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Fashion recycling business tries out Auckland market

§ June 22nd, 2004 § Filed under Uncategorized Comments Off on Fashion recycling business tries out Auckland market

The idea was a simple one . . . create an event where women can take their unwanted clothes and swap them with the cast-offs of others for free. 

It wasn’t particularly original – women have been holding clothes swaps for years – but with a trendy name, and in a time of recession, the idea instantly became a success.

And now two Taranaki girls and their friend are transforming the “shwopping” phenomenon into a business.

The first Big Shwop was held last year when former Taranaki girl Sarah Hopkins was newly- mortgaged and sick of buying poor- quality clothes.

Together with friends Inga Boyd and Christine McGonigal, Miss Hopkins booked a Wellington venue and began advertising the shwop.
“At the first venue we booked, we could have 80 people,” says Miss Boyd, who is originally from New Plymouth.
“We didn’t know if people were going to turn up or anything so 80 was fine.”
However, the response they got was amazing.
“About twice that number of people turned up, they were lining up through the restaurant and out the door.”

Eighteen months later, the women are about to hold their first shwop in Auckland, at The Langham – a hotel known for its commitment to sustainability.

“The Langham is perfect because from the outset the purpose of the shwop has been to give something back to the environment,” Miss Boyd says.

“The fashion industry is one of the most destructive industries in the world. For example, look how cotton is made in Third World countries. Our philosophy is to think more responsibly about how we consume.”

All of the clothes brought to the shwop must be of good quality, well made and, of course, fashionable.

“We’re trying to cater for all ages, styles and sizes. But we won’t take something that’s really outdated or if it’s hideous. We’re trying to create a fashion store without the money.”

Shwop works like this: People turn up with their unwanted clothes and get a token for each item. There is an interval during which clothes are sorted and the women can have a free glass of wine.

After an hour, the flood gates open and the shwopping really begins.
For each token, shwoppers get one item of clothing – leaving happily with a new wardrobe.

“People bring lots of really, really good quality clothes and it creates a great energy, it’s a real community event. There’s a good vibe to it,” Miss Boyd says.

Until now, the event has been free, but soon there will be a $10 charge – to help with costs, time and to keep the event sustainable.

“We haven’t made any money yet but we know small businesses all start that way,” Miss Boyd says.
Although The Big Shwop team has no plans to bring the event to Taranaki anytime soon, Inga says anything is possible.
“We’d love to go to the provinces. It will just take time.”
* The Big Shwop – Auckland will be held on Saturday, September 26, 11am-4pm at The Langham Auckland.