The volume of clothing we buy has doubled in the past 15 years, yet we wear garments half as often before discarding them.
In response, local businesses and organisations, including Alpha, the CBR Gals Network, Rosella Street, Evie Kay, Flow Forage Grow and Icon Water, are launching the Canberra WorkLeisure Clothes Swap on 12 June.
Rosella Street creative director and co-founder Samantha Williamson said the ultimate goal is to encourage Canberrans to train the spotlight on their fashion consumption habits and keep clothing in circulation as long as possible.
“Clothing swaps are a great way for us to be aware of the value in our clothes,” she said.
“People want to keep up with fashion by always having the new best item, but this comes with a sinister footprint for the planet. And the more you learn about the industry, the more confronting it gets. We think people want to know, though, and that’s the purpose of the Clothes Swap.”
The fashion and textiles industry is one of the most polluting and wasteful on the planet, according to sustainable fashion educator Rae Knopik.
“Brands and retailers are still not taking enough responsibility for the pay and working conditions in their factories, the environmental impacts of the materials they use, or how the products they make affect the health of people, animals and our living planet,” she said.
“We need action, individually and systemically, and we need it now.”
It will all be laid bare at the event where thought leaders and provocateurs will host round-table discussions diving into a range of issues including how to care for clothes, the materials, dyes, plastics, microfibres and chemicals used in the industry and the event’s focus hashtag – #WhoMadeMyClothes
“We don’t truly know who makes our clothes – we don’t know the mileage or background they require to end up in our stores and wardrobes,” Sammy said.
“This is the basis of the round table discussions – we’ll explore a range of brands, delve into their different journeys and discuss if those journeys are something we’re ok with.”
The event will look at four key areas: consumption, composition, conditions and collective action to uncover the hidden and often harmful substances in our clothes and educate the public about the ecological impacts of our materials.
The WorkLeisure brief is where athleisure meets traditional work attire. Think office-appropriate outfits with a sportif twist.
All attire must be pristine: no stains, rips, tears or pilling. The rule of thumb is that the item should be fit for sale or gift to a friend.
Swappers will have hundreds of high-quality items to choose from for a wardrobe refresher and can leave knowing their pre-loved (albeit hardly worn) pieces are going to a good home.
Sammy said organisers were hoping Canberrans would vote with their feet by filling the venue capacity (50), demonstrating their position on the critical issues and inciting behavioural and cultural change.
“I think we know, especially from the recent election, that Canberrans have very strong values. They know what those values are and I think many of those values relate to the environment,” she said.
Aside from facilitating discussions and the clothing swap, the event will be the launchpad for the CBR Gals Sustainable Clothing Exchange group on the Rosella Street platform where members can continue swapping clothes after the event. Any clothes left over or not swapped on the day will be the first items up for grabs on the site.
“This will be a great tool not only for CBR Gals but also members of Rosella St who want to continue swapping clothes forever,” Sammy said.
Swappers can use Rosella Street to buy, sell and swap clothes outside this group or start their own groups for clothing swaps between their friends or community.
The Canberra WorkLeisure Clothes Swap will take place Sunday, 12 June from 10 am to 1 pm at Sound CBR, Barton. Tickets are by donation (minimum $15) and will include access to the event, fresh juice and food. Click here to register your interest and receive a Get Involved Swap Kit with information, how-to guides and tips.