Style & Sustainability: My SwopShop Experience

Women, Events, Colour, Clothing

We love hearing our consultants' stories when they attend events in the UK, Europe and beyond; some which we've shared with our social media followers over the years. We thought our blog readers may enjoy this article written by consultant, Pauline Bishop who is based in Dorchester.

Style AND Sustainability – My SwopShop Experience

What is sustainable fashion? Upcycling tee shirts and dresses made of crisp packets? These things have their place (especially for Creative style personalities), but what about the rest of us, who just want to look nice in an ordinary-but-polished way? And how does my image business sit with my concern that we mostly ignore the uncomfortable reality of a changing climate? These are the issues I had in my head during my involvement in a sustainable fashion project - workshops, a fashion show, and week-long clothing swap, under the label of Rethink Fashion Dorchester.

My part was to set up and run the ‘SwopShop’. I had a budget covering signage and biscuits, the backup of the tiny core team, social media and a team of 35 volunteers. Planning around the many unknown factors was a challenge. How much stock would we have? How many rails could I borrow? Would anyone come?… So with just goodwill and sixpence, all I could prepare in advance was a general idea of flow through the shop, and a concept of retro and green, with borrowed plants, antique suitcases and hatboxes.

On shop fitting today, it all came together, in time for a weekend of taking in clothes in exchange for tokens, and getting stock on to the shop floor. We opened with around 1000 items, and a queue of people clutching their swop tokens, and waiting to ‘shop’. By the end of the week, we’d had around 1700 garments in, 1700 garments out, and hopefully 1700 garments not being bought new as a result. With a prestigious location and a fabulous look, many people came in thinking it was a normal shop (and then went home to find things to swop).

It is estimated that most of us wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time. For many people, it would be easy to replace the garments they were swopping with other things adding to the unworn 80%. To avoid this, once the shop was open, my role was giving colour and style advice to anyone who wanted it, so they could ensure they would wear and love what they took home.

The fashion industry (and not just fast fashion) has a huge carbon footprint, and each new weird weather event is a wake-up call. Then there’s the cost of living too. Fortunately, it’s not money that makes you well-dressed, but knowing the colours, fabrics and styles that suit you. My colour me beautiful training enabled me to demonstrate which colours worked, and more importantly why, which leads directly into understanding how to make use of what you already have and shop only for the gaps (and you can shop the preloved/reloved markets more easily too). Minimal shopping means you can afford to choose ethically, environmentally and aim for long-lasting quality, considering cost per wear, rather than cost to buy. The net result is a smaller wardrobe of beautiful well-made clothes that you will enjoy wearing, with sustainability as a consequence of style.

You can find out more about Pauline on her website My True Colours (click here). Pauline works in and around the Dorchester area.

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