On Sunday September 22nd I got up bright and early to attend The SWAP Team’s Take Off Your Clothes event. Armed with a coffee, my best swapping outfit and some pals to get second opinions from I waited patiently for the doors to open, anxious to get my swap on. This is the first time I’ve attended a clothing swap but with my love of thrift stores and scoring a bargain I knew I would have a great time!
The SWAP Team, founded in 2007, is a non-profit run entirely by volunteers. They currently have chapters in Montreal, Boston, NYC, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Halifax, Winnipeg, Northampton (MA) and Quebec City. The SWAP Team is all about promoting eco-friendly and socially conscious clothing consumption and all the clothing left over from the swap is donated to local charities! For every item in excellent condition brought in you get one ticket to exchange for a item of clothing or accessories found at the swap. The only cost is the price of the ticket $15. So the more you bring in the more you can walk away with! Luckily we were supplied with X-large bright green totes to haul our goodies in!
Stacey Savage and Vanessa Erickson are the awesome Calgary Co-Chapter Directors and I was able to ask them a couple questions about how they got involved with SWAP, tips for swapping, and their fave spots in YYC.
How did you first get involved with the Swap Team?
Stacey My first encounter with the SWAP was in October 2010. I was invited by my now Co-Director, Vanessa to come and volunteer on event day. I really had no idea what to expect, but I knew after my first day volunteering that I needed to get involved in a more substantial way. The next event, Spring 2011, I was on The SWAP Team as the volunteer coordinator. From then on out, Vanessa and I took over the event as Co-Directors, and this years event marks our 3rd SWAP as the official YYC Team.
Vanessa I met the previous SWAP Team Calgary Director (and now VP of Operations), Necole Hines, at a girls night at a mutual friend’s house. We started talking and she explained that she was hosting the first ever Take Off Your Clothes event in Calgary, and I offered to volunteer. I spent the whole day in the sorting section literally amazed at the quality and the overwhelming quantity of clothes that were coming through the door, we had so much fun going through it all. After the first event, I became Necole’s Co-Director, and later brought on my best friend, Stacey Savage to replace Necole when she took a position as VP of Operations with The SWAP Team on a national scale
What items are most coveted at the swap?
Stacey I find people typically go pretty crazy over the shoe section, the Jeans are a pretty hot item too. This year we had a phenomenal jeans section, there were so many great pairs that it’s easy to see why. Typically a good pair of jeans will set someone back over $100, so to be able to snag some for “free” can never be a bad thing!
Vanessa It really varies, but I would say the items that draw the most attention are vintage, unique or high-end items. We get a wide variety of people that attend, which means we get a tonne of variety in the items and the preferences of the people who attend. We find a lot of people going “Can I pull this off?” “What if I shorten the hem on this? “What if I belt it?” – people start to get creative and they step out of their comfort zones with the clothing, probably because it’s free!
Are there any swapping no-no’s?
Stacey SWAP is a pretty freestyle event, we have everything from women changing in the middle of the room, to running around trying to show your best friend a great find that you know would look amazing on her. We don’t have a lot of “no-no”s per say, but we do like to encourage a friendly environment. We realize letting hundreds of people loose on free clothing can be risky, but we definitely promote a “be nice to your fellow SWAP’ers” mentality.
Vanessa The only thing I can really think of is putting something into the swap that you’re not prepared to get rid of. Because we can’t control the types of items that we get for each swap, we always try to warn our attendees, “if you aren’t willing to get nothing for it, don’t put it in the swap.” This way people can avoid feeling disappointed if they don’t find something of equal or higher value. We don’t guarantee that you will get your pieces back if you can’t swap-up. This being said, it’s rare when this type of situation comes up, because we really do get some great items for swapping!
What is 1 tip you’d give to someone wanting to host their own home swap meet?
Stacey 1st tip is to be ruthless with your own closet, and encourage your friends to do the same. We ALL have those pieces in our closets that have been hanging there for years… we glance at them once and a while and invision the perfect outfit to go with it, but let’s face it… if you haven’t even put it on in the last 8 months, chances are you’re not going to. The best way to have a successful swap is to trust the process and get ready to purge your closet… trust me, it’s so refreshing!
Vanessa Invite your friends to bring friends, try to get as many people involved as possible. You will end up with more variety in terms of sizes, styles, etc so that you can make sure everyone walks away with something that they’re really excited about!
What is your favourite color?
Stacey My favourite color for fashion really changes with trends and seasons. This season I find myself being really attracted to a lot of army greens, and deep ox bloods and burgundy’s. I love fall fashion, so I’m really excited to fill up on chunky sweaters and scarves… I have a bit of a scarf addiction, I’ll admit.
Vanessa My favourite colour is green – it’s the colour of grass and emeralds (my favourite jewel!).
Where is one of your best loved places in Calgary?
Stacey We have so many local boutiques in this city where there are always amazing finds. I will say that I do love to be thrifty when I can, so Feisty Consignment on 17th avenue is a staple for me. They are ALWAYS restocking with amazing finds, barely worn items, great shoes, etc. It’s a must for anyone looking for great items at a reasonable price.
Vanessa One of my best loved spots in the city is the Blackfoot Farmers Market. Last year, my sister and I made it a date there almost every Sunday to grab a delicious lunch from Three Greek Gals, pick up fresh produce for the week and my guilty pleasure… taste testing all of the Simple Simons pies! She’s heading to New Zealand in a week, so sadly, I’ll need to find a new friend to go with, or fly solo
If your interested in my tips for successful swapping and what items I scored stay tuned for A Swapping We Will Go part 2!