SWOP clothing exchange is transforming the way Brisbane buys and sells second-hand fashion. Find out how and why in this chat with founder Brigid Gordon.

When aiming to save money or live lightly on this earth, we usually try to avoid clothes shopping. Most of us are aware of the enormous environmental impact of the fashion industry, so we aim to steer clear of shopping malls or when we do indulge, it comes with a side-serve of guilt.

Wanting to shop for new clothes and swap out items in our wardrobes doesn’t have to be all bad news though. Shopping can be fun! Wearing a new outfit can be thrilling! And we can feel good about the whole process. Sounds too good to be true? Then read on to hear our conversation with Brigid Gordon, the co-creator of Brisbane’s SWOP Clothing Exchange.

BRIGID: SWOP Clothing Exchange all began in West End six years ago, but now has stores in Sydney and Melbourne too. We resell on-trend and vintage clothing and accessories to our local community. So, instead of clothing going to op-shops, staying in your closet or worse yet, going to landfill, we buy them and sell them back to the community.

Where did you get the idea to create a clothing exchange?
After high school and a short stint at uni, I travelled a lot. While overseas, I discovered clothing exchanges and I couldn’t understand why we didn’t have them there. My business partner and I didn’t have any business or fashion training, but we had common sense, passion and fresh eyes. At age 25, we had nothing to lose and being naive became our business advantage.

If I want to sell you some of my clothing, what do I need to know?
We want to buy good quality items that will sell quickly, which means good brands that are on-trend. We don’t want poorly made fast fashion, and at this stage, we don’t sell jewellery. We need to be able to sell the items without having to alter or dry clean it.

We’re looking for clothing that you bought from stores like Myer or David Jones within the last few years, or vintage clothing from the 1940s to 1990s.

Please check our website for any helpful tips, and make sure your items are washed. Bring one bag, per person, per day, and come during the allocated buying hours of your local store (again, check our website for these details).

Once you have your bag of clean clothing, simply drop it off with our staff, go out for a coffee, and come back an hour or two later. We will provide a quote for the items we want to buy.

If I have a pair of two-year-old Levi jeans, how much would I get for them?
It all depends on the quality and style. High-waisted mum jeans are in demand, but low hipsters are less popular. So they would probably be priced between $35-60. If we think we can sell them for $60, you’ll be offered a store credit at 50% of that value ($30), or cash at 25% of that amount ($15).

We often receive feedback that people could sell their clothing for more online, and we encourage people to do that if they have time. What we are offering is a convenient service where we do all the hard work for you. We need to pay rent, staff and other business expenses, so we have to take a cut.

What happens to unsold items?
In Brisbane, we have opened an op-shop next to our West End store that is open four days a week. Any unsold items, or items our customers don’t want, but we won’t buy, can go there. We choose a charity to sponsor for a few months, and all profits go to them. So far, we have raised over $10,000 for the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, and earlier this year we supported three other not-for-profits including the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

What other sustainability initiatives does SWOP practice?
We are about to go carbon neutral, which is very exciting, and we’re also beginning the process of becoming a certified B Corporation.

Our online orders are also transitioning to biodegradable packaging; we just need to finalise the right solution for our business. In-store, we only use paper bags, and we’re starting up a compost system for our staff to use. Our shops were all recently fitted out with recycled materials, and are looking beautiful, yet are still aligned with our environmental values.

What’s been the best thing about creating SWOP?
Our community! We have met so many beautiful customers, and it’s an honest joy to come to work. Our staff are incredible, and we’ve bought together a group of strong women who we want to empower and build up in our business. I’m lucky that SWOP can be the platform that meets my career expectations while aligning with my morals.

Find out more about SWOP at their website.