PETALING JAYA: Women young and old trickled into the lobby at RexKL, browsing through piles of second-hand clothes – from office wear to evening gowns and designer shoes – all sorted by size.
At first glance, they seemed to be shopping.
But these women would not be paying a sen. The clothes were all free and they were encouraged to take as much as they liked.
This is a clothing swap party. Each participant arrived with a bag of clothing they no longer wear. In return, they got to “adopt” pre-loved clothes from other participants.
The monthly event by The Swap Project is part of a growing movement of eco-conscious shoppers who want to reduce the environmental impact of fast fashion in this throwaway culture.
According to an October 2017 YouGov survey, nearly three in 10 Malaysians have thrown away an item of clothing after wearing it just once.
It found that 15% of Malaysians have discarded clothes just because they were bored of wearing them, while 14% did so because it was no longer deemed trendy.
When it comes to disposal methods, most Malaysians give unwanted clothes to charity, friends and family.
However, it was found that 27% of millennials and 17% of baby boomers throw their clothes in the bin while 7% of millennials and 2% of baby boomers burn theirs.
That is why The Swap Project’s motto is “swap more, buy less”.
Co-founders Jayda Chong, 30, and Jamie Choy, 35, said they started the platform to encourage sustainability in a fashionable way.
“Swap parties allow people to update their wardrobe by exchanging clothes, so they don’t have to buy new ones every month, ” she said, adding that they can get up to 100 participants at each event.
While The Swap Project aims to extend the lifespan of clothing and reduce consumption of fast fashion, fabric recycling movement Kloth Cares works to keep fabric out of landfills.
Its co-founder Nik Suzila Hassan said they target to divert at least 5% of textile waste away from landfills between August 2018 and February 2021.
“Globally, it is reported that between 80 billion to 100 billion of new clothing are produced annually. Imagine how bloated our landfills will be if garments are not recycled and given new life, ” she said.
To help Malaysians recycle their fabric waste, Kloth Cares placed over 250 fabric recycling bins across the Klang Valley, Melaka and Negri Sembilan, including at Shell petrol stations.
As for global non-profit organisation Fashion Revolution, it aims its arrows at the fashion industry.
“We love fashion. But we don’t want our clothes to exploit people or destroy our planet, ” its manifesto said.
Its Malaysian country coordinator Sasibai Kimis said they advocated for ethical and sustainable fashion.
“Being an ethical fashion company means you are asking customers to use your products for a long time and not keep buying new ones. This means sales will go down, but how many companies are willing to do that?” she asked.
She said ethical fashion brands may be pricier, but this reflects the true cost that goes into treating the environment and their labour well.