Saving piles of clothes

31 July 2017
Saving piles of clothes
Shockingly, every year an estimated £140 million worth (around 350,000 tonnes) of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK – clothes that could be worn again, upcycled into something new or, at the very least, recycled.
To help tackle this, we ran Swish and Style events across North London (in Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest) working with the North London Waste Authority as part of their Wise Up To Waste campaign.

The events involved a swish, where people could swap their good quality clothes and accessories for other items. There were also upcycling workshops and a local seamstress on hand so people could learn how to mend or enhance their clothes to give them a new lease of life.


The events were held in popular community spaces and attracted over 350 residents, bringing with them 2,303 items of unwanted clothes and swapping them for 1,664 different items to be reworn and reloved. The remaining 639 items were donated to the Salvation Army to sell in their shops or recycle if unwearable.


The events were thoroughly enjoyed by those that attended. One Hackney resident told us “This is one of the best days I've spent! Great vibes, super friendly people and fun!!” As well as being fun, the events helped change people's attitudes to their clothes- 98% said they were now more interested in the reuse, repair and upcycling of clothes after coming along.
They also helped teach new, life-long skills. A Barnet resident bought along his broken trousers and learnt how to mend them with the seamstress' help. “I’ve never sewn anything before. I hate shopping. I would much rather just fix my clothes. And now I know how to.”
Fashion charity, TRAID, came along to each event to spread the word about their free home collection service and promote their high fashion upcycled clothes. Waltham Forest based sewing shop, Significant Seams, provided a highly skilled seamstress to mend clothes and teach residents how to do simple fixes themselves. Upcycle Fashion, a textiles workshop, provided people with a variety of clothes upcycling activities to teach residents that even when an item might look like it belongs in the bin, in can be turned into something else.
All of these elements together meant that, even after residents had left with their new clothes, they were equipped with the knowledge and the skills to keep reusing and upcycling their clothes for years to come.