Published: September 16, 2014


© Margaret Badore. Global Fashion Exchange hosted a mini swap at NeueHouse in Manhattan.

Margaret Badore

Clothing swaps have long been a favorite way for environmentally-minded and budget-conscious people to recycle clothes. Now, Global Fashion Exchange wants to make trading clothes cool for everyone else: from fashionistas to casual shoppers.

Global Fashion Exchange was founded by the Danish Fashion Institute in 2013, and the first event took place during Danish Fashion Week of that year.

The concept is pretty simple: anyone can participate by bringing garments they no longer wear or want. There’s a small section for high-end designer items that’s curated by fashion bloggers, where participants can trade the most valuable pieces one-for-one. Otherwise, participants can take home as much clothing as they like.

“I’m for fashion,” said Eva Kruse, CEO of the Danish Fashion Institute. “But we need to look into how we can do it with less harm to the planet.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generated 14.3 million tons of textile waste in 2012 and about 85 percent of clothing and shoes end up in landfill. The fashion industry is also incredibly resource intensive and has been associated with pollution problems.

That’s why getting a longer life from the clothes we already have is an important step towards more sustainable fashion. According to Kruse, 80 percent of discarded clothing still has 75 percent of its life left. Or in other words, we’re only getting about a quarter of the potential use out of most garments.

© Margaret Badore

Kruse said the exchange “translates something heavy and complex into something fun.”

Now the Global Fashion Exchange is planning to bring the event around the world. They hope to host the event near iconic landmarks: Times Square, the Eiffel Tower, or in Red Square. They’re partnering with Ford, Intandem Creatives and H&M.

© Margaret Badore

H&M will be responsible for recycling the textiles that aren’t picked up by participants. Catarina Midby, who works on sustainability at H&M, said that supporting the Global Fashion Exchange is in line with what the retailer does. They now collect used clothing at all of their retail stores, and offer discounts to shoppers who donate as an incentive to bring their items in. Midby said that their sorting partners are able to recycle 97 percent of all the textiles collected, some of which is used to make H&M’s Conscious Collection.

Patrick Duffy of Intandem Creatives said the event is also an opportunity to teach people about the environmental impact of the fashion industry. At the swaps, signs are posted around the space featuring some of the staggering statistics about fashion waste and resource use.

© Margaret Badore

For Midby, an encouraging shift in fashion is towards more design longevity. “Now it’s more about creating a personal look than following what’s in fashion that season,” she said. “That in itself helps.”

Global Fashion Exchange hosted a mini swap at NeueHouse in Manhattan last night. The next event is planned for November 20 in Los Angeles. You can learn about more upcoming events here.