Clothing swaps build community and bring sustainable fashion to Greater Boston

Clothing swaps build community and bring sustainable fashion to Greater Boston

Zellner said Sustainable Swaps also allows its vendors to sell their wares at “reasonable prices,” but for swaps, the rules are simple: Both parties just have to agree on the trade.

Sustainable Swaps hosts clothing swapping events in the Boston Common and at The Foundry in Cambridge. Maya Seri

“When I look through my closet, I can find pieces I don’t want to wear anymore, but someone might love something I’ve worn too many times. And I might love something someone else has worn too many times,” she said.

Zellner’s decision to start Sustainable Swaps stemmed from her concerns about her impact on the environment, and she thinks many college students participating in the organization’s events feel the same way. She estimates that between 150 to 300 people come to each event to swap clothing, art, and accessories.

Like Zellner, Stefanie Johnson said she was moved to create her Medford shop, SwapIt, after learning about the fashion industry’s impact on the environment. Johnson opened her brick-and-mortar store in 2018 and charges a $147 annual membership for access to the swap-to-shop inventory provided by other members.

Unlike most apparel boutiques, SwapIt organizes clothing by garment type, rather than size.

“We did it because sizing isn’t standard,” Johnson explained. “We offer so many brands, from so many different years and even different countries, that the size on the tag means so little.”

They also don’t weigh swaps based on brand, style, or suggested retail prices: Pants from Target and a jacket from Everlane are both worth one swap. SwapIt currently has 124 members and around 2,000 garments in the store at any given time, Johnson said.

Easton Women of Today — a civic organization that performs community outreach and service for Easton and surrounding areas — will host their 10th annual style swap fund-raiser on March 30 at Easton Country Club. The boutique-style swap will include fashion consultations with Tricia Cromwell of Trust in Tricia, a Boston-based closet design and personal styling business. The idea for the fund-raiser originally came after members of Easton Women of Today attended one of Cromwell’s swapping events and decided to give the concept a charitable spin.

For a $30 swapping fee, participants can bring up to 20 items for one-to-one swaps. The organization has previously donated to Taunton Area Community Table and Penelope’s Place in Brockton. This year, Easton Women of Today will donate the funds to a yet-to-be-determined local mental health and wellness organization.

Karen Deane, treasurer of the organization and chairperson of the event, said many locals attend the swaps, but they garner attention from Cape Cod and Western Massachusetts residents, too. She expects 150 guests to attend.

Participants drop off their items at the start of the event or at the “pre-swap drop” in exchange for a corresponding number of tickets they can trade to “shop” the goods. Then, during the event, the new and used clothing, accessories, and home decor are styled by Cromwell and displayed in the designated “Swap Boutique.” Access to the boutique starts at 8:45 p.m., but a winning raffle ticket gives select shoppers a 15-minute head start.

“It’s fun. It’s kind of like a mad dash to see what the boutique holds in store,” Deane said. She added that some people decide to take fewer items than they walk in with, and leftover garments are taken to local shelters.

Maddie Browning can be reached at [email protected].