Q&A: Why slow fashion enthusiast Stella Hertantyo loves clothes swaps

by | Jun 18, 2021

Ahead of our monthly swap shop we reached out to one of our favourite South African slow fashion enthusiasts, Stella Hertantyo to give us a low down on why she loves swapping clothes.

When did you attend your first swapping event?

I’ve been informally swapping clothes since I was very young. You know what it is like: You spot something you love in someone’s wardrobe and they have been eyeing something in yours, and you agree to swap.

But, I attended my first public clothing swap in 2018. Called Thrift and Gift, it was hosted by Masego Morgan, Savannah Whiting, and Katya Abedian-Rawháni.  It was at the start of my slow fashion journey, so couldn’t believe that I had found a way to get beautiful, new-to-me clothes, filled with stories, and only cost a small entrance fee.

As a student on my slow fashion journey, I was sold the narrative that slow fashion looked a certain way and it was often financially inaccessible. So, a big drawcard of clothing swaps is the small participation fee – and if you swap with your friends or family, you don’t pay anything. This first swap was an early reminder that slow fashion doesn’t have to be expensive or inaccessible.

Why are swaps important?

It’s an environmentally-friendly way to add new-to-you pieces to your wardrobe. You can switch up your wardrobe without doing harm and without participating in hyper-consumption. Instead, you pass on something old and replace it with something “new”. You extend the lifespan of clothing that already exists and save them from being sent to a landfill – which is what happens when you throw clothes away. Throwing clothes away may remove them from your life, but they don’t disappear. They become the Earth’s burden.

We need activities like these to shift the way we consume and connect with clothing. I love knowing that a garment has had a life before it ended up with me. Hearing the story behind garment connects you to that garment in a way that something new can’t do. It’s also such a joy to watch someone pick up an item of clothing that you used to love and watch them fall in love with it.

We know that the fashion industry is riddled with issues of over-production and over-consumption, which burden the Earth as well as countries in the Global South where excess clothing is dumped. Removing yourself from the endless fast fashion is an important step in slowing down your consumption habits and shifting your emotional relationship with your clothes to one that focuses on longevity and care.

In this rushed modern world, we need every reminder to slow down. Clothing swaps are the perfect reminder.

Have you left a swap with nothing?

I have never had this experience, but for the most part that is due to my style. I combine lots of different silhouettes and colours, so I’ll almost always find something that works with my wardrobe.

But, sizing, style and taste really do affect the experience you have at a swap shop. People with a minimalist personal style, or who only wear certain silhouettes and colours, may doubt that they’ll find much that fits their style. I fully understand why people like this don’t feel drawn to public swap shops. But, the cool thing about clothing swaps is that you can arrange your own private one with friends whose style you like (or have a similar personal style to you).

What method/s work best when you want to swap?

Get there early and be patient. Being early means you can become comfortable in the space and have first pickings of the items that are there. You also have to be patient because people continuously arrive and bring new items and sometimes you may have to wait a little while till you spot something you really love.

Try it out! Besides being so much fun, they are beautiful spaces for community building. You get to connect with like-minded people in the slow fashion community. So, it becomes something even bigger than just a way of adding new clothes to your wardrobe.

Top 3 swap shops?

The first clothing swap I attended will always be a highlight, because that is where my love of clothing swaps began. Then, the Swap Social during Fashion Revolution Week in 2019, because it was so cool to find a community of like-minded, slow fashion enthusiasts. Most recently, the Twyg Swap Shop at Nude Foods in April, this year, because after the 2020 lockdowns, I was so excited to attend a clothing swap event again.

Best item you found while swapping?

The item I have worn the most is a white polo neck that I got at the Swap Social clothing swap during the 2019 Fashion Revolution Week. It’s such a versatile winter staple and I wear it with everything.

The most exciting item is a bright pink dress that I got at the Twyg Swap Shop at Nude Foods in April, this year. It’s vintage and used to belong to Liandra [van Staden @_about_today_.] Liandra told me about how much she loved it which makes me want to cherish it even more. I love bright colours and I can’t wait to wear it when the weather gets a little bit warmer.

What shouldn’t you swap?

My golden rule is: If you wouldn’t feel comfortable gifting it to a friend, then you probably shouldn’t be bringing it to a swap shop, because chances are it is not in a condition for anyone else to wear either. Swap shops are not where you discard clothing that is beyond wear.  Don’t bring items that are dirty, damaged, or beyond wear.

When you are swapping, apply all the usual questions of a conscious consumer: Does this go with the other items in my wardrobe? How many wears do I think I’ll get out of it? What do I love about it? What are the care instructions, if it has a label?

Images: Supplied by Stella

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