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A New Spin on the Old Swap
Written by Lanni Lantto - Wednesday, 15 January 2014



I’m the kind of person who is always looking for a new spin on old things. This is probably why I upcycle clothing for a living, because I can turn a door hinge into a cufflink.  Although I get a majority of my clothing from thrift stores, I haven’t done a lot of  direct one-on-one “swapping” with other people.  My first introduction to the concept was in 2010 at Alter/Nation, an all-day clothing swap sponsored by the upcycle-label CounterCouture and Sol Inspirations. For only $5, attendees could bring up to 20 garments that could be exchanged for the same number of items.  The warehouse space was filled with clothing racks and a constant flow of people exchanging unwanted items into coveted new wardrobe additions.

Nowadays, clothing swaps are a well-known concept, as many are searching for a better way to expand their wardrobes and utilize the excess in their closets. Women have made the clothing swap our generation’s tupperware parties.  It’s a true social event including wine, Pinterest hors d’oevres, and strict rules for what happens when 2 guests want the same purse. 



Clothing swaps bring us back to a time when money wasn’t the bottom line.  If you had a plethora of chicken eggs you could trade your neighbor for a loaf of bread.  As we move forward into a more shared economy, I was curious if there was a business model that took the private swap idea into the public sphere of commerce. This is when I came across the clothing swap boutique, Give + Take in Santa Monica, California.

Give + Take is a hybrid between the informal clothing swap and a traditional second-hand boutique. Women exchange their previously loved designer clothing, shoes and accessories for merchandise in the store.  Storeowner, Celina Burns assigns points to the clothing based on the current market value. So, instead of using cash (leave your wallet at home!), you are shopping with earned points.  Although there are no actual cash transactions within the store, the swap boutique does charge a membership fee, which ranges from $25-55/month.



“A main goal of the boutique is to change the way people dress and shop,” says Director of Marketing, Angela Kent. “The members love the concept as they are able to have a great, fashionable wardrobe for very low cost. They know that instead of buying a new dress to wear to their Holiday party that they can come here and even swap it again as long as it is still in good condition.” Kent adds.  One of their members told me that she comes to the store a few times a month, which has drastically reduced her need to buy new clothing. “I’d say I buy 75% less than I used too. I rarely go to the mall anymore. Plus, I’ve made some really good friends here, it’s like family.” 



In the spirit of the good old-fashioned swap, I traded my time teaching an upcycling workshop in the store for a mini-shopping spree. One of my scores was this super comfy and very warm sweater (see photo above). The best part about this transaction was that I didn’t have to shell out any cash for something that I had desperately needed but refused to buy new. (Yes, it is true that I shivered in my apartment for 2 months due to this moral dilemma.)  I’m so hooked on the swap that I am hosting my very first one next week. If you’re in the market for an excellent pair of red skinny jeans, I am in need of a bathing suit, I’ll even throw in a loaf of bread.




Lanni Lantto is taking upcycling mainstream.  Deemed a “Curator of the Upcycle Fashion Movement”, she’s spent the last 6 years promoting upcycled fashion design in the United States.  Lanni creates “clothing that tells a story” in order to inspire a society to rethink their choices as consumers and influence the fashion industry to reduce their waste stream.  She is Co-Creator of Michigan’s 1st ever (RE)design Fashion & Art Show, which highlights the innovative artistry of recycling artists & has shown in numerous eco-fashion shows in the US and internationally.  Along with being a designer, she teaches Wardrobe REdesign Workshops & gives Eco-Closet Make-Overs. Through her Los Angeles-based label, (RE), Lanni’s mission is to bring the concept of creative reuse into the media spotlight.




Comments (1)Add Comment
Maybe as a fundraiser?
written by WendyNH, February 05, 2014
While the boutique that offers these swaps on a regular basis is rather cool, I can see something like this being done as a fundraiser for various entities, or for those who need to raise money for other things. Sure, it would take some work to put this together, but then it seems worth is considering the


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