The circular fashion movement is a response to environmental, social and economic impacts of the fashion industry’s waste crisis. We now know that hundreds of thousands of tonnes of clothing end up in landfill, are burnt or are jettisoned by bale loads from the Global North to the Global South, which is a complex and controversial secondhand clothing market.
How can you avoid contributing to fashion’s waste? What should you do with the clothes you no longer wear? While the goal is to wear clothes for as long as you can through good, mindful care, repair or reinvention, there are times, catalysed by fluctuations in size or changes in personal style when you need to “rehome” your clothes. Here are the conscious ways to contribute to responsible circular fashion.
Update your wardrobe, recirculate your previously loved clothing, and satiate the need for ‘new’ with a clothing swap (also called ‘swishing’). A clothing swap is an event where people gather, each with a specified number of cared for but no longer worn clothing items from their closets and trade them. Clothing swaps are not only a fun and conscious way to rehome clothes, but swapping is also generally affordable with low to no entry fees.
Clothing Swap Cape Town
Clothing Swap Cape Town has been helping people rehome and revamp their wardrobes at The 2 Eves restaurant in Kloof Street since 2021. Swappers pay a R20 participation fee and bring between five to 10 clothing items in good condition to swap. A ticket is given per item to use as ‘payment’ for ‘new’ items. Any remaining clothes are donated to charity after the event.
- Follow Clothing Swap Cape Town here
Twyg has been hosting a Swap & Mend event at NUDE FOODS in Zonnebloem, Cape Town on the third Saturday of every month since 2020. Swappers pay a R50 participation fee and bring a maximum of 10 gently-worn clothing items to swap along with a mending kit to join the informal repair circle. A button per item is given to use as ‘payment’ for a ‘new’ item. Any remaining clothes are donated to U-Turn and Turfall Cheshire Home. Take care to ensure that the clothes you bring are not broken, pilled, dirty or smelly.
- Follow Twyg here
Host Your Own Swap
If there are no clothing swaps near you, organise your own! During her time as a student at the Sustainability Institute in Stellenbosch, Frances Storey invited a few friends over to her digs for a ‘Sip & Swap’ on Friday evening. The idea was to bring drinks accompanied by max 10 gently worn clothing items to swap amongst one another. “It is such a great thing to do with friends or a couple of households and you can organise a swap that suits your particular group’s style and size. Some of my favourite pieces I got from that swap,” Storey says.
For more information on hosting clothing swaps, whether as a group of friends or as a public event, download Fashion Revolution’s “How to: Host a Clothes Swap” guide containing advice and tips on consumption curation, picking a venue, a clothes swap essential items checklist, rules on clothing condition, and more.
2. SELL OR RENT
A resourceful way to rehome your gently worn clothing and earn a bit of pocket money while doing it is selling or renting sustainably.
With Yaga, an online preloved clothing resale platform, anyone can open a shop and sell in a safe, scam-free environment. “For selling I would always recommend placing yourself in the Buyer’s shoes – what kind of information would you want to have about the item? You would probably want to see clear, good quality images that show the item in full size and probably by the person wearing it,” says marketing lead, Anette Apri. For Yaga’s guideline for creating a good listing, click here. Yaga also has a reporting system which allows buyers and sellers to notify them about items that don’t meet quality expectations or are against the list of items that can be sold. When it comes to the quality of specific items, unlike other second hand marketplaces, Yaga has a return policy which allows for the return of an item if it differs significantly from the description (including statements about the condition).
Thrift Fest (in-person)
Cape Town-based Thrift Fest is in its eighth year of providing a space for ‘second-handlers’ looking to throw extra change into their pockets and for thrifters looking for their next favourite coat, bag, shirt or pair of jeans. Founder Laura Rainbird hosts 10 thrift markets per month. If you would like to become a vendor, email Thriftfest123@gmail.com to book a stall. Thrift Fest also provides their venues with donation boxes should vendors decide to donate unsold goods. These donations go to the Women’s Shelter Movement where women are taught to stitch and fix the garments that they then can resell.
- Follow Thrift Fest here
Peer-to-peer clothing rental platforms are also an option for the clothes you no longer wear. Rental models differ from business to business but generally, members upload their items from casual- to occasion-wear at a price point of their choosing and the host platform takes a commission percentage on each rental. Some platforms running peer-to-peer clothing rental platforms include Shared Collective and OnRotate.
3. MEND AND REPAIR
Mending is not only a form of clothing care and an essential tool to prolong a garment’s lifespan, but it also plays a necessary part in responsibly rehoming the clothes you no longer wear. In recent years there has been a shift from mending being a mastery of disguise to a visible exhibition of enhancement and flair as well as a creative way to customise and renew interest in a beloved clothing piece. There are wells of accessible mindful mending resources, how to’s and inspiration available.
