Have you ever flicked through your wardrobe in desperate search of an outfit only to come to the startling conclusion that you hate everything you own and as such will need to immediately spend a small fortune to revamp your look?
You’re not alone, everyone tires of their clothes from time to time – purging and renewing your wardrobe is an almost yearly practice for many as our tastes evolve and we get bored easily.
So what if instead of throwing your clothes away or donating them to a charity most likely overwhelmed by donations, there was a way to directly trade them in for something new? A swap over, if you will.
That’s the philosophy behind Swop Clothing Exchange – a number of second-hand thrift stores dotted down Australia’s East Coast that operate off a very simple, yet ingenious system.
Buy, ‘swop’, sell.
It’s a store that essentially stocks itself by encouraging community members to bring their quality, pre-loved items to be swapped.
In exchange, they can either get cash, or store credit that can fund a replacement item or a flashy splurge, depending on what you’re feeling that day.
Founder of the Swop stores Bethany Wicks tells Yahoo Lifestyle the store was born out of a love of vintage fashion, and the circular fashion economy common in US thrift stores.
She started the business in 2013 in Brisbane and says it’s only been growing since, as demand for sustainable, durable and affordable fashion continues to grow.
She puts the success of the store down to its curated approach in the often ramshackled world of op-shopping.
“Instead of digging through boxes of clothes in an op-shop, we’ve got our stock displayed in a way that's accessible to such a wide audience,” she says.
“Our buyers have the eye for those pieces that will take you hours to find in an op shop or vintage store. So we’re kind of a service in that we’ve taken that step out.
“[You still get] the thrill of a hunt, but the best of the best is already here for you.”
A visit to their Newtown store proves her point.
Anyone frightened off second-hand fashion by the prospect of musty racks overflowing with cheap, identical items will breathe a sigh of relief upon stepping into Swop.
The store is a treasure trove of designer goodies and vintage finds, artfully set out, curated and accessible.
It might be a Kenzo blazer for $60, or a pair of Zimmermann shoes for a fraction of their high-end price tag.
We stumbled across Tiffany sunglasses, Prada bags, RM Williams boots and Gorman pieces, all far cheaper than a brand new item and all in mint condition.
It’s a kind of ‘op-shopping lite’ that takes out the leg work and makes the experience sustainable fun, easy and best of all, cheap.
How they pick their clothes
Second in charge of the Newton store Zoe Hinman, explains the way Swop keeps its collection so up to date and accessible is by being picky.
They won’t take just anything you bring in, it needs to fit specific criteria, and that changes month to month.
“We buy on a basis of resellable, we look for ethical brands, designer brands, and we look for things that have a high demand of selling right now,” she says, explaining that depending on the season, stock levels and more they will accept or reject something a buyer brings in.
Some consistent ‘nos’ are fast-fashion brand listed on their website, damaged clothing or anything that’s simply out of style, so you can put down that bubble skirt you bought in 2008 right now.
“We’re pretty on the pulse of what people are looking for and curating it so they can come here and not get overwhelmed,” she says.
The circular fashion economy
The beauty of the system is once you buy a few quality items, you can virtually keep swapping your way through an endless wardrobe, and even pick up a whole outfit without spending a dime.
“What sets Swop apart is having the ability to get clothes without actually spending any money and also getting rid of things in your closet that you’re not using anymore,” Zoe tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
“So we’re keeping a circular fashion cycle going and making sure it's economic on your part and that it's sustainable because you’re not adding to anything that’s not already here.”
It’s a whole new way of approaching shopping and clothing – the idea that cycling clothes through the community can be a fun, and exciting way of approaching fashion.
“With this system, you can have a little bit of fun with something and trade it back,” Beth says. “It might not have worked out for you, or maybe you had the best night of your life and you’re ready to let it go onto someone else.”
Buy, swop, sell? That’s the kind of sustainable and affordable shopping we should all resolve to be part of this year.
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