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Treasure Trash For Less Cash

Tracking Cambridge's recycled style scene

Jo Sinclair
localsecrets.com Sunday, 17 Jan 2010
  • The clothes swishing phenomenon has reached Cambridge. What, you may ask, is that? Picture a jumble sale without the sharp elbows or frowsty aroma, albeit an atmosphere of polite tension as avid swapaholics single out the Marc Jacobs skirt, Paul Smith stripes, vintage beaded dress, or the seven inch killer heels someone never dared wear.

    Clothes SwapSwishing is clothes swapping. All shapes and sizes wriggle into other people's cast offs in the scramble to find a new look to take home. If you know you're not going to shake your booty in that little black dress ever again it's a happy moment when it finds a new owner.

    On Saturday 23rd January organisation Cambridge Design Collective (CDC) will be hosting their third ‘clothes-swapping soiree'. Students from Anglia Ruskin University's Cambridge School of Art will collaborate at the event where guests must bring at least one item of clothing to swap in return for helping themselves to the rails. Their last swap, held in October, attracted nearly three hundred happy swappers.

    As Nikki Goldup, co-founder, says "it's an ideal way of spring-cleaning your wardrobe, making a new year's resolution to de-clutter and refine what you wear". Those design students will also be on hand on the day to help swappers fit and transform their treasures.

    Unwanted items from the swap will go to local charities where they'll be cleaned and repaired or gleaned of valuable zips and buttons then sent to rag merchants. Andrew Martin, who runs CDC with Nikki, is also the creative consultant at the RSPCA's funky Emporium 61 on Burleigh Street. Popular with Cambridge's resident students, the shop does a glamorous trade in 70s maxi dresses, pussy bow blouses and fake fur. Woof! Proceeds from the locally donated goods fund regional services such as the charity's animal A&E.

    "Emporium 61 has a no major label policy", explains Andrew politely as he lovingly inspects a pair of multi-coloured harlequin leather patchwork heels. Instead, the altruistic mover and shaker mixes selected retro and designer garments alongside creations by a group of local designers crafting funky ensembles from rags and rejects. The Fafang, Emma Pawson, Jesse Noy, A.N.Other and Baby Blue labels all share their profits 50/50 with the RSPCA shop. The trend for friendly consumerism can also be seen in artful Cambridgeshire enterprises like Natural Habitats and Trash Chic.

    Artist-furniture maker Loukas Morley of Natural Habitats put up a wanted ad requesting hardwood surplus to requirements. Cambridge University's eight hundred year history instantly came up trumps when fifty derelict chairs (Italian originals by Vico Maggestretti) came ‘out of the woodwork'. Other donations followed.

    Loukas creates a range of products from these reclaimed sources, from honey dibbers to tea trays, shelving units and tables. There's a nice symbiotic relationship there: "Offering unwanted materials like this saves the donator the costs of labour and skip hire", Loukas says. He agrees that regeneration is part of the mission statement for his company. Originally influenced by driftwood finds, the fine arts graduate spotted some fine oak beams in a skip one day. The self-taught carpenter promptly turned these into a table, and he has continued to refine his contemporary vision of high-end design from ethical sources ever since.

    Back with clothes though a bit of titivation can work wonders. Trash Chic duo Sandra Stafford and Jane Horwood share a passion for clothing, thrift and recycling. Their jolly aprons, cushions and scarves made from refashioned materials can be seen at sales and charity events in the region.

    Jane explains, "A fantastic source of clothing items for us is other people who want a wardrobe re-hash. If what they want to get rid of fits the Trash Chic style, then we offer to sell it on their behalf and they take 50% of the profit. It's a great way of constantly refreshing our stock and getting a range of styles and sizes." People also pass on supplies to the pair according to their skills and interests - fabrics to Jane and beads to Sandra, for example.

    "I would always encourage making things and adapting what you've already got", says Sandra. "You don't even need a sewing machine; a bit of hand stitching works wonders." The Trash Chic duo declare that their policy is to "rescue items that others have abandoned, then set about their rehabilitation before releasing, healthy and fit, back into the world of fashion". Their motto is ‘Love what you wear, but show that you care.'


    The Clothing Exchange takes places on Saturday 23rd January 2010 at The Shop on Jesus Lane, Cambridge
    Entry is £2. Profits will support future CDC initiatives and The Shop community art space. Any remaining garments will be donated to the local charity shops.

    Delivery of clothes from 11 - 12 pm
    Clothes exchange from 12.30 - 2pm
    Selling off unswapped clothing from 2 - 2.15pm

    www.cambridgedesigncollective.org
    www.trashchic.co.uk
    www.naturalhabitats.co.uk
    Emporium 61 is at 61 Burleigh Street, Cambridge

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Treasure Trash For Less Cash Jo Sinclair