The opening of Croydon Community Clothes Exchange, Saturday 11th August

By - Friday 17th August, 2018

A new pre-loved boutique has launched in Croydon town centre

Photo author’s own.

We’re not all Carrie Bradshaw-style fashion junkies. I have women friends whose tours of duty at the shops – the front line of the self-image wars – leave them exhausted and depressed. One is now a total refusenik. “I never buy clothes”, she says.

I, on the other hand, have plenty of Ms Bradshaw going on, and lack only her walk-in wardrobe and Mr Big’s bottomless bank account. However, unlike Carrie, I’m concerned about where my garments come from: a dress with a £6 price tag cannot have a happy story. Who made it? How much were they paid and how do they live?

Still – it’s dirt cheap and it just might come in handy… which explains why Britons own more than £10 billion-worth of clothes we do not wear. Fashion is one of the most wasteful, polluting and environmentally harmful industries in the world.

At an exchange, you can’t take more than you have given

The most eco-friendly clothes of all are – of course – secondhand. As a charity shop (a.k.a. ‘pre-loved boutique’) afficianado, I was keen to try out the new Croydon Community Clothes Exchange, which launched at the TURF Projects’ original HQ in Keeley Road on Saturday 11th August. I buy from charity shops, and also donate to them regularly, but the Clothes Exchange idea takes this to a whole new level.

At an exchange you must bring something along, and can’t take more than you have given (a maximum of twenty items). Take fewer and your ‘credit’ is recorded for next time. Users pay £3 to register and donations (adults’ clothes, shoes, bags, scarves and jewellery) are counted and checked for quality on arrival by the friendly organisers. The items hang on changing rails of stock (last Saturday’s event ran for four hours), and new arrivals turn up and dig for treasure.

There’s also a social dimension: I met several friends beside the racks, and waited enthusiastically for one designer-aware contributor’s arrival. (Yes, it was most definitely worth it.)

The highlight of the day was a pink Vivienne Westