Don’t shop for that swag, switch to clothing swap

Clothes swap
The hygiene factor in wearing a reused outfit makes many women wary of swapping clothes with strangers

Our growing obsession with shopping, especially for clothes, is costing us dear. Catering to our desires is the fast fashion industry – constantly churning out cheap clothes, both in price and quality and enticing us with the click baits of ‘last piece’ and ‘hurry’.

But, only a few among us fashionistas know that this craze for clothes is taking a huge toll on the planet. According to the Ellen McArthur Foundation, the total greenhouse gas emission from textile production is 1.2 billion tonnes annually. The textile industry alone accounts for 10% of the total carbon emissions by the human race. Besides, 85% of all textile is dumped each year and it takes 659 gallons of water to make one cotton t-shirt and 2,108 gallons for a pair of jeans.

Eco-friendly, yet fashionable alternative

At this juncture, clothing swap, an eco-friendly alternative to shopping, is helping us keep a check on our fashion footprints through the exchange of clothes. The initiative recently started by a number of offline and online communities, mostly targets hoarders – people who shop for shopping’s sake. Such shoppers are being encouraged to part with the things they don’t use anymore, to be open to owning hand-me-downs, and buy only after serious consideration.

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Gurugram-based start-up This For That is one such community of fashion lovers which encourages members to make their closets accessible to others and upgrade their own wardrobe without spending a penny. Their app also has an SOS feed where women can holler emergency requirements (sari for farewell or lehenga for a wedding) and swap accordingly. Outfits can also be temporarily borrowed from fellow members at nominal shipping prices.

Ethnic Thread, a similar community enables women across the world to sell, rent and exchange ethnic outfits.

Take a leap of faith, join the party

The hygiene factor in wearing a reused outfit makes many women wary of swapping clothes with strangers, but most moderators of swapping communities say it is more of a psychological block than an actual deterrent.

“Don’t we face the risk of hygiene at malls too? We tell our swappers that they must wash what they’re giving away and wash what they take home. The concept will gain acceptance when more and more people start swapping,” says Tanwi Mirajkar, founder of Pune-based community Reuse Therapy.

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Founded by Tanwi and her partner Eesha Patne, the organisation conducts sensitisation workshops on clothing swap every few months apart from organising swapping camps in the city. Their first swapmeet in July this year was attended by 120 people, and the number rose to 200 in the second one in October.

Exchange Room, a wardrobe swap community in Bangalore organises similar hand-me-down parties. “Our main aim is to create a culture of mindful consumption. We want fashion to be sustainable and clothes not to be used and thrown,” says its co-founder Prithvi Rao.

Declutter, let go, find peace

If a 2011 study is considered, mindless shopping born out of a desire to acquire material objects is an indicator of lower well-being. Swapping in a way cures an individual of such a psychological want to acquire more, by teaching the art of letting go, say founders of clothing swap communities.

“Remarks like ‘I’m so happy my dress found a new home’ or ‘wow, that suits her more’ are common among regular swappers, who end up becoming good friends,” say Rao and Sai Paliwal, founders of Exchange Room.

“The generosity that is being nurtured has a sense of joy. Swapping spreads the much-needed positivity and good vibes,” says Paliwal. Besides, the sense of satisfaction derived from decluttering a crammed wardrobe is immeasurable, they say.

Abha Dasgupta, a student, who has switched to swapping calls it a pleasant surprise. “You get a new wardrobe without the expenses, and the number of clothes you own remains the same. For someone who is constantly looking to create less waste in general, this was too good to be true,” she says.

Considering the doom that the spell of consumerism has cast on the planet, experts and environmentalists have valid reasons to believe that we need to slow down and embrace ‘slow fashion’ instead. A good place to begin would be by wearing the clothes we already own for at least two to three months longer than we normally would, thrifting instead of shopping at fast-fashion labels, and cloth swapping. Simple.

(The author is a Pune-based freelance journalist)