For example, Cape Town-based creator Lucie Panis-Jones of @lucieweaves details the captivating results of weaving and patchwork projects in art, bags, pillows, throws, jackets and jeans.
Community project combating poverty and climate change, Repair What You Wear, offers free mending and upcycling tutorials and educational resources on their website. Mend, patch, dye, and alter clothing consciously with American award-winning artist and author Katrina Rodabaugh in her latest book, Make Thrift Mend: Stitch, Patch, Darn, Plant-Dye & Love Your Wardrobe. Learn how to use patchwork, embroidery and darning to turn tired clothes into upcycled masterpieces with Chicago-based designer, Lily Fulop’s illustrated guide for beginner and experienced makers, Wear, Repair, Repurpose: A Maker’s Guide to Mending and Upcycling Clothes.
A top tip as suggested by Nabeela Karim in her article, “Repair what you wear”, check to see if the brand of the item you’re looking to rehome has a repair or tailoring service.
Make use of sustainable styling services like Fouura founded and directed by Jessica Ramoshaba. Fouura offer wardrobe decluttering, organisation and maximisation, and recycle garments no longer in use through their store. Look out for collaborative refashion projects like the Our Workshop x Vintage with Love project that, last year, refashioned secondhand clothing too damaged or worn for resale into pieces eventually sold at Vintage with Love.
- Follow Fouura here
Donation is usually the go-to for rehoming unwanted clothing. But charity shops and donation organisations should not be rubbish dumps for bags of broken, stained, ripped, damaged or pilled items which cannot be reused. Two organisations ensuring preloved clothing and deadstock fabric are fed back into society responsibly are Chic Mamas Do Care and The Clothing Bank.
Chic Mamas Do Care
Passionate about clothing, reusing, recycling and upcycling, a fashion exchange passion project founded by Abigél Sheridan turned into a volunteer-based NPO selling preloved clothes in their shops in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg for the support of Early Childhood Development projects. Chic Mamas take donations of good quality, good condition department store, high-street, and even designer clothing and accessories at any time. Sheridan’s donation mantra is:
Don’t donate anything you would not like to receive yourself.
“The items which are in good condition and we can resell, then make it to our shop floor or now online on our Love It Again e-marketplace if they are in immaculate condition. People let go of their good quality items they no longer wear, because they know we do what we say – turn them into educational support for the much needed ECD field,” Sheridan adds.
Through their Bulk Bag system, items that are still good to sell but that have not sold in the Chic Mamas shops are sold to women who resell them in their communities to make their own living. Sheridan explains that bags of clothing are also given away to causes like Rape Crisis, Noah, and for fire victim appeals.
“There is also a container which we fill for community donations in Vrygrond or Hout Bay. This we do almost weekly, and representatives from these communities come and collect for distribution to those in need,” says Sheridan.
The Clothing Bank
Established 10 years ago in Cape Town, deadstock clothing take-back programme empowering unemployed mothers to become self-employed business people, The Clothing Bank, now has a presence in Johannesburg, Durban, East London and Paarl.
The Clothing Bank partners with most of South Africa’s major clothing retailers (Woolworths, Edcon, MRP, Pick ‘n Pay Clothing, Clicks, TFG, Truworths, and Checkers) that donate excess stock to the NPC. Up to 90% of their stock is made up of customer-returns and end-of-season merchandise from these retailers.
The Clothing Bank works Woolworths and Foshini regarding their take-back campaigns. These retailers are housing donation bins in their various stores. The Clothing Collective supports The Clothing Bank and have set up four take-back bins at various shopping centres and corporate businesses in Gauteng. “The message we send out is please donate ‘gently used’ ‘preloved’ clothing. Individuals also drop off donations at our five branches around the country,” says COO Tracey Gilmore.
The clothes that cannot be sold filter through a programme called ‘TradeUP’ which recruits seamstresses into a 12-month programme which includes upcycling and repurposing of damaged and dead stock.
Recycle 1st is a recycling collection service that collects paper, plastic, glass, tins, and e-waste from homes and businesses. They also do onsite waste management for buildings. For the month of June, Recycle 1st is running a clothing donation drive with these buildings for children’s homes (babies to 18-year-old) in Uitsig, Delft and Elsies River. “We’re looking for anything and everything,” says organiser Anthea Fransman. “Give us any gently worn coats, blankets, jackets, and jerseys that don’t fit your little ones anymore.”
Recycle 1st asks that the clothes be cleaned before donating as they do not have a washing machine.