Textile waste is a complex issue that requires systemic change to ensure that items produced can remain in circulation for longer. In recent decades, affordable clothes have increasingly come to be seen as disposable and this is a leading cause of Global Heating, increased pollution and human rights abuses. Leading sustainability initiative WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) released the pioneering ‘Valuing Our Clothes’ report examining the carbon, water, and waste footprints of clothing over the course of one year in the UK.
The report showed that in the last 15 years there has been a doubling of clothing production, while in the same period there has been a 40% drop in the amount of time clothing items are worn. Each year, millions of tonnes of clothes are produced, worn, and thrown away. Every second, the equivalent of a rubbish truck load of discarded clothing is burnt or buried in landfill, making the UK one of the largest producers of textile waste. The overconsumption of fast fashion has significant environmental impact and there is a need for better systems of collection, reuse, and recycling to create a new market for second-hand clothing.
Thinking about how we consume fashion is a great first step to tackling the issue of textile waste, by simply asking ourselves, are we getting the most from our clothes? Creating a capsule wardrobe using the key pieces of clothes you already own is an easy way to do this. In our campaign, ‘My Wardrobe My Way’, Fashion stylist Wendy Rigg explained the concept by highlighting “it’s not about buying new; it’s about creating new ways to wear old favourites”. Our ‘How to’ video shares some amazing tips for creating your own purposeful collection of clothing.
Planning an event
But, if you want to take it a step further and help others cut down on textile waste, you could put together your own sustainable fashion event. All you need is a solid plan, a venue, second-hand clothes in good condition, and a friend or two to lend a hand.
1. What type of event are you planning?
Your event can be as simple as sharing clothes with a few friends or a large-scale community gathering, such as:
- Clothing swap shop: Fashion Revolution has lots of great resources for inspiration, tips and free practical guides to running clothes swapping events. Alternatively, check out this video on how to host your own clothes swap at home.
- Private party: bring a fun twist to a hen party, baby shower, birthday party or networking social.
- Sustainable festival: check out upcoming local events to see if there’s people in your community with similar ideas that you could link-up with.
- School fair: this is a great opportunity to pass on unwanted uniforms and instill good habits for clothing reuse in children.
- Repair events: linking clothing reuse and repair activities is a great combination, so look for people who can lend sewing machines or their skills on the day. You’ll find easy to follow clothing repair tutorials and upcycling advice at loveyourclothes.org.uk to help you extend the life of your clothes.
2. Who is the event for?
Knowing your audience will help you plan the right event. Are you trying to target people of a certain age, or background, or are you just keen on getting as many people along to your event as possible? Consider what days and times those people are most likely to be available to make it easier for them to attend.
3. When do you want to deliver it?
Check listings websites and local newsletters to avoid clashes with other events that may affect your target audience. If it’s a public event, set specific opening and closing times as well as a last entry to avoid confusion and disappointment. Check the weather and other possible disruptions that might affect your plans. To help attract sympathetic people to your event consider linking it to key dates such as Fashion Revolution week, anti-black Friday or Buy Nothing Day, or sale season. Consider if it’s going to be an exclusive one-off pop-up event or if it’s being repeated (weekly, monthly, seasonally). If repeating, you’ll want to plan where you can store leftover clothing and resources between events.
4. Do you have a promotion and communication plan in place?
Getting your message to your target audience is essential so consider how best to reach them.
- Word of mouth via local groups, the school gate, or posters in local venues and businesses
- Social media posts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or TikTok
- Register your event with online listings sites such as Time Out, Londonist, and Eventbrite (but do keep in mind potential charges and VAT)
- Your local council’s events website and other local listings such as Nextdoor
- Encouraging attendees to register prior to the event can help predict attendance and manage crowds. Drop-ins could still be accepted and encouraged where capacity allows.
