How much do you spend more on clothes? Would you admit to being at least somewhat addicted to ‘retail therapy’ ? Is your wardrobe full?
Starting September 10th, a team of 18 – 35 year olds will spend 10 weeks developing a series of clothing exchange events with a difference, aiming to be a practical, ethical, fun and affordable way for the people of Frome to break dependence on chain retailers selling poor quality clothing that all too often ends up in a bin.
The problem is global. In 2016, UK consumers spent £68.1 billion on new clothing and footwear. A study showed that 18-24 year olds in particular have succumbed to the temptation of impulse buying and ‘fast fashion’: cheap, low-quality yet trendy clothes produced by big global retailers, which they are likely to discard after 1 to 5 wears. Documentaries such as ‘The true cost’ and ‘Machines’ expose the the fashion industry’s unethical approach and environmentally devastating impact.
There are however, more hopeful clothing trends emerging. Increasingly people are reusing, repurposing, up-cycling, charity shop trawling, jumble sale rummaging, clothes borrowing, vintage shopping and clothes swapping. When buying new things, many people are asking where things come from and making ethical and sustainable choices.
Clothing libraries operate across Sweden, even in smaller towns. Much like Frome’s Share Shop, they require users to buy a membership allowing them to borrow clothes for a limited period of time. This is not only happening in Sweden, similar borrowing initiatives can be found across the the world. Here in the UK there are multiple clothing rental apps, websites and shops including Girl meets Dress.
As well as clothes swaps that might happen in living rooms between friends, larger scale clothing swaps are organised across the UK. Examples include the charity exchanges Frockswappers and Swap in the City, who run upmarket clothing swaps, calling the activity ‘Swishing’.
Lizzie Harrison was a founder of the Leeds community clothes exchange which was featured in the Guardian. She and her business partner Liz Parker will both teach on September’s Start-up course. They have drawn inspiration from existing clothing exchanges, clothing rentals and libraries, and want to try out a new model here in Frome in collaboration with Edventure. Lizzie brings several years’ experience of community based activist interventions using fashion design as the vehicle for change alongside her fashion product business Antiform. Liz coordinated Fashioning an Ethical Industry’‘, a project that supported a network of sustainable fashion educators.
Through the process of setting up this clothing project, students will get the opportunity to go through the stages of setting up a community enterprise – from market research to business planning, from generating ideas to project planning, branding and launching the idea.
We are looking for 18 – 35 year olds who are up for a challenge and want to make this idea happen. To find out more and to apply click here. If you’re interested in this project and would like to get involved in other ways please email [email protected]