Forget thrift shops, never mind renting - swishing is believed to be the most sustainable way to 'shop' a new wardrobe. Here, we dive into what exactly swishing entails and explore the Irish sustainable app making waves the world over.
The world of sustainable fashion can be an overwhelming one. When you discover that the white t-shirt you picked up on the high street for a mere €9.99 actually required over 20,000 litres of water to produce or that it takes 50 years for a single shoe to decompose or how the world produces 80 billion garments each year when there's only 7.5 billion of us here - it can be hard not to be overcome with climate-induced anxiety, not to mention guilt.
Sure, you've vowed to cut down on your fast fashion consumption in favour of sustainably made clothing but that in itself is a minefield. Sustainable fashion can be confusing. Is it vegan? Ethically produced? Environmentally friendly? Fair-trade? The lifespan of a piece of clothing must be looked at from start to finish. It means understanding that organic cotton is better than regular cotton, as it doesn’t use pesticides or harmful chemicals that are bad for the skin. Then there’s the production: Are the clothes being made in an environment that’s safe for workers? Then, once made, how far is the garment travelling? What kind of carbon footprint in the brand creating? Like I said, a minefield.
But even if you do manage to ensure every item you buy from here on out is that of a sustainable standard, what do you do with the pile of clothes hanging in your wardrobe? Clothes you bought on a whim, because you 'needed' a new dress for a friend's wedding or simply because you genuinely liked them. While you could do a clear-out and donate them to your local charity shop, try selling them on Depop or even taking them down to a recycling centre - these aren't considered to be the most sustainable options.
Enter clothes swapping aka swishing.
Sharing is an intrinsic part of how we wear clothes. Lending a dress to a friend for a night out; a mother’s handbag borrowed (and not returned) for a job interview; a partner’s oversized jumper thrown on for an impromptu rainy walk - to wear someone else’s clothes, or to pass yours on to someone else, is a marker of intimacy and trust. Swishing takes this to the next level.
Swishing is designed to cut down on fashion waste by giving you the thrill of retail therapy without the environmental side effects. Clothes swapping parties have become so popular that they've gone from a small gathering amongst friends to worldwide events held in stadiums. Everybody is told to bring some clothes they'd be 'proud to pass on', and swishing etiquette is to take away the same number of items as you bring to the party. While this new wave of swishing was certainly gaining attraction, they too have been brought to a grounding halt as a result of the global pandemic.
However, just because you can't attend a clothes swapping party anytime soon doesn't mean you can't get involved in the art of swishing. Sustainable fashion app Nuw has been working on the idea of a virtual clothes swap since 2017. Originally invented as a way of swapping outfits for the Trinity Ball, Nuw has since grown into a popular platform for sustainability, and in January of this year, launched its very own app, allowing 4,000 users to swap pieces from the likes of Rixo, Rejina Pyo and Reformation, alongside some spectacular high street garments too. Since launching in earlier this year, Nuw has had over 1,000 swaps and shares.
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The possibilities are endless ✨ Thanks for the challenge @loststock_ - this beautiful dress is available to borrow AND swap on the Nuw app! Alex from the Nuw team styles her pink cami dress from Lost Stock 3 different ways - how are you making the most of your wardrobe? #MyLostStockLook
Co-founder and CEO Aisling Byrne first came up with the idea of swishing after taking a trip to India in 2013, where she witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of fast fashion on the communities and environment there. Determined to make a change, she quit fast fashion and instead created an alternative: to share the clothing we all already own too much of. "The idea was so liberating. For every share, we’d find an outfit new to us, that would offset a significant amount of CO2, water and waste in the process," remarks Byrne. "And, it’s all focussed on sharing rather than renting - once you become a member of Nuw, you can borrow clothes for free, the same as sharing with friends - but only the whole city is your friend!" Nuw has experienced amazing growth this year, and is now seeking a £115k investment on equity crowdfunding platform, Seedrs to fund their project. They've received 80% of the total fund already, from sources like Bethnal Green Ventures and the London Fashion Fund.
Previously only available in London, Dublin and Cambridge, but with their recent expansion, Nuw allows users from across Ireland and the UK to borrow and swap as much as they like within their area for a small subscription fee.
The premise is simple, upload your high quality (but under-loved) pieces to the Nuw app. Each piece is checked and approved or disapproved by their team of stylists. For every item you upload, you are then permitted to borrow an item yourself. Once you find something special, you can request to borrow the item for as long as you need. Once approved, you will then be put in contact with the owner of the item you wish to borrow to arrange collection or organise delivery.
Wear it, love it, return it, do it again. It's that easy.
Main image by @wearenuw on Instagram