Through the Co-Design process, we encouraged Coordinators to go beyond ‘normal Renew Wales’ activity, to explore new topics and audiences, whilst achieving something relevant to our underlying purpose of enabling communities to build a sustainable future. Inspired by her teenage daughter, Coordinator Lisa Williams, came up with a slow fashion ‘Swishing’ event to appeal to young people.
The idea for this event was developed after seeing first hand the buying habits of young people in this age group. They generally buy lower quality, cheap clothing bought and not worn much (or at all) before being discarded. This kind of fast fashion and high turnover of clothing has a detrimental effect on the environment and uses a lot of fossil fuel energy. The 11-16 age group was chosen as it is important to encourage them to live more sustainably, now and in the future, and Renew has not done so much work with this age group.
Although the popularity of pre-loved clothing apps such as Vinted and Depop is growing, there is still a lot of stigma around wearing second hand clothes, particularly in the younger age group. Our Coordinator decided to do a real life swap event, rather than online, as she felt it would be more successful if people could see the clothes in person, and save time and effort in packaging and sending items only seen online.
Designing the Event
The original event planned was much larger and more ambitious, with several different elements such as music, a repair and reuse area, and sustainable beauty and skincare demonstrations. Due to delays with Covid restrictions and limited time and budget, the event was much smaller in the end, although it did serve well as a practice run for future events.
The vision for this event was to give people the opportunity to bring clothes they no longer wore along to the event and swap them for clothes they would wear. The result of which would be the removal of stigma around wearing second hand clothes and encourage behaviour change.
An expanded event, such as the original one planned, would also raise awareness of wider environmental issues and provide students with opportunities to make videos, design posters and complete community volunteering hours as part of their studies.
- Difficulty engaging with the local comprehensive school, which was originally suggested as the best venue due to having large indoor and outdoor areas and a car park. It would also have been a familiar environment for young people and would probably have encouraged more young people to attend. Due to difficulties finding the right person to talk to and restrictions around external visitors to the school, contact was only made about a week before the event. They were very interested but unable to help due to the short timescales. They are very keen to get involved in similar events in the future and a meeting has been set up to discuss this.
- Short timescales. The event was due to take place in April but was pushed back until June to ensure there were no complications associated with Covid and in person events. Time constraints meant there was not much time available to organise and promote the event. It was advertised mainly on Facebook for the Pontyclun area and the surrounding areas of Llanharry, Llanharan and Cowbridge. Posters were put up in the village and people were asked to share the event.
- Lack of budget. The Coordinator was fortunate that the Community Council agreed use of Café 50 (located with the Community Centre) for free. They also printed off posters and signs free of charge. Two local businesses contributed a small amount of cash and vouchers. More budget for a future event could provide refreshments and a wider range of activities.
- Volunteer commitment. Although 4 or 5 adults originally said they would help out, only two of those actually responded when plans were finalised.
What went well
- A good number of young volunteers, who were very enthusiastic and helpful and provided good feedback. They also encouraged a couple of friends to come along.
- Contributions from 2 local businesses meant the Coordinator was able to offer vouchers to the young volunteers for the local coffee shop. In return the businesses were credited as supporters of the event.
- Noah’s Ark offered the use of clothes rails and hangers as they run charity events and shops, and fashion shows.
- A community sharing project, previously supported by Renew, offered hangers, boxes and a chalkboard and agreed to take the left over clothes from the event.
- An Independent Councillor in Pontyclun shared the event on social media, raising its profile.
- Music playing in the background added to the atmosphere.
- A lot of people liked the social media posts about the event, with lots of comments saying what a great idea it was and they hoped it was successful. A subsequent poll was posted to ask if people would be interested in future clothes swap events and if so, what type of event. 92 people took part over a 24 hour period and the results were:
6% said they would not be interested
21% would be interested in a children’s clothes swap
15% interested in a teen clothes swap
50% in an adults clothes swap
5% in all clothes swap
- Another swishing event based on this one is now planned in Cowbridge, and the Coordinator has been asked to help a group to run a clothes swap event in Pontyclun.
- 2 adults volunteers
- 6 young volunteers (under 16)
- 43 items taken
- 14 people attended to donate and swap
- Stimulated conversations about future events
Improvements for future events
- Allow plenty of lead time to give people time to get clothes ready to swap.
- Advertise widely in a range of places, as not everyone will see it on social media. The young volunteers suggested putting it on Instagram and TikTok to attract a younger audience.
- Include other activities and events with an environmental focus to attract more people.
- Hold it in a larger venue with plenty of parking.
- Potentially allow people to drop off and swap at the same time to save people coming to the venue twice. This would work well IF you had enough people to immediately sort clothes and put them onto rails and into boxes.
- There were a lot of clothes left over at the end and someone did ask if they could buy them as they didn’t have anything to swap. This would be a great way to get even more second hand clothes being used but would have to be managed to ensure that people bringing clothes to swap had full choice first. Adding a ‘buying’ time slot for the last hour or so would probably be the best solution.
- Expanding the event to all ages, or just children’s or just adults clothing, could be considered. One thing to note is that although the upper age limit for this event was lowered from 18 to 16, we still had some women’s clothes in sizes 8 and 10 being brought along. Some older teenagers may well be wearing women’s size clothes so this blurred the parameters slightly.
- Offer incentives for volunteers and link in more with schools so students could use the experience as part of their studies and community volunteering opportunities.
- Consider whether to limit the number of items being brought in to swap. Initially there was a limit of 10 items, but it became clear that this needed to be removed to allow maximum choice for those coming in to swap. The Coordinator changed this the day before the event to allow unlimited items to be swapped.
- Feedback from the young volunteers affirmed that they all thought the swishing event was a great idea. They agreed that running other activities at the event would make it more interesting, especially around environmentally friendly make up and skincare. They all said they would volunteer again.
Although attended by a relatively small number of people, the feedback and comments received were very positive. Working with Pontyclun Community Council and Manage Money Wales built valuable relationships and the support of two local businesses contributed to the success of the event. This type of event has a lot of potential to be run regularly and would work in different geographical areas.