Eco Fashion News

tanwi mirajkar: Swapping is the new shopping, say Pune youth

Sushmita.Jha@timesgroup.com

Sapna Duggal, a 24-year-old student from Pune, says she was a shopaholic until three years ago. “Be it an online sale or an offline one, I would just blindly buy clothes. I was so obsessed with it that I would buy the same outfit in different colours because I wanted them all,” she tells us.

However, her perspective towards shopping and the fashion industry underwent a drastic change after she attended a clothes-swapping event in Delhi. Calling it a “reality check”, she says, “The event included a few workshops and stations, that explained why it is important to cut down on shopping. I found out that something as simple as a pair of jeans, requires enormous amounts of water to make. The production of distressed jeans – which I used to be a sucker for, and had many at that point – requires chemical dyes, which is terrible for the environment. The denim is subjected to several chemical washes, which poses serious health risks to the workers, who are exposed to harmful chemicals that are used to spray the material in the case of acid-washed denims. The chemical run-offs from some of these manufacturers are also dumped into the water system, turning them indigo-blue – as in the case of the Pearl River in China.The information really hit me hard. People have been wearing denims for decades, and the amount of harm that we have caused must be irreparable.”

The very next day she collected all her unused clothes and donated them. “Since then, I get all my new clothes from clothes swaps – in different Indian cities and abroad – and ensure I give away the ones I don’t use,” says Sapna, who recently attended Pune’s first, large scale clothes-swapping event on Sunday, called Re-dress, at Shivaji Nagar.

Just like Sapna, shoppers across the country are becoming increasingly conscious about their fashion choices, and clothes swapping events are offering a sustainable alternative to them.

“A clothes swap is a fun way to exchange clothes. It’s essentially a barter system that ensures a longer life for good quality clothing through reusing and re-purposing. It’s a model that has worked successfully in the metropolitan cities in India as well as abroad,” says Tanwi Mirajkar, a 24-year-old freelance product designer, who collaborated with Sweden Alumni Network Pune Chapter, that organised Re-dress.

According to the UN website, the fashion industry is considered to be the second most polluting industry in the world by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). And many experts at the UN believe that “fast fashion” – which encourages consumers to frequently buy clothes at lower prices and discard them – is responsible for a plethora of negative social, economic and environmental impacts. Especially, with clothing production doubling between 2000 and 2014.

At time like this, Tanwi says that ‘reuse therapy’ – i.e. sustainable fashion, minimalism and decluttering – can be viable solution to these problems.

WHAT IS CLOTHES-SWAPPING?

The process of clothes-swapping is simple. Bring your unused pile of clothing to the venue, where the organisers then estimate its value on the basis of brand, quality, and condition. In return, they provide the swapper with tokens or coins, using which they can ‘shop’ for clothes turned in by other swappers. The idea is to have a system akin to having a clothing library in place.

“Through this clothes swap event, we want to encourage sustainable fashion and bring like-minded people from various walks of life together, to engage in activities that have the capacity to bring about a healthy change,” explains Ankita Shroff, a member of the Sweden Alumni Network, Pune Chapter.

“It impossible to take fashion away from a person, because as time passes, we evolve, the fashion sense and the trends change, and people want to keep up with these changes. The problem here is that you don’t realise the fact that as you are accumulating more clothes, you are forgetting what you are leaving behind and you are not really using it. So, I feel an event like this is a very good platform for those people to get rid of the 20 per cent of their unused clothes. Around 85 to 95 per cent of the clothes that people have given at this event are from well known or high end brands. In this way, they might end up being used by someone who cannot afford high end brands, but aspire to wear those colours, styles and cuts,” says Doni Mehta, owner of the Delicare laundry service, who also participated in the event to ensure that the clothes donated were exhibited in the best condition.

The organisers collected a total number of 700 clothes for the event, of which 450 were swapped and 250 donated.

SWAPPING IS A GAME-CHANGER, SAY SHOPPERS

Amit Pathak, a student, who attended the recent event in Pune, says, “I think it is a wonderful idea to exchange things without money being involved, and then reusing them. It’s a truly circular economy, which is furthering sustainability. The quality of clothes I found here was just wonderful as well,” says Amit.

Nisha Saraf, another student who attended the event, added, “I am a designer, and I try to include sustainable concepts in my design. To give away things I don’t use and get amazing clothes in exchange, was amazing. I gave about 14 clothes, and got eight in return.”

Apart from ensuring the clothing they give is in the right condition, Tanwi and her team also asked people to include a little note alongside each item, explaining its backstory.

“All the outfits that were swapped had a story associated with them. For example, a lady who donated a couple of clothes had small stories about each, that explained why she couldn’t wear them anymore, with tips on how to maintain them. These little things add that personal touch to the clothes that you are picking up,” says Tanwi.

On similar lines, Doni received 89 outfits from one of his customers for the swap, which were all high-end pieces – the story behind some of them was that her daughter had moved out of her home, so the clothing had been lying unused.

Post the event, the remaining clothes were donated to two foundations, the BNI trust and With Love For You Charitable foundation Pune, which will later be distributed to the underprivileged section of society all across Pune and Maharashtra.

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