5. What do you want to achieve?
What will you need to monitor and measure to help you decide whether it was a success? At the end of your event take some time to assess what your challenges were. Each event will bring learning experiences that can be applied in the future. Include people who helped plan and deliver it in this review. Deciding what you want to accomplish will help you understand what you need to measure, and it could include:
- The number of attendees, recorded with a clicker or a tally system
- The weight of the clothes swapped
- Feedback forms or an interactive feedback board completed
- How many new active followers you got on social media. Ask your guests to share photos wearing their “new” pre-loved clothes
- Pledges committed to such as buying second-hand or repairing a clothing item instead of throwing it away
6. Where do you find a venue?
You can host a sustainable fashion event almost anywhere including your home, office, co-working space, place of worship, community hall, parent and children centre, school, local performing arts venue, pubs or cafes, parks, or even libraries. The potential list is endless, just make sure to do some research in case you need permission or need to pay a fee. Also, think about how accessible it will be for your target audience and the availability of amenities.
7. Sourcing and disposing of clothing
Contact your professional and personal networks for unwanted clothes or check with local shops and textile collection points to see if they have stock to spare. It’s also good to think of what you’ll do with leftover clothing. If you are planning more events, consider keeping the remaining stock. If it’s just a one-off or you have nowhere for storage, consider donating to a charity or bring items to a textile recycling bank. Traid or British Heart Foundation may be able to arrange a collection for clothes in reusable condition.
There are also lots of clothing banks across London and locations can be found on the [London Recycles website]. Also, [Love Not Landfill], a non-profit campaign to encourage fast fashion fans to buy second-hand, swap, recycle and give to charity have clothes banks all over London. Just enter your postcode to find the closest disposal options.
8. Event terms and conditions
Consider what terms and conditions of participation you may need before delivering your event. Below is an example from NLWA’s Swish and Style events:
“Play fair and have fun! Follow our swap etiquette and be a gracious swapper. Feel welcome and comfortable. Swapping is about sharing and not a race to grab the best pieces. Respect others’ space and time, no elbowing, no rushing. Avoid any unnecessary hoarding, if it does not fit put it back or give it to one of the floor runners. We ask swappers not to take more than three garments to try at one time. Soon after the first round of trying on, items will find their way back to the racks; be patient, open minded and relax and you'll attract clothes perfect for you. Stick around and mingle. Someone will come up to you to tell you that the item you picked was theirs, someone else will complement you on how great that colour looks on you. ‘Bring the quality you expect to find.’ The swap is not an upgrade. It is an exchange of equal value.”
9. Sourcing your tools and equipment sustainably
Resources you might need for your event include: tables, chairs, rails, hangers, mirrors, changing tent or curtains, baskets, boxes, stationery, and a money box for a float. Additional desirables include scales, heaters or fans, power sockets, sound system and a refreshment table. Do you already have, or could you borrow the resources for your event from another community group? If not, you may be able to rent what you need. If you are planning to deliver more than one event, consider buying second-hand resources or put a request out to sharing groups such as Freecycle or Freegle to find free items.
10. Build your team
You probably have within your network of friends or community all the skills and expertise you need to run your event. This can range from experience in communications, workshop delivery, design, project planning to shop management, and don’t forget about people who are just well organised and great at getting things done! Organise a social in advance to make sure everyone knows each other and their role, confirm attendance with all your support team and run through the plan- they’ll help you spot any gaps. If it’s a small event, your guests can play an active part which will help them learn about sustainability and be more inclined to change their behaviour if not already a convert.
You’re on your way to a great event!
Promoting affordable, preloved fashion is a great way of expressing our unique personalities, but more importantly it can be part of a behavioural change movement encouraging sustainable living and inclusivity. We’ve compiled some further links and longer reads below to help inspire and support your journey to running a successful and fun event.
Keep an eye on our initiatives like the North London Community Fund which offers small grants to community groups once a year in support of innovative waste prevention proposals.
Ellen MacArthur foundation - They have published the ’Circular Design for Fashion’ book which is full of helpful advice.
Little Hands Design - A charity based in Camden teaching the next generation of designers, consumers and decision makers all there is to know about sustainable fashion. They too have a very informative book titled ‘Looking Good without Harming our World’.
If you do hold your own event we’d love to know more so make sure to tag us @connectNLWA on all our social media channels and get in touch with us through our feedback form.