A clothing swap offers Austinites a new way to be thrifty | Popgen Tech


On a Saturday night at Moontower Cider, people chat with drinks in hand as they hang around tables filled with secondhand gear.

Until recently, thrifting was one of the main ways many Austinites developed their fashion sense, changed their wardrobes, and shopped green. Now clothes swapping is done by groups like Austin Swapin and Cool to leave change the way people save.

“Growing up in a low-income family, we turned to thrift [local stores], flea markets and even garage sales,” said Austinite Maria Martinez after the Cool to Care clothing swap. “Interestingly, this was the first official clothing swap event I attended.”

At exchanges, people exchange clothes and accessories that they no longer wear for things that others have brought. Cool to Care, an eco-friendly clothing brand based in Austin, started events here in September. Owner and founder Kailyn Balderama said she learned about the importance of sustainability in the apparel industry last year and wanted to start a conversation.

“I didn’t just want to sell sustainability, I wanted to build a community around the brand,” she said. “I think this movement is so new and not many people even know why sustainable fashion is important. And so I thought a clothes swap would be a good way to promote it.”

“You can talk and get to know the history of clothing items. Connecting a face to an object was very sentimental.”

Maria Martinez, clothes changer

There is a fashion industry responsible for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to climate change. Besides, around 11 million tons of textiles were found in US landfills in 2018. Instead of buying new clothes, you can save money and reduce your carbon footprint participating in clothing swaps, shopping secondhand or creating something new from old.

When you buy a $7 exchange ticket, you get $7 off Cool to Care merchandise. Participants can bring up to 10 items of clothing or accessories to exchange for 10 others. Instead of spending $10 on one shirt at the store, you pay less to bring home 10 items. At the end of the night, you can take your items back if they’re still there, or leave them to donate to charity. Cool to Care recently donated the leftovers Relief League of Austin THRIFT HOUSE.

AustinSwappin’ also promotes sustainability while building community. Cassandra Luna started these activities back in October 2020. They actually started because of the pandemic, when people talked online and planned meetups to swap clothes. Soon more people joined the Facebook group and eventually they decided to do something in person.

“Word got around and a lot of people liked the idea,” she said. “The group just kept growing and growing.”

Luna decided to hold monthly exchanges at local parks, but soon turned to coffee shops and wineries. According to her, only about 10 people came to the first in-person meeting, but soon 100 people were joining each month. She began charging admission to rent tables and seats for the mountains of clothing and other items people brought.

“Everything was leading up to the event,” she said.

Recently, Luna has kept its swaps at Wanderlust Wine Company. She’s expanded the range, which you can take with you on just about anything, from tableware to baby clothes. Like Cool to Care, Austin Swappin’ allows members to return their items and donate the leftovers to local charities.

Clothing swaps are a great way to connect with like-minded people who care about the environment, fashion and society.

Martinez said she and her friend arrived at the clothing swap early, and at first she was nervous because she didn’t see what to swap.

“The rush started and it became a fun time to socialize and make friends,” she said. “It is very different from saving; you don’t have to rush or worry about the budget. Instead, you can chat and learn about the history of the items of clothing. It was very sentimental to attach the face to the part.’

Cool to Care is hosting a sustainable Christmas market and swap on December 11th. The AustinSwappin group has grown bigger than ever, Luna said, and wants to continue expanding the event to partner with local food vendors and vintage pop-ups. Meanwhile, AustinSwappin’ is hosting a December clothing swap on December 10th.

“It’s a good way to kind of clean out your closet and know that you can give back to a part of the community,” said Austin Swappin’ shopper Alondra Chair. “I feel like more people should know about it because it’s fun and useful.”


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