about making an impact in a number of other ways too, including supporting a local charity,” Zoe adds. “We’ve managed to make donations worth £5,092 to Nottinghamshire Hospice stores through our events since last year. They’re approximately seven-to-nine months behind on donations because of COVID, so our events are helping them when they need it most.”

From a nearly-new Ralph Lauren trench coat to a range of brightly coloured jumpsuits and dresses, statement military boots to eye-catching knitwear, there was so much to choose from. However, this slow-fashion addict managed to bag herself four really special pieces, including some Guess boots, a vintage midi dress and a sixties-style swing dress. So, all in all, I’d say it was a total success, and definitely right up there as one of my new favourite ways to shop. And, what could be better than knowing you’re helping the planet, giving your old pieces a happy new home and managing to take home some treasures yourself - all with change from a tenner?

Big Swap Events’ one year birthday swap takes place on Saturday 9 July at Sneinton Market Avenues

@thebigswapevents

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