Swap Shop: the students behind sustainable fashion initiatives on campus

Meah Howlett speaks to the students behind an exciting new sustainable fashion initiative on campus, and examines the everyday changes consumers can make to encourage an alternative to the hidden environmental damage of the fast-fashion industry.

8:27am on a Monday morning. You’re hurriedly scrambling through creased shirts, holey jumpers and last night’s outfit, until you admit defeat- there really is nothing to wear in your wardrobe. But instead of despair or a sneaky online shop in your 9am lecture, why don’t you borrow your housemate’s tee, get out your sewing kit or head down to the local charity shop?

This is the positive pledge four students Imogen, Louis, Abbie and Lizzy are campaigning for in their project, Swap Shop. I met with them to get to the nitty-gritty of the next budding fashion revolution, and to see why we should care about it.

As the world’s second biggest pollutant, the fast-fashion industry is a hidden environmental horror; an issue in which this campaign wants people to engage with: “take a small action, which will combat climate change and encourage pro-environmental behaviour.” This issue is not only created through production and consumption, but the disposal of our fickle fashion-buys, “everyone is so quick to throw away their clothes, it’s becoming such a problem in landfills with lots of toxic materials being deposited.”

As students of Renewable Energy and Geography who had no awareness prior to research on this “forgotten industry”, they were enthusiastic to plant a seed of doubt on fast-fashion across campus, in the hopes that if people jumped on-board sustainable fashion, they would see how damaging regular consumption of cheap and quick clothes are- not only to their bank balances.

As part of their campaign they created a pop-up ‘Swap Shop’ at The Compass on Penryn Campus, where people brought un-worn gems of clothing, to swap with their peers, all for free!

With overwhelming support from housemates, students and their Instagram Page @swapshoppenryncampus (go check out for fashion inspo and eco-friendly facts) they are optimistic this trend can prosper in our Cornish student community and beyond: “People have shown quite a lot of interest, so I think it has quite a lot of potential to catch on.”

“There aren’t particularly any downsides to it, you don’t need to invest any more time or money into it” and investing in fashion which is “not the same as what everyone else has, you can adapt it to your own style.”

The Swap Shop campaign encapsulates a simple every day change that they hope will capture the attention of a student demographic at the fore-front of online shopping, consuming and investing in new clothes. Their motto is simple: “If you are going to buy things new, you could buy better quality, and longer lasting products. And fix things instead of throwing them away”-  yes, this includes that holey jumper, because no, you don’t need another one.

So, what every-day changes can fashionistas and clothing muggles alike make to combat one of the biggest climate change issues in the world? Imogen, Louis, Abbie and Lizzy have three easy tricks:

  • Sharing is caring: “It’s one of those things people can do themselves, get friends together, and do it in their homes. Or just swapping between two people, it doesn’t have to be on a big scale.
  • Give it a go: “as soon as you start doing it, you realise how good it is. It’s one of those things you’ve got to throw yourself into”
  • Be aware of your shopping habits: “And resist from buying another new stripy t-shirt” (which I must add, they say while three of them are sat wearing stripy t-shirts together!)

In the age of consumers demanding further transparency into fashion corporations manufacturing methods and a rising trend in our generation mending clothes, initiatives such as Swap Shop are an exciting step in battling a destructive fast-fashion culture.

“If we reach 1 person out of 10 even, that’s a big enough impact.”