thread work clothing swap, photo courtesy thread work

Swap a top and move shoes for free
Threadwork and MacGreen host annual Clothing Swap event
Chris Erl
The Silhouette

“Hang on, I have to show you the coat,” she said, running to the ‘Outerwear’ pile. She returned a minute later wearing a baby blue blazer, strips of fur lining the hood and stuck aimlessly all over the front of the ensemble. The inside of the coat was even more fabulous, lined entirely with an audacious leopard print.

The coat in question was a mere sampling of the selection at this year’s Clothing Swap, organized by OPIRG working group Threadwork and the MSU’s MacGreen. Over 90 people participated in the event, which was organized by third-year Arts and Science students Alexandra Epp, Alice Cavanagh and Isabelle Dobronyi, as well as MacGreen Co- ordinator Davey Hamada. Cavanagh, the enthusiastic model of the ambitious blue coat, summarized goal of the movement. “Basically, our aim is to support a sustainable cloth- ing economy on campus,” she said “I don’t want to say it’s about ‘anti-consumerism,’ but that kind of attitude towards reducing our consumerist needs,” Epp noted, shedding light on the principle of the movement: lessening the need to pay for what is available through alternative means.

The system is simple. A call for clothing items was sent out prior to the event. Everyone who contributed during the week- long collection period received points, which would be redeemable for other items of cloth- ing. On-the-spot swap-day exchanges were a possibility as well, with one participant at- tempting a rather spontaneous transaction.

“We actually just had someone swap the shoes off his feet,” Epp said, though later, the would-be swapper noted that the desired shoes were not his size, but he was intrigued by the potential for footwear that was already broken in.

OPIRG working group Threadwork and the MSU’s 
MacGreen teamed up for this year’s Clothing Swap.

“My goal is to have someone swap the entire outfit they’re wearing,” Epp continued with a laugh, prompting Cavanagh to note the changing-room tents in which participants could try on items. The methodology was such that Threadwork attempted to get as many people interested in the project as possible. Particularly, they targeted those who would be opposed to the idea of donning someone else’s blue blazer if it was hanging on a rack in a vintage store. “We bring it to people who would never go to Value Village and buy used clothes,” Epp said.

An alternative suggested was to simply allow people to take clothes without contributing any of their own, but the group agreed that the point system was a better way to combat the negative perceptions associated with used clothing without compromising their ideals surrounding sustainability.

“It makes it more appealing to people who wouldn’t necessarily want to take free clothes from someone else,” Cavanagh explained. “We’re continually looking at alternative methods of clothing-swapping.”

There is an element of economic justice that accompanies an event like this, but the organizers are taking a realist approach toward any larger aims. “Last year, one of our slogans was ‘Working Toward a Sustainable Clothing Economy on Campus,’ which is obviously hugely ambitious and unachievable, but its kind of nice to have those underlying goals,” Epp said.

The working group soldiers on re-gardless, planning a second swap for the spring, as well as organizing a knitting work- shop, hashing out plans for a similar sewing event and working on ways to improve awareness around initiatives that work to- wards a more sustainable way to change your wardrobe.

Their goals are ambitious, but they approach a serious issue in a fun and en- gaging way. It would seem that Threadwork’s Clothing Swap has you covered, from outrageous blazers to already broken-in shoes, no matter what your style is.