We live in a consumerism-centric society – saturated with garments of fast fashion. The reality is: it’s a challenge to navigate around such widespread unethical fashion practises.
A beacon of hope comes in the form of curated second-hand store, SWOP – a ‘vintage oasis’, as described by co-founder and director, Bethany Wicks. The people of SWOP have found their own space – both literally and figuratively – in the second-hand community with two stores in Brisbane.. Most recently, they’ve opened up shop in Sydney, with another second-hand haven situated on King Street in Enmore.
What differs SWOP from their second-hand counterparts is their careful curation process. Unlike many second-hand stores, SWOP doesn’t take every garment handed to them. Buyers sort through mountains of clothes, brought to them every Friday by people in the community, and choose pieces which fit their core aesthetic. Bethany and the team pick “quality garments that are ready to be loved again”. They are searching for pieces that “make them feel excited, bring back memories of the past or spark that creative outlet that fashion should be about”. Their philosophy seems to entail what getting dressed every morning is about for most of us – dressing to represent how you feel on the inside, or even, dressing to contradict how you feel on the inside.
Fast fashion is the war that the people of SWOP are fighting. Buyers choose not to take labels such as Bardot, H&M and Supre because of their fast fashion status. Bethany says,
“We don't accept these items as they are mass-produced, poor quality and sadly made by overworked and underpaid employees (usually women). The fast fashion world is having major effects on the environment, garment workers and the integrity of design in the fashion world all while making billions of dollars each year.”
The SWOP team hope that their decision to not buy into these often poorly made garments will influence their customers to buy better and more compassionately.
What SWOP offers you is not only a chance to wear vintage threads, but for your formerly loved items to be loved again by someone else, completing the circle. This isn’t a rare occurrence. Bethany shares that “customers come in all the time with stories about seeing people on the street wearing the clothes they used to love”. She believes that because of situations like this they’ve “created a memorable experience that I doubt the fast fashion world could replicate”. The war on waste is another battle that the people of SWOP have chosen to align themselves with they’re also halting wasteful purchases from fast fashion stores, one purchase at a time. Those in and outside the fashion industry are calling for a dramatic overhaul in how it operates, after research led by Newcastle University has revealed that synthetic fibres found only in clothing are present in the stomachs of sea creatures found in the Mariana Trench – the deepest channel of the World’s oceans. A waste-free industry is the ultimate goal. SWOP and its second-hand store counterparts are championing this with a sustainable system: recycling pre-loved garments.
In a realm different to most retail stores, SWOP’s motto isn’t “sell, sell, sell!”. To contribute to their relaxed and inviting atmosphere, retail assistants allow customers to browse at their own pace – navigating their way through the store, finding their own groove. Their process means that they’ve created a peaceful and pleasant environment for anyone and everyone to enjoy. They have a “hands off” approach in store, allowing anyone who enters to explore and experience the store as they wish. They’re still always available though, if you need a bit of guidance.
If ‘second-hand’ has never been a part of your fashion and style vocabulary, then ease yourself into the realm of ethics and sustainability with a visit to SWOP. Get creative with what you choose to adorn yourself with every morning and shop their unique, affordable and quality hand-picked pieces.
SWOP Clothing Exchange
Shop 2/112-116 Enmore Rd, Newtown NSW 2042
Monday - Friday 11am - 7pm
Saturday & Sunday 10am - 4pm