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Economic imperative meets sustainability with a bit of serendipity on the side.

Clothes Swap Pyrmont Rethreads @ Carriageworks Economic imperative meets sustainability with a bit of serendipity on the side.Pyrmont Clothes Swap Rethreads @ Carriageworks Economic imperative meets sustainability with a bit of serendipity on the side.

Hundreds of people turned up at the Rethreads giant clothes swap on 19th September to surrender unworn clothes and dig around for some new favourites. Regardless of whether you are driven by the serendipity of a chance find, the principals of recycling or the satisfaction of cleaning out your wardrobe, these clothes swapping events are enjoying a recent renaissance.

Rethreads was a joint initiative by Carriageworks and The Clothing Exchange, a regular clothes swap initiated by Kate Pears in Melbourne in 2004. Pears was doing a Masters of Fashion at RMIT at the time and was examining the environmental impact of fashion and looking for ways that people could reduce their fashion footprints.

Swaps run on the idea that everything has the potential to be used again and you can refill a wardrobe without buying newly made clothes. An item is simply swapped for an item without extra value attached. Thus the work skirt you’re sick of could become a Burberry trench or in this swappers case the Babydoll jeans that were too small became a French Connection silk blouse. Of course clothes need to be washed and in a wearable condition, no missing buttons or sticky zips.

“People are attracted to the event because they gain a free wardrobe update by solely using the currency of buttons,” said Kirsten Fredericks of the Sydney Clothing Exchange. “It’s a form of environmental activism that excites people, they see their clothes get a new lease on life and take part in the sustainable practice of sharing.” It’s more than just a wardrobe refresher though, Fredericks says that the exchange also aims to shift peoples understanding and treatment of waste. The Rethreads event was so popular that they are looking at the possibility of another collaboration next year.

If you’re looking for something less chancy and closer to the high end of the fashion spectrum, then Swap My Style events are more for you. The principals are similar but the criteria are more specific. Garments that are swapped are no older than a year, no cheaper than $100 and not to include work clothes. There is also a grading system based on original value and label. Their next event, Deutz Swap My Style is on 30th September at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Tickets include champagne and access to a pamper lounge and panel of style experts.

You can add even more virtue to your swapping, by doing it for charity. During the month of September, Oxfam is encouraging individuals to Exchange for Change and organise their own clothes swaps with colleagues, family and friends. Donations collected will then go to Oxfam’s ongoing work against global poverty and injustice. If that’s all a little too soon for you then head along to Surry Hills on 29th September for The Clothing Exchange’s own Exchange for Change night.

This article was written by Nina Cullen.

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