Clothes swapping apps are on the rise. Would you give them a try?
Just as we’ve wrapped our heads around the latest consumer trend – fashion rentals, where you can rent everything from your wedding dress or a Chanel handbag to your newborn’s onesies – a new eco-alternative arrives.
Enter clothes swapping, the latest way to revamp your wardrobe cheaply and ethically. “Swapping is all about saying goodbye to the pieces you are ready to part with, and in return getting a piece that’s ‘new to you’, something you can give a whole new lease of life to,” explains Aisling Byrne, founder and CEO of Nuw, a pre-loved fashion swapping app.
“Unlike rentals, when you give away or get a piece, it’s permanent. It’s a great way to clear out your wardrobe and rebuild a whole new one in a sustainable way. As you’re starting with the clothes you already have, it’s also the most affordable way to access changing fashion.”
Byrne explains that unlike rentals, which tend to veer towards more “high value” pieces (such as occasion and luxury items that you don’t wear enough), swaps typically include any and every item in your wardrobe, including lower-value everyday bits and bobs.
While you typically pay to rent clothes on rental platforms, swapping sites encourage you to use your clothes as currency: upload more to get more. Nuw simply charges a £.99p transaction fee per swap. On platforms like Nuw, clothes are typically graded for high street or designer, and you’re awarded a token corresponding to the relative value of a piece. Then you exchange your token for a new clothing item, organise delivery (which you pay for) and enjoy your new piece.
In addition to swapping apps like Nuw and Swopped, which operates on similar principles, popular secondhand sites like Vinted also offer a swapping option on certain items. reGAIN is another swap-type app; instead of getting a new item of clothing in exchange for yours, you get access to discount coupons for retailers. Students can also find swapping apps emerging just for them: see Dopplle, which lets you trade clothes with others at your university or college.
Clothes swaps are also becoming popular in-person events once again: many are free, and allow customers to spring clean while getting a “new to them” item, one that doesn’t make them feel guilty about contributing to more landfill.
Byrne hopes that swapping can help change our relationship with how we consume fashion: “One of the biggest problems I see with fast-fashion is that, at the first point of sale, the items are sold at an extremely low cost. The knock-on effect of this is that, when giving a piece a second life, what is a perfectly good piece can be considered valueless, making it difficult to resell or rent, leading to a culture of disposability where we can ‘buy, wear, and dispose’ of our clothes with little thought.”
She adds: “In creating Nuw, it was important for us to help our members build a better relationship with their clothes so that each piece can go on to have a long and fulfilled life (long past 30 wears is our aim).
“We do this by taking away the monetary value of each individual piece of clothing. These pieces are in perfectly good condition, have a long life left, and give far more value to the person who will own and love it next, than the perceived monetary value. You can spend your money anywhere, but you can spend your clothes on Nuw.”