Two weeks ago we had our first baby clothes swap, and it went very well. So much so that we are going to repeat in June.
The most interesting, perhaps, was how easy it was: in November Julieta asked me advice on setting up a swap for baby clothes, we had one meeting with her and Haydée in December, in February we had a successful swap, and are looking forward to organize more.
I hadn’t stopped to think about how misunderstanding-free the coordination between us had been until someone asked me a series of questions about the hows and whys of the swap, or, to put it another way, the mission, vision and values of this project… something that we never made explicit with Julieta and Haydée.
I did an exercise of explaining myself when I started doing swaps for adults, you can read where my focus was five years ago here, but I think it’s time for another one, this time mostly about my conviction that these have to be in-person events instead of looking for digital solutions to swap second-hand clothes.
Well there it goes:
There are no infrastructure or failure costs when having an in-person swap in an ateneu
Making a new digital platform to swap garments would require an investment of thousands of euros to come up with a viable minimum prototype just to test it.
Using existing platforms – Wallapop, Etsy, Vinted, Lendi? – for swapping clothes would not require this first large economic investment, but even so, a lot of time would have to be spent analyzing the different options, costs of use, and commissions, in order to then accompany users in learning to use these other platforms. This way we would give users, clicks and money to companies whose values are not necessarily aligned with ours while still putting in hours of invisible work.
Using broader social networks – WhatsApp and Facebook groups, dedicated Instagram accounts – for swapping would imply establishing protocols for administration, promotion, dispute resolution, still circulating garments one by one and depending on Meta’s algorithms while doing so.
When swapping in-person on one given day, we use an already existing physical infrastructure and, yes, rely on algorithms to promote the event. In the hypothetical case that no one shows up to swap, we pack up and go. Without having invested tens of thousands of euros and hours of programming in the creation of something very experimental… or hours of administration of the Meta spaces.
The economies of scale kick in when swapping in-person
By bringing together many people with many things to exchange, there is less effort and more benefit for everyone compared to digital exchange models of search-contact-order-wait for the package-pick up the package-try it on-decide if you want it and, if not, repackage and send it back. Bah, I’m tired just writing it…
It’s not for nothing that the clothing store system exists: it’s easier and more efficient to look, touch and try on a few things at once than to wait for the postman for several days just to be able to try it on and find out if you like the feel of the fabric.
All the costs are reduced by an in-person swap
All costs are reduced, from the time spent purchasing clothes to the number of packages changing hands, to post office queues and delivery vans in our streets.
It costs less to express our real preferences in a big in-person swap
As there are many garments and many people, there is less pressure on each person contributing, on each person taking garments and on each garment.
As there are many clothes and many people, there is a diversity of types of clothes, colors, styles and sizes (although, obviously, always in favor of the sizes of the center of the normal distribution), a space for individual expression is created that is not closely observed by others where one can see and touch things to see how they look to me, and where what’s incredibly ugly to someone else can become my new favorite piece of clothing.
Digital swapping suffer from the sunk cost bias – we are lazy or uncomfortable to return a garment just because it’s not perfect, so we keep it… While Un Armario Verde swaps have the best returns policy ever: you bring the garment back at another event and nobody even realizes that.
As there are many garments, things go through an anonymous selection process where those not selected are no longer the problem of their previous owner, nor is she known.
An in-person swap creates community and social ties
When there is an event, people arrange to go together and have a coffee, a drink or lunch together, they meet each other and chat. They know who brought their new clothes and see their old clothes adopted. By repeating the swaps, a community of users is created, both to change the patterns of clothing acquisition and disposal, and to promote the decommodification of the commons and an empowerment of a non-consumer identity. At the same time, these events also open paths to participate in the other activities of the ateneu and local popular culture: the vegetable coop, the Festa Major guarnit, the book club, the movie nights, the calçotadas, etc.
