Friday, 27 April 2012

‘No more Shopping, you have too many clothes!’ But Mum, I’m going Shwopping! IT’S GOOD FOR THE WORLD.

Did you know that one in every four items of clothing purchased by us in the UK ends up in the bin? Non? Neither did I. I knew fast fashion was a problem, but hearing statistics like this really put this issue firmly into perspective. I mean, what is the point of going out and spending your hard earned dough on new clobber, only to have it end it’s very short life on the top of an environmentally un-friendly landfill heap? WHAT IS THE POINT??

DING DING, we have a winner. That’s right, you there, in the sunshine-yellow dress. There is no point at all. 

And while we can't fix this fast fashion craze overnight; rather than do nothing, we should at the very least try and do something. What's the worst that can happen? We don't succeed, we learn, and we try again. No love lost. 

So here’s to M&S making a try of it:

1.      They are placing recycling bins by the tills of all of their 342 stores in the country
2.      When we go shopping, we’re encouraged to take any unwanted garments in store and pop them in these bins
3.      The aim of the game being to kick-start the ‘buy one, give one’ culture
4.      These unwanted items will then be resold, reused or recycled by M&S’s charity partner Oxfam, thus raising a tonne of money to ultimately change a lot of lives.

This phenomenon, in a nutshell, is a revolutionary trend about to take off called ‘SHWOPPING’. That’s right ladies, you heard it here first. Pretty soon we’ll all be getting in on this fashionably charitable act of turning our rags into riches. Retail therapy and giving back all in one swift transaction? Yes please, don’t mind if I do...

The scheme is part of M&S's ‘Plan A’ programme and an expansion of a partnership with Oxfam which began back in January 2008, and has since seen more than 10 million items donated, worth an estimated £8m

According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, UK consumers throw away 2m tonnes of clothing a year, with half going straight to landfill. So maybe, just maybe, these recycling bins by the till points will be a constant reminder urging customers to recycle their unwanted clothes rather than binning them. Remember: Green equals GOOD

However, this move by M&S has been slightly controversial amongst smaller charity shops, who fear that this initiative may result in them missing out on vital donations which they depend upon. What I would say is – please don’t get so uncontrollably excited about shwapping and forget the little guys. My advice is: if you’re planning on going shopping for the day, then bring a couple of things to ‘exchange’ in M&S; but if you’re having a ruthless clear out of your cupboards, then bag it all up and drop it off to your local charity shop

Cath Lee, chief executive of the Small Charities Coalition, said: "It's great to encourage recycling in this way, but it would be a great shame if an unintended consequence is that the shops of smaller, less well known charities receive fewer donations as a result. There is huge diversity amongst charities, and the smaller ones have an essential role to play in addressing local and specialist causes. They contribute an enormous amount to our communities. The smaller charities that have shops will be heavily reliant on the income from the donated goods sold, so it's important that people continue to give their unwanted clothes to their local shops in their high street."

Listen to Cath people. She’s a smart cookie. She knows what’s what. She’s down with all charity related shenanigans. 

You may already be aware of the fact that even the larger charity shops such as Oxfam are currently struggling to get enough donations through the door that are in a re-sellable condition – which I believe is down to the explosion of being able to sell unwanted clothes online through sites like eBay, ASOS marketplace etc. and make money in the process. But come on people, what happened to the act of just simply giving, and feeling good about that?

But shwopping is not all M&S are doing - they have also teamed up with London College of Fashion’s Centre for Sustainable Fashion on a project aiming to bring together a host of industry experts (including designers and stylists) who will be carefully exploring and debating the future of a more sustainable fashion industry, which I very much look forward to.

The one-off project gives M&S customers a behind-the-scenes look into the world of 21st Century fashion, and offers the opportunity to witness the stars of environmentally friendly fashion hard at work. Visitors, whether already eco-conscious in their shopping habits or not, will even be able to have a go at designing and creating their own items through master classes at the hands of the experts. So if you believe that fashion school has always been your true calling, but for one reason or another you never quite ended up there, then this is one for you.

There is only one requirement: in order to attend this exciting event you must bring along an unwanted item of clothing. Each item will then be assessed for potential use and will either be reused and transformed in the lab or handed over to Oxfam to resell or recycle. Whether you’re ready to embrace it or not, this right here is the Future of Fashion as we know it.

The M&S Shwop Lab at the Old Truman Brewery, London, is open between 10am – 5pm every day (except Mondays) from 26 April – 9 May 2012.

Sustainable Centre for Fashion: work of designers Michelle Lowe-Holder and Noel Stewart
It’s really encouraging to see a commercial retailer as established as M&S making a concerted effort to be greener and address the huge wastage problem we are currently facing in our culture today. And the fact that this is in turn benefitting a great cause like Oxfam makes it a blooming great initiative in my eyes. Here’s to hoping it blossoms.

What do you reckon?

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