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Clear out your wardrobe – and help the environment!

I spent a few pleasant hours at the third Bramley Community Clothing Exchange, writes Josie Armitage

I was inspired by Vickie Jamieson to clear out my wardrobe and bring along clothes I no longer wear and find out more.  I spoke to Vickie at the beginning of the exchange before it got too busy.

How did you come up with the idea for Bramley Community Clothing Exchange?

Vickie models her ‘purchase’
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The Clothing Exchange is a movement created and run by volunteers which aims to develop, promote and manage clothing events in Bramley for the benefit of the community and in aid of and in co-operation with various charitable groups.

Vickie was inspired to start Bramley Community Clothing Exchange as works for Leeds Building Society who are a community minded organisation and encourage staff to volunteer and do charity work.  They sponsor parkrun (which includes Bramley) and are currently partnered with The Samaritans.

Vickie is interested in recycling and reusing clothes and has had clothes swaps with friends but wanted to do something more.  Vickie said:

‘Retail is the second worst industry in terms of pollution, use of water and landfill.  It is a wasteful industry.’

She researched by volunteering at the Leeds Clothing Exchange which has been running in Woodhouse for about 8 years.   

She also researched Zero Waste Fashion, who aim to increase awareness of the best ways to recycle, reuse, repair and upcycle clothing and textiles in Leeds. They map out all the different places in Leeds where there are clothing exchanges, textile bins, charity shops, or places where you can make sure that your clothes are recycled or reused rather than throwing them away. 

How did you make it happen?

Vickie decided to try a one-off exchange in October 2019 which she promoted via Facebook to say People showed interest and encouraged her to set up the first one.  Friends and colleagues agreed to work as volunteers with Vickie.

Vickie likes to parkrun at Bramley on a Saturday morning, so she looked for a venue in the town. parkrun is a positive community led initiative and Vickie wanted the Exchange to be a continuation. First parkrun, then breakfast, then Clothing Exchange.  She spoke to Fran Graham at Bramley Community Centre, who had also been thinking of running a clothes swap.  She agreed to let the Clothing Exchange group hold the events at the Centre.

The first exchange in October was well received with positive feedback, so Vickie and her volunteers organised and ran a second in November.  Again feedback was positive, and more people attended.   The ‘group’ agreed to run the exchanges regularly and to encourage other charities and community groups to get involved. The third was in February, with around 100 people from across Leeds taking part.   

Photo: Josie Armitage

What did you want to achieve through the Clothing Exchanges?

Vickie said:

‘It’s a great idea and ticks so many boxes:

  • ‘Charity:  The Exchanges raise money for charity.  Leeds Building Society is currently partnered with The Samaritans, so the three events so far have raised money for this charity.
  • ‘Re-using clothing:  You can refresh your wardrobe each time!  Clothes today were from the previous Clothing Exchange and many of the volunteers were wearing clothes from the last exchange
  • ‘Raises awareness of environmental issues:  People are bringing their clothes to swap with other people.  Clothes are being re-used and not going to landfill or just sat at the backs of peoples’ wardrobes.  ‘

What’s next?

The next Bramley Community Clothing Exchange will be at Bramley Community Centre from 11.30 am – 2.30 pm on Saturday 28th March.  It will be run in conjunction with volunteers from Bramley Elderly Action,the money raised will go to them and people from the community group will be encouraged to come to the event. 

Vickie would like a different group or a different charity to get involved in each one.  Each exchange will then benefit a different community, a different charity and help another group of people to get involved. 

My own review

I brought my 20 items in good and clean condition and handed these in at the reception desk.  I paid £3 entrance fee and was given a wooden token with the number of items I had brought written on it.  This was my currency.

After an initial browse, I found a pair of long black boots which fitted me.  The room was beginning to fill up with people.

I took a break and had a coffee and cake for a small cost, all refreshments and cakes were donated.  I enjoyed meeting new people from the local community while I ate and drank.

I spoke to Jo Wright and her family.  This was Jo’s second exchange.  Jo said:

‘It’s been really great today.  It’s such a valuable community resource.  There’s lots of people here exchanging lots of things. Everyone’s junk is someone else’s treasure.  It’s just fabulous.’

I then had another browse.  More people had arrived, and it was getting busy, so there were more clothes to look at.  I found four dresses.  Everyone was friendly and enjoying their time there, having donated their clothes and items and finding new things to take home.

I checked in my 5 ‘purchases’ and was very happy to find out that I had banked 15 items for the next time.

I am looking forward to going along to the next one and taking my sister who will love it. Why not take the opportunity to clear out your wardrobe and bring a maximum of 20 items of clothing to the next Exchange at Bramley Community Centre on Saturday 28th March?

Photo: Josie Armitage

Final words from Vickie

We need to be a bit smarter about the clothing we buy, how we use it and how we dispose of it or repair/recycle it.  We can then make a huge difference to the planet.  At the same time, we’re raising money for charity and having this great community group and volunteers coming together in a very positive cooperative environment. 

Vickie would like more people to know about the Clothing Exchange and encourage people to set up their own local clothing exchanges in other areas.  This is something practical and can impact people in the community in a positive way.  To find out more, visit the group’s Facebook page or follow them on Twitter


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