So, in my vision of the world, platforms and the digitization of swaps is not a simple solution… Well, it is not even a solution, it’s a very expensive drag in every way, and makes sense only when in-person events are impossible. Individual and isolated interactions is not a rational model for swapping second-hand objects, nor does it promote the social life I want to see flourish in my neighborhood.
For all these reasons, Guardarrr was never going to have the function to swap clothes within the app. I am watching with great interest where Bandi App is going but I am not tempted to participate in it.
If anyone is entertained by spending hours scrolling through Vinted, hunting for vintage treasures, and continually swapping packages as a hobby, it’s an OK hobby albeit a wasteful one but not an optimal replacement for a good in-person swap.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is back! Not to advertise Amazon Studios products, but the outfits in this series, in all their fifties absurdity, have always been pure inspiration.
Intercambio de ropa | 19 de marzo 11:00 – 14:00 en Ateneu Roig, c/ Torrent d’En Vidalet 32, Barcelona.
Intercambio de ropa | 28 de mayo 11:00 – 14:00 en Ateneu Roig, c/ Torrent d’En Vidalet 32, Barcelona.
Intercambio de ropa infantil 0-6 | 11 de junio 11:00 – 14:00 en Ateneu Roig, Torrent d’En Vidalet 32, Barcelona.
Aunque en este cachito radio (a) no se habla de comprar menos y de segunda mano, (b) no se menciona las muy importantes fases de uso, reuso, cuidados y descarte, (c) se asume que todo el mundo vive en vaqueros, y (d) se asume que las grandes marcas que contratan consultoría de sostenibilidad de verdad quieren hacerlo mejor, puede ser curioso igual: Jeans sostenibles, sí se puede. Sobre todo para darnos cuenta lo muy lejos que está la gran radio alternativa de hablar de manera coherente de la crisis del textil y moda rápida.
Sin sorpresas pero para empezar a pensar en las industrias colindantes – relaciones públicas y todos los subcontratas en general – como co-responsables: Las empresas de relaciones públicas, obstruccionistas de la acción climática.
Yo me quejaba a Anna de haber olvidado controlar mi cara al hacer las fotos de outfits, y me confirmaba que parecía las modelos de Zara… éstas modelos: ¿Qué les pasa a las modelos de ZARA? Lo que me recuerda: sátira sobre la industria de la moda = bien.
Is it better for the planet to read online or in a paper format? Not to be cliché, but the answer might surprise you…
On the generalized expectations of exponential growth: “If a product significantly changes the lives of its users, but only hundreds of thousands of them, not millions — it’s not legible as success. If a product doesn’t lean on the abject exploitation of those who make it, or the natural world whose resources compose it, thus lowering its profit margins — that’s not legible either. Not to the stock market, not to business press, and not, by extension, to the millions of people who passively absorb and understand information about the world around us.”
A long story about the “brown furniture” through one particular style of sofas: It Came From the ’70s: The Story of Your Grandma’s Weird Couch.
Not new but somehow resonated with me this time: modern clothing leaves the body largely uncovered, hence our capacity to appear fashionably dressed largely depends on the shape of our physical body; what we tend to perceive as cumbersome and uncomfortable historical clothing actually shielded the body from the eyes of the others, it was the clothing that created the fashionable appearance, leaving the body underneath largely unseen and un-judged. Here you have Abby Cox explaining it: I Wore 18th-Century Clothing Every Day for 5 Years & This Is What I Learned.
And that’s it for this week! I hope that you enjoyed reading and would be very happy to hear from you, regarding making one’s values explicit or anything else… in the comments below, via Facebook or Instagram, or via e-mail at luize.ratniece [a] gmail .com
Guardarrr is a bilingual newsletter dedicated to sustainability and mindfulness in fashion. It is written by Luīze Ratniece, a sociologist and textile activist based in Barcelona. Guardarrr is both a tool for reflection and a crowdfunding channel for the wardrobe tracking app that Luīze is building. If you read this newsletter and value it, please consider going to the paid version to fund this project for a monthly equivalent of a coffee + pastry. Each subscription warms my heart immensely and helps going on, thank you so much for being here with me!