Emma Tidswell chats with Bethany Wicks
SWOP is an innovative Australian organisation that exemplifies the idea that sustainable fashion can be fun, accessible, and stylish. Having created a unique circular fashion organisation, co-owner Bethany and the SWOP team are bringing something new to the Australian sustainable fashion market and proving that sustainable fashion is always on trend. Recently we chatted with Bethany to discuss sustainable fashion, the circular market, and the incredible story of SWOP.
A Place for Everyone
Started by Bethany Wicks and Brigid Gordon, SWOP is the home of quality pre-loved clothing. Located in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, SWOP operates on a clothing exchange program, buying and selling high-quality, preloved items.
Walking into a SWOP store you are greeted with an array of one-of-a-kind, high-quality looks and a clothing exchange has never been easier than at SWOP. All stock is sustainably sourced from the community (that means other stylish fashionistas like you!). When using the exchange program, simply bring in your quality clothes that just aren’t feeling like you anymore, and someone from SWOP will check them for retail possibility. Then you have the option of either 25% of the value of your items in cold hard cash, or a 50% SWOP voucher. Personally, I don’t think you can go past a SWOP voucher, meaning those clothes that have been clogging your wardrobe can now be replaced with a quality new style. Or it may even be your lucky day and you could embrace all your 70s fantasies and walk away with an authentic flare pant!
One of my favourite things about SWOP though is its quest for inclusivity in fashion. SWOP hosts stylish looks for people of all genders, for every body type and from all walks of life. SWOP makes branching into sustainable fashion not only outrageously fun but also accessible for all.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with SWOP co-owner Bethany and gain her valuable insights into sustainable fashion, a circular fashion industry and the inspiring journey of SWOP.
Sustainable Fashion: Accessible, Affordable, and Inclusive
SWOP offers a fresh new take on Australian sustainable fashion and not only helps the planet but offers real value to consumers as well. The concept behind SWOP is one that encourages engagement with conscious consumerism in a way that is both fun and convenient. With such a unique take on sustainable fashion, what the inspiration behind SWOP is, was the perfect place to start our chat:
“Affordability, accessibility and inclusivity. We want to provide a platform that has a great price point, a little something for everyone and a place where people feel safe to explore second-hand fashion and get a little creative with their wardrobe. Our belief is that there is more than enough beautiful clothing out there in our SWOP community to create a circular fashion economy that our customers benefit from.”
From its humble beginnings SWOP has gone from strength to strength and now has multiple storefronts on the Australian east coast, providing consumers across Australia a stylish, sustainable and unique fashion offering. For Bethany, the consumer is still at the heart of SWOP. Showcasing incredible clothing, promoting sustainable fashion, and providing something of real value to the community still guides the SWOP ethos and having the courage to start SWOP has led to an amazing journey. With SWOP having reached so many achievements, I was curious to know what Bethany was most proud of on the SWOP journey:
“That we took the risk of starting at all! We committed to a year of business and threw everything we had at it. From day one we have had the same concept, the same feel, and the same amazing stock. We are proud of how much we have grown and that we have always stuck to what we do best and that now so many people get to experience what we are offering.”
The Importance of a Circular Fashion Concept
A foundation of SWOP that has stayed true from its beginning is the circular economy. A vital part of sustainability, the circular economy focuses on reducing waste through reusing and repurposing products and materials, this concept shirks the overconsumption of fast fashion and is a core pillar of the SWOP model.
Celebrating beautiful, quality clothing, SWOP has created an incentive system that encourages people to engage with the circular fashion economy. The unique circular fashion model also means that when visiting a SWOP store, you can walk away with some fabulous vintage styles, and as Bethany says, while trends may come and go, a 70s flare pant is always an incredible look!
“It (exchange programs) means the customer values their clothing more. When they are shopping they may have the thought- “can I resell this item once I’m done with it” whether it’s to us or other platforms you need to invest in clothing that holds its value. If you’re buying from Fast Fashion brands you may not be able to resell as quality is unlikely to last past the original owner or the style is fleeting, or the price point is so low you cannot justify selling it used.
Like all things in fashion trends come and go so we see spikes in some eras more than others. Right now, it’s the 90s and early 2000’s which is so much fun. We sell lots of 70s as the era is highly romanticized and everyone loves a flare pant!”
The Sustainable Fashion Sector
There is no doubt that sustainable and pre-loved fashion is a growing industry, but it is an industry that can at times seem daunting or inaccessible and is one that is fraught with misconceptions. SWOP is rejecting these ideas to create a sustainable offering that is not only incredibly stylish but is accessible for all. The SWOP concept promotes clothing that is of high quality and encourages people to experiment and engage with sustainable pre-loved styles.
A new take on the pre-loved clothing industry, SWOP is showing that true sustainable fashion is always the best style. This commendable organisation is putting in the hard work to make pre-loved shopping a fun and seamless experience and is working to dispel the myths of the pre-loved fashion sector.
“There is still some stigma around “old clothes” being smelly and dusty and that it’s too hard to find what you like. At SWOP we create an environment that is clean and well presented, we take care in our merchandising and steam all items. We’ve done most of the hard work and picked quality, fun clothing ready to be loved.”
While some may view the sustainable fashion sector as one that is a niche or predominately luxury market, Bethany explained that it comes down to viewing clothing as an investment as opposed to the fast fashion concept of cheap and disposable clothing. With the modern fast fashion sector responsible for astronomical amounts of environmental damage, embracing this mindset and engaging with brands like SWOP that promote quality fashion is more vital now than ever.
For those wanting to switch to more sustainable fashion choices and on speaking on the view of sustainability as a niche or luxury sector Bethany shared some valuable insights:
“It (the sustainable fashion market) can definitely be viewed in that light when you see the cost of a product in the market and compare it to fast fashion prices. But you cannot compare the two fairly. The customer needs to make a change to their habits and thoughts around buying mass production. Viewing your wardrobe as an investment and understanding the money you spend pays people fairly for their labour and lessens the environmental impact caused by the industry.
Looking to buy second hand is the most affordable option to make sustainable changes. It lets you be more creative and keep up with trends. In most cases you aren’t contributing to any additional resources, the product already exists, it just needs a new home!”
Looking to an Exciting Future
The future of both SWOP and the Sydney sustainable market is one that is looking bright. While SWOP is home to quality pre-loved vintage and current styles, Bethany is excited to see what other specialty pre-loved items from luxury goods to sportswear to sneakers can find a home in the sustainable Sydney fashion market. The growth and opportunity available in the sustainable Sydney fashion scene is something that is constantly evolving.
For SWOP, the journey has been an exciting one and at every step of the way the community, inclusivity, sustainability and showcasing incredible quality fashion has been at its core. When looking to the future, Bethany aims to continue this way forward, embracing new opportunities while still staying true to what makes SWOP so special.
“We hope to open a few more stores so that more people can have access to buying second hand, we are a really great starting point for people that may have not had much experience shopping preloved. We hope to expand our Op Shop arm “Opy” so that we contribute back to our local community directly and also rehome more clothing!”
Bringing together community, inclusivity and circular fashion and creating an incredible celebration of sustainability and style, SWOP is a true example of what the future of the fashion industry should look like.