Swap ‘til you drop (and save money) — 9 of the best clothes swap events in London for Second Hand September

·10-min read
Verte founder Jess Brunt at one of her clothes swap events (Verte)
Verte founder Jess Brunt at one of her clothes swap events (Verte)

Those mom jeans sitting at the back of your chest of drawers? They could just earn you a dream new maxi dress for your cousin’s wedding — and you don’t even have to log onto Depop or slog to a post office.

All you have to do is know where to look. According to fashion insiders, clothes swaps are the hottest - and greenest - new way to refresh your wardrobe during Second Hand September and beyond (and save pennies as the cost-of-living crisis deepens). Happily, there’s a new way to exchange old items for something new without having to hassle your housemates or raid your sister’s closet.

Sustainable swap events are springing up across the capital and the concept is as simple as it sounds: just turn up with a bag of clothes you’re bored of, exchange each item for a token, and spend your tokens on items you will actually wear. It’s like raiding your best friend’s wardrobe, except you don’t have to worry about spilling wine down the front of her favourite top or shrinking it in the wash.

It’s yours to keep forever - or until the next swap, at least.

“We all know we like to wear new and different things and have photos in items we haven’t worn before,” says Jess Brunt, founder of one of the capital’s leading swaps, Verte London, who is hosting her next event next weekend (September 17 and 18) in Clapham Old Town. (Her top tip: bring friends whose wardrobes you secretly want).

Even better: you’ll be helping to save the planet at the same time. According to latest figures, the average Brit owns 115 items of clothing but hasn’t worn 30 per cent of them in the last year - estimates suggest this means there’s at least £30 billion of unworn clothing hanging in wardrobes across the UK.

Those weekly ASOS orders aren’t helping: roughly 2.25 million tonnes of retail returns end up in landfill every year, and even if you end up taking them to the charity shop, only a third of clothes given to charity in the UK are estimated to be resold. No wonder £140 million worth of clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year.

 (A Stitch To Wear)
(A Stitch To Wear)

Solving the problem might sound overwhelming, but every swap makes a difference. If a million of us bought our next item of clothing second-hand instead of new, it would reportedly save 6,000 tonnes of carbon pollution from entering the atmosphere - the equivalent of 3,900 households’ energy consumption over an entire year.

From swap soirées in Bermondsey to next month’s feelgood charity clothes exchange in Kensington, here’s a guide to swap shopping in London.

Verte London

 (Verte London)
(Verte London)

Founder Jess Brunt says she founded her clothes swap company Verte in 2019 after being inspired by the joy she gets every time she borrows something from her sister’s wardrobe.

Events take place at cafes and yoga studios across south London and function just like a shop, “except your clothes are your currency,” says Brunt. Bring your items along on the day or arrange pre-event collection via Instagram DM - Brunt and her team will assess the quality of each piece and assign you a number of tokens accordingly (the higher the quality, the more tokens you get, so choose wisely). Then get drinking and digging.

Brunt says brands including & Other Stories, Zara, Mango and Whistles do well at her events and shoes and accessories (bags, belts, jewellery, scarves) are accepted too. Menswear is also accepted but there tends to be less of it so don’t expect as much choice. T-shirts, underwear, swimwear and children’s clothes are not (yet) accepted.

So what happens to unwanted stock? Brunt says it’s either kept for the next swap, donated to charity or given to one of Verte’s partnered local fashion schools and colleges. Leftovers from her last event were donated to MA fashion student Alexandra, who used the pieces as part of her sustainability project at The Royal College of Arts - a far better use than sitting at the bottom of your wardrobe.

USP: Insta-points. Verte’s grid is a visual feast, from teasers from past events to shocking stats about fast fashion’s impact on the planet - and what you can do about it

Next event: Sept 17 and 18, 9-12pm or 2-5pm, 1 Polygon, Clapham Old Town, SW4 0JG (early bird tickets are available from £11.3 or there’ll be tickets on the door). Keep an eye on Instagram for details

A Stitch To Wear

 (A Stitch To Wear)
(A Stitch To Wear)

A Stitch To Wear’s clothes swap events are so popular that its next one has sold out (keep an eye on its Facebook page for last-minute drop-out tickets). You can swap up to 10 items of clothing and pre-book timeslots, with clothes arriving every 45 minutes so there’s always something fresh and new for each group.

Accessories, shoes and bags are all included, but don’t bring underwear, pyjamas, earrings or slippers. All clothes must be clean and free from holes and stains.

Bring your items along and you’ll be given points on a card according to each item’s original value, vintage and material. Points get deducted from your card for each item you choose and don’t worry if you can’t find clothes you like - points can be carried over for future swaps.

USP: Hot tickets. A Stitch To Wear’s events regularly sellout ahead of the day so book your place, fast

Next event: Sept 10, 3-6pm, Sutton Community Dance, Saint Nicholas Way, Sutton, SM1 1AX (tickets are £6.50 and the event includes a swap, silent disco, mend and repair service and free Karma organic lemonade for the first 100 swappers. You’ll also get a free upcycled tote bag to take your haul home in).

Croydon Community Clothes Exchange

 (Croydon Community Clothes Exchange)
(Croydon Community Clothes Exchange)

“Your clothes are only unloved until they find someone who loves them”. That’s the motto at Croydon Community Clothes Exchange, which has been running not-for-profit clothes swaps every three months since 2017.

