Rise of clothes swapping helps make a small dent in the war on fashion waste

Despite working in retail, Annelie Child decided that this year she was no longer going to buy new clothes.

Instead, she plans to only buy pre-loved or recycled wear by joining in the increasingly popular and frequent clothes-swapping events popping up around Sydney and around the country.

"I've got an amazing wardrobe already, I don't really need anything else and I'm trying to back away from the fast fashion, buying news — there's no need," Ms Child said.

"I was probably shopping more than I needed to and the wake-up call came when I bought a top and found something very similar in my wardrobe already."

Her first clothing swap event was at a pub in Sydney's inner west earlier this month with organisation The Clothing Exchange.

She was one of 30 women who brought clothes to exchange for others for a participation fee of $25.

Ms Child contributed two pairs of jeans, a dress and a jacket to the pool of clothes.

In return, she found herself a polka dot skirt, a Nicola Finetti dress, a pair of shoes and a bag.

Clothes left over at the end of the event — on average about 80 per cent — were given to the Red Cross.

Consumers have to slow down

Australians are one of the biggest fashion wasters in the world, throwing out up to 30 kilograms of clothing a year per person.

The ease of buying cheap, easily accessible and readily available clothes often of poor quality has eco-fashionistas calling for consumers to slow down from the fast fashion lane and take it more slow.

Kirsten Fredericks has been running The Clothing Exchange in Sydney for the past nine years, although it was founded in Melbourne in 2004.

She said she "used to shop a lot" but had spent the past few years reducing her wardrobe and had only bought or swapped clothes she knew would last her six to 10 years.

"I'd like to think we're making a really small dent in that [fashion waste]," she said.

"It's a really long process, you have to change people's mindset ... we're so used to throwing things away so it's an education process that starts with young kids to adults."

Keep clothes moving

For many of the women taking part in the clothes swap, they have made a conscious decision to make that small dent in the war on fashion waste.

"I've learnt a lot recently about the environmental impact on fast fashion, so I wanted to look into other ways of getting new clothes. I try and buy second hand wherever possible." — Monique Bougge

"I'm not surprised at the figures but it's pretty appalling. It's only a small dent because I do a lot of shopping, not just at clothes swaps but at op shops as well because they're not off the shelf and being made by slaves in Bangladesh." — Sireesha Gollakota

"It's staggering when I see that amount of waste and people might buy something for the season and just wear it once. Mainly I clothes swap because I find unique pieces I might not see at the shops, they might be vintage pieces and might be more classic and unique." — Ann Bluett

Ms Fredericks said many clothes-swapping stores and events would not accept clothes from cheaper clothing chains with the view that designer brands produced better quality clothes that would "last longer".

She acknowledged that not everyone could afford to pay top dollar for designer garments and therefore saw clothes swapping as a great way to exchange an expensive outfit for another.

"My brain really baffles me that you can go to Kmart and buy a t-shirt for $2," she said.

"With travel times, from the initial process from the mill with the cotton to the labour, I just don't understand how they can charge $2.

"I hope everybody gets their head around it and gives it a go. It's another way for the movement of clothes to keep it all out of landfill."