An Autonomous Swap Shop was created to evoke awareness around fast fashion, consciously consuming and sustainable wellbeing. The event occurred on the 18th April 2018 at Brighton Open Market, where we are aiming to return within the next three months. It was an exciting day for all, as it enabled individuals to switch their unwanted clothes for something new and more treasurable. All money made has supported Chestnut Tree House charity, a children’s hospice in Sussex.
We decided to locate An Autonomous Swap Shop within the Open Market as it is a convenient place for individuals due to its closeness to Brighton town centre, and the fact that it is half way between University of Brighton campuses Moulsecoomb and Grande Parade; making it easily accessible for students to attend. Furthermore, the Open Market is mixed within local businesses which support our local community, whom provide us with fry sourced produce which, in turn, enhances the sustainable nature of the event.
The idea behind the project was to create a conversation around the effects that the fashion industry has on our planet and people. At first, the key motive was to educate individuals (mainly students) about the effects their cheap purchases from online stores, such as Boohoo and Missguided, have. However, as time and research went on we began to learn that students have little awareness of ways in which to purchase sustainable fashion for a little-to-no-cost. Therefore, to address this, it was important that we demonstrated ways in which this is obtainable through the Swap Shop event.
Chest Nut Tree House charity is a children’s hospice across Sussex that aim to provide the best quality of life for those in sufferance. They do a great job and help provide specialist palliative care to those with shortened or limited lives. The support ensures a strong community is behind those and their families with 24 hour advice, assessments, specialist short breaks, emergency care, pre and post-bereavement support along with the aforementioned end of life care. They rely heavily on donations as the government only fund them 7% of their 3.5 million budget per year to keep the charity open. The Swap Shop’s main aim was to help the local community but was also to provide you with the exclusivity of learning about sustainable fashion and wellbeing through listening to the guest speaker. There was a £3 entry fee which was donated to the good cause.
The clothing and accessories available were a range of sizes, colours but also from designer, high street and vintage. We had 3 different fashion students from various London Universities who came and helped out, providing stylisation tips and techniques to show the use of one item in multiple ways. This was great as they helped out individuals who were unsure of how to style the clothes they liked, but would not typically wear. They also provided expert help with organising the structure of the clothes, as they colour coordinated and grouped clothing, making it easier for individuals to rummage through and get their idolised piece.We wanted to give the store an exclusive feel, however, still fit in with the market store persona. Therefore, we did not completely enclose the space provided to ensure that all members of the public are eligible to view the clothes, and were still able to learn about sustainability in fashion. Additionally, we handed out pamphlets for individuals to take away so that they may read more about sustainable fashion and how An Autonomous Swap Shop is trying to initiate further change in the way consumers view and
purchase clothing. This publication showcased interviews with activists and vegans, tips and tricks to live and shop more sustainably and much more information.
One of our main successes was the education of various consumers who walked past the stall who often enquired as to what An Autonomous Swap Shop was. We explained the idea, purpose and concept which engaged their attention, further attracting them to browse the Swap Shop. We were surprised as to how many individuals walked past and returned later with clothes. This shows that whenever there is an opportunity to learn about sustainable fashion, people show a keen interest to take part and educate themselves about how their fashion choices unknowingly affect the environment negatively. Therefore, their return with clothing signifies a growing awareness in consumers of sustainable fashion and their desire to change their choices for the better.
An Autonomous Swap Shop was inspired by a ‘friend swap’, meaning an event where friends meet to switch their clothes; this typically takes place in someone’s house and is a private event. However, it became pertinent that this Swap Shop was a community event, and needed to happen on a larger scale. ‘Stories Behind Things’ was also an inspiration, due to its massive online community on Instagram. However, Stories Behind Things has only occurred twice in two years, and An Autonomous Swap Shop is hoped to appear quarterly across various parts of Brighton.
Differing to Stories Behind Things, we wanted to have our own twist and it was decided that it would be a beauty stall and a guest speaker. Unfortunately, ‘Sweet Treats’ were unable to attend in the end due to unforeseeable circumstances, so Sascha became our main guest. For the next Swap Shop we hope to secure a vegan food stall to encourage others to switch to vegan alternatives.
At the end of the day, we did a flash sale for the last hour for those who did not bring clothes, yet wanted to purchase a particular item as this is still contribution to sustainable fashion; it ensures a lack of consumption from high street stores. This was also a good way to raise an extra bit of money for Chestnut Tree House. It’s clear that swap shops are a way forward. They are fun, easy to do amongst friends and family but also as a community to promote
We were lucky to have our special guest Sascha Camilli, founder of online publication Vilda Magazine, whose primary focus is on the luxuries of a vegan lifestyle. Her main focus for this talk was sustainable fashion. She guided us with ways to shop more consciously and discussed replacements for luxurious textiles such as silk, cotton and leather. Her discussion gave us a great insight on how easy it is to avoid high street/unsustainable fashion, but also how to make clothes last longer whilst touching on the effects that frequently washing has on the environment. She enhanced that “you change your clothes everyday, so we may as well inspire change with your initial fashion choices”. We were also lucky enough to have the brand NU SKIN to promote their animal free products whilst showing the benefit they have on the skin. Katie Duxbury (beauty advisor) was available to examine an individual’s skin and select the products she felt would be best.
For the next swap shop we will ensure that we have a bigger presence on our social
media platforms, where we aim to provide all the same information from the posters to our online
followers. Hopefully, by an increased presence online, we will attract more customers from various
locations who may not be aware of us, and provide more information on sustainable fashion and the differing ways to support this. Keep your eyes peeled for our posters across Brighton and follow us on Facebook at ‘An Autonomous Swap Shop’, and on Twitter and Instagram: @autonomousswap.