USyd’s own fashion revolution (an intervention with my wardrobe)

Clothing swaps have come to campus.

Art by Deaundre Espejo

I recently had an intervention with my wardrobe. It consists of black garments, blue jeans, and the occasional statement piece to interrupt the monochrome. Vintage t-shirts hang up scrappily — soft to the touch from the wear of previous owners. The majority of pieces are second-hand (or stolen from my mum’s wardrobe in feats of espionage). It was discernible that I had cultivated my sense of style as a fluid extension of my identity.

But over time, some pockets of clothes have ended up living in a state of neglect, having not felt the warmth of the sunshine, or an iron, for months. Some pieces became incongruent with how I presented myself. Others were bought out of impulse, or under the delusion that I’d look good in hot pink.  

For the sake of my cluttered wardrobe, it was fortuitous when, on Wednesday 26 May, Fashion Revolution and Waste Fighters brought a clothing swap to campus. It was a space where people could bring clothes they no longer wear, and exchange them for other garments. In true wholesome and sustainable fashion, any clothing leftover was donated to charity.

Inspired by the UK’s Fashion Revolution organisation, the Fashion Revolution Society emerged this year with the objective of bringing sustainable fashion to campus consciousness.

I spoke to Aya Richardson, the society’s president, who referred to Fashion Revolution as a “movement campaigning for, and raising awareness about, the social and environmental impacts of the fashion industry.”

“The goal is to raise awareness on campus, [and] host events that are inclusive and accessible for everyone,” she said.

The society echoes the ethos enshrined in the Fashion Revolution manifesto: “We love fashion. But we don’t want our clothes to exploit people or destroy our planet. We demand radical, revolutionary change.”

I sauntered up Eastern Avenue with a comically large bag of old clothes. Tops, skirts, dresses, heels — each had memories tied to them. But it made no sense letting them wilt in my wardrobe when they could move on to a new home. My pieces contributed to the colourful piles surrounding the stall, which were being carefully examined by seasoned and beginner thrifters alike. There was something gratifying about seeing people pick up something I had just put down.

Shopping sustainably isn’t just confined to avoiding fast fashion outlets. It relies on actively shopping consciously and rejecting impulse. Fashion is political. It is far more sustainable to cultivate one’s own style, and with it, an arsenal of dependable pieces, rather than losing your breath (and perhaps your dignity) chasing the ever-spiralling trend cycles. Attending events like a Clothes Swap isn’t only fulfilling — it can prevent the fast fashion heavyweights from slamming the accelerator on grotesque levels of output.

The people behind Waste Fighters and Fashion Revolution told me that the feedback from the event was phenomenal. People were keen to donate clothes and money, and to swap items with others. The leftover clothes were taken to Vinnies, and the monetary donations went to ActionAid Australia — where the profits are sent to garment workers facing exploitation.

With Richardson revealing that they are “working with other societies and organisations,” we can undoubtedly anticipate more events like these next semester.