Swap till you drop

2011-09-02 14:51

Everyone enjoys wearing new clothes – even when they are not new from the shop rails.

That’s why it doesn’t come as a surprise that the concept of swapping clothes to refurbish a wardrobe is beginning to become so popular around the world.

The swap shop culture now has an official term – “swishing” – which is a budget-saving, eco-fabulous way to de-clutter your wardrobe and ­re-stock it with cool stuff exchanged with your peers.

Recently, Capitec Bank hosted a Swapping Mall event at Atlas Studios in Milpark, Johannesburg, where visitors were invited to bring up to five good-quality, gently used garments, ornaments and the like which they no longer wanted or used, to swap for other people’s.

These included clothes, books, toys, accessories and art pieces.

No money was exchanged.

The idea was a hit. About 600 people attended the two-day event.

It was divided into five retail departments offering fashion and accessories; homeware; art and design; toys and books; and a host of Jozi “upcyclists” who showed swappers how to re-use old furniture and make it into something new, or to turn an old belt into a new necklace.

“Upcycling” – an off-shoot trend of swishing – is when useless and unwanted goods are converted into new items of value.

Capitec’s Charl Nel elaborates on the concept: “Retail therapy, while great fun, can quickly spiral out of control and land spenders in serious debt.

“So, to give shoppers that same buzz – without the price tag – we’ve created a unique retail space that looks and sounds like a typical Joburg Mall, but instead, everything in it can be swapped, not bought.”

Recent statistics from the SA Savings Institute (SASI) reveal that local consumers are not saving enough and are spending more than what they can afford.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was recently quoted advising consumers to avoid the temptation to “keep up with the Joneses”.

So, while keeping up with the Joneses might be out of the question, there’s nothing that says you can’t dress like them.

“Clothes-swapping parties, upcycling T-shirts or sneakers and fixing things are fun ways to save money, and keep you looking trendy,” Nel adds.

Internationally, from New York to London, this clothes-swapping trend has sparked off a host of fun and funky events, where fashionistas host their own private swishing parties to swap clothes with equally fashionable friends and peers.

The biggest advantage of this trend is its eco-friendliness because it allows people to re-use others’ unwanted items, especially if they look new after some upcycling.

Indianna Harris (25), founder of second-hand boutique NiceFinds, is an avid fashion and jewellery upcyclist who cuts, pastes and alters second-hand things.

“Swapping clothes is a fun way of giving your wardrobe a quick, free make-over. It costs nothing, helps you spring-clean your home or closet and is a frugal way of acquiring “new” things without the price tag,” she says.

Another avid swisher is Adrienne Wiggins, owner of Rewardrobe, a second-hand clothing shop, who says she also often organises swishing parties for herself and friends.

“It’s a fun way to get new clothes, but the downside is that you might have some really great stuff to swap but struggle to find anything of good quality,” she cautions.

There are many websites dedicated to swapping fashion items, but for a more personal experience, anyone can host a swishing event privately or publicly as part of a charity event, as some local celebrities and socialites have done.

“There are very few places that offer swishing on a permanent basis. The ones that take place are usually in pop-up stores or during charity events.

Many people simply organise for themselves,” says Nikki Seegers, owner of the lifestyle website liveeco.co.za.

She says swishing is an age-old tradition between friends and family who would borrow and swap clothes to refresh their wardrobes.

“Now it’s starting to catch on, mainly because it’s a great way to save money while staying environmentally conscious,” she adds.

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