A passionate and devoted follower of fashion, Leasider Vicki Hall is the founder of She Swaps Shop, a curated fashion swap for women borne out of the need to reduce the amount of textile we consume and keep clothing out of landfills. For the uninitiated, swap participants contribute a number of ready-to-wear clothing items to the event and are free to take home an equal number of items. “There are swaps that you can go to for free, but many of those often have a discount feel and a garage sale aesthetic with clothing thrown on tables. It’s certainly not the demographic I wanted to target. Instead, my goal was to reach women who wouldn’t have otherwise swapped clothing and turn this into a practical and fun evening for the community.”
A lot of great closets in Leaside and those closets are full of great clothes
The original idea for the type of swap she envisioned came from her experience as a consignment shopper and seller. Vicki recognized there was a gap in the consignment and resale clothing market. “There’s designer consignment and then there’s donation. There are very few consignment shops that will take the ‘middle retail’ or some ‘fast fashion’ items from brands such as Gap, Zara or H&M. But we still have clothes that are good, but you couldn’t sell these clothes and I wasn’t quite ready to donate them. And that’s when the idea struck me. I’m not wearing these anymore, they are like new, and I had always given away clothes to girlfriends without a second thought. … well maybe we can do a swap,” she explains.
During a chat with her good friend Robyn Israel at Sophie’s on Bayview in early 2020, the initial plan for the Swap went from a small event for 8-10 friends in Robyn’s living room, to a full-scale community event hosted at the Amsterdam Brewery here in Leaside on March 3, 2020. After the decision was made to “go big,” it was really all about a community outreach effort “starting with the women who were regular readers of my blog and Instagram account…and then I just went grassroots,” she recalls. She put up signs at the Starbucks and anywhere she knew there was a community bulletin board. She Swaps Shop began to gain traction.
She knew that she wanted the ‘swapping’ experience to feel as though you were shopping, hence the name. “So, I knew it was not going to look like a garage sale, it wasn’t going to be clothes thrown on tables, and it would be curated. I knew I wanted to take in good things, things that people were proud of that they wore. I mean, the reality for some is that you’ll buy items, wear them to a couple of parties and then you’re like, okay, everybody’s seen this, but it’s still good, right?” Vicki’s point proved correct based on the quality of the items she processed during the ‘intake’ with many contributed items still having tags on them. The wildly successful inaugural event saw more than 75 women eagerly swap more than 600 hundred pieces of clothing, and any ‘unswapped’ items were donated to New Circles.
With all the waste in the garment industry, we’re trying to give clothes a longer life
Having never attended a swap (apparently there could be one for men if there’s enough interest) I asked Vicki what to expect. “I open the doors at 7 p.m. and everybody has an equal opportunity to peruse what’s there on the tables, on the racks, but they can’t touch anything.” You can get a drink, relax and chit chat with friends. But the real action starts when the bell rings at 7:30 p.m. “It was absolutely hilarious. Everybody runs to get the good stuff, a bit of a crazy frenzy. But it was a lot of fun. Everybody just started trying things on over their clothes and if they didn’t like it, they’d give it to a friend and say, ‘Oh, here, this would be great on you.’ It really was a real community moment. Women were bumping into friends they hadn’t seen in years.” Vicki also learned which items swap the best. “Jeans and jackets are huge,” while skirts and business clothing were less so.
Always on the lookout for business opportunities and knowing that the barter economy is growing, I asked about the business model and Vicki confessed, “there is a tremendous amount of work to do leading up to event day along with various costs. It’s more a labour of love and passion than anything else at this time. I do have people telling me, ‘Oh, I just wore an item from your swap the other day,’ and I love that sentiment. It’s really about connecting the community and the sustainability aspect of changing our fashion consumption habits is something I’m really proud of and it’s just plain fun.”
Covid put paid to the next swaps…until now. Yes, Leaside, as you begin your spring cleaning, don’t forget your closet and be on the lookout for items to contribute to She Swaps Shop 2! Tickets will sell for $20 with a portion going directly to colorectal cancer research in memory of Robyn Israel, Vicki’s good friend and She Swaps Shop co-conspirator who was passionately involved in the Leaside community. The highly anticipated follow-up event will take place at Leaside Gardens on June 15th with a focus on spring and summer fashion. Learn more at the new website: www.sheshopsswap.com.
Is your closet full of ‘swappables’? Barter-based economic transactions are enjoying a resurgence. Have you benefited from cashless economic systems in your business or personal life? Do you think there are other markets in Leaside that could benefit from such a model? Let us know at .