Events are £3 entry (just pay on the day) and all proceeds go towards the running of the events. Bring up to 20 items of adult clothing to swap and volunteers will sort and approve each item on entry, recording how many items you brought in. You can take away up to the number of items you brought along and you can carry over credits to the next event if you can’t find anything you like.

Keep an eye on the group’s Facebook page for regular updates: organisers regularly share teasers of upcoming items ahead of events.

USP: Double trouble. Attendees at CCCE events can bring a maximum of 20 items - twice as many as most clothes swaps in London

Next event: TBC

Second and Swish

Second and Swish founder Charlotte Stocker at a swap event (Charlotte Stocker)
Second and Swish founder Charlotte Stocker at a swap event (Charlotte Stocker)

East Londoner Charlotte Stocker (known on Instagram as @secondandswish) is so dedicated to her love of clothes swaps (or “swishes”) that she compiles and reviews the best events on her grid so followers can see what’s coming up soon.

The Shoreditch-based “swisher” also runs her own free events at spots around the capital including Tower Hamlets community hub St Hilda’s East and vegan café The Canvas just off Brick Lane. Her most recent one took place on Saturday and she’ll share details of the next on Instagram soon. Stay tuned.

USP: Honest reviews. Charlotte might run her own events but she’s also one of the capital’s most prolific clothes swappers, attending and blogging about most of the events on this list on her Instagram

Next event: Sept 28, 6-8pm, Common Counter at Glass House, 118 Bethnal Green Road, E2 6DG (early bird tickets are available for £5 and there’ll be brands including DKNY, Cos, Zara, New Look, H&M, Topman as well as vintage pieces)

Loanhood

Loanhood is one of London’s top online fashion rental services, but it also hosts in-person swap events around London from Hackney to Kensington.

Assistants will help you restyle and exchange items, extend the life of unworn garments and reduce the number of clothes heading to landfill. Like other swaps, it operates by token system - bring a maximum of five items, they’ll be categorised into a tier based on type, brand and condition, and you’ll be given a corresponding number of tokens.

Clothing, accessories and footwear are all accepted, as is children’s clothing. All items are £1 during the final hour of the event.

USP: An added feelgood factor. On top of taking part in planet-friendly fashion, funds from the final hour of Loanhood’s sale will be donated to the Grenfell Foundation

Next event: Sept 25, 12-4pm, The Fixagon, Penn Street, N1 5FD (free, just reserve a spot on Eventbrite in advance)

London Clothes Exchange

Clothes swaps, but make them chic. One of LCE’s recent events was a Friday night clothes swap soiree at Wolfy’s Bar in Bermondsey - think cheese, champagne and designer brands galore.

Bring a maximum of 10 items between 5pm and 6pm (men’s and women’s clothes are included, as our shoes, bags and accessories), pay your £5 on the door and receive your tokens. Keep an eye on Instagram and Eventbrite for details.

USP: Half-price cocktails. LCE’s events include a happy hour with two-for-one drinks

Next event: TBC

Big Sister Swap

Just like a swap event, but all online. Tell Big Sister Swap about your style and size (you can attach pics or reserve things via the site’s Instagram), send in your unwanted clothes and the company’s in-house experts will handpick pre-loved clothes to send back to you.

The service is all personalised to your individual tastes and it’s size-inclusive. Its gift box makes the perfect present for your sustainable fashion-loving BFF: for £45 you can send her a beautifully wrapped gift box including a limited-edition tote bag, five limited edition prints and a gift voucher for a free 2kg clothes swap.

USP: The laziness factor. If you don’t fancy going along to an event, Big Sister Swap sends personalised clothes swap bundles to your home so you don’t even have to leave the house

bigsisterswap.co.uk

Don’t Shop, Swap!

Like Big Sister Swap, but gamified. Founder Lydia Hartley built this clothes swapping platform during the Covid lockdowns because she wanted to make swaps fun - register, receive a reusable swap bag in the post, fill it with as many clothes as you can and send it back. You’ll then earn a whole load of ‘swap coins’ to add to your ‘swap wallet’ for spending on the site.

Popular brands on the platform include &Other Stories, Whistles, COS, Hobbs, Phase Eight, Reiss, The North Face, Levi’s, Diesel, AllSaints, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, DKNY, French Connection, Adidas, Monsoon, Ted Baker and Jigsaw.

The site hosted its first pop-up event at its studio in Hackney last month so there’s a chance to try on Don’t Shop, Swap!’s items in-person, too. Keep an eye on Instagram for updates.

USP: Clothes as currency. Earn coins for every item of clothing you sent in and add them to your ‘swap wallet’

dontshopswap.co.uk

Swopped

Another digital swap service. Send Swopped a picture of an item of clothing you no longer want, send in your clothes, then spend your credits on new stuff. The site has a ‘top picks’ section each week and there are three different subscriptions on offer depending on how much of a fashion junkie you are.

The £6.49 Swop Seeker option lets you swap one item per month. The £17.99 Serial Swopper subscription is for those who get bored easily and fancy five swaps a month. And the £29.99 Swopaholic option lets you swap as many as 10 items a month.

USP: Swap subscriptions. Choose your monthly fee and treat yourself or a loved one to between one and ten swaps a month - the perfect gift for your sister who’s always stealing your clothes?

swopped.co.uk