Photography: *mX* (Melbourne), Eleven PR and ahm Fashion Exchange
Text: Nicole Baird
When Kate Luckins was researching her Masters of Fashion in 2004, she was shocked to discover the amount of money women spend on clothes they never wear – around AUD$1.7 billion annually in Australia alone. Which got her thinking about the sheer volume that would likely become landfill and what could possibly be done to lessen this huge environmental impact (and hopefully save some money in the process). A poor student and keen op-shopper herself at the time, Kate came up with an idea that combined her love of fashion, her knack for recycling and her firm environmental values. Late in 2004, The Clothing Exchange was born.
‘If people copy nicely, I’m stoked,’ says Kate. ‘If they’re nasty or plagiarize the website, I’m not so thrilled. Ultimately, I want to get as much swapping happening as possible.’
‘It’s shopping without worrying about the economic side of things,’ says Kate. ‘It gives people permission to go out on a limb and try something different; to test their individual style… There’s a playful, community feel to it.’
Since beginning in Melbourne, The Clothing Exchange has spread across Australia with a strong base in Sydney and events occurring around the nation. For Kate, the next step is launching an online swapping site.
‘The website will emulate the events,’ says Kate. Virtual buttons will be used as currency. A community feel will be retained with Facebook and Instagram opt-ins. And users will monitor their own ‘wardrobes’, able to swap freely with other users.
‘We wanted the swaps to be more accessible. It’s not easy for everyone to get to an event,’ says Kate, now a mother of two young boys. ‘With the website, I could be at home while the boys are napping and still able to swap online.’ The site will also be great news for regional swappers. ‘We were receiving increasing numbers of event enquiries from regional areas, which are much harder for hosting,’ says Kate. ‘But the online swapping will expand our reach.’
For an organization that started off as ‘something quirky; a really “Melbourne” thing’, The Clothing Exchange has certainly expanded. Several events at the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival, regular partnerships with charities such as the Australian Red Cross, Oxfam and the Brotherhood of Saint Laurence, and the invention of ‘National Swap Day’ have seen the organization’s profile rise. But Kate isn’t driven by business accolades, simply by an environmental conscience.
‘I do it because I want as many people to swap as possible,’ says Kate. ‘The more people involved, the more positive an impact we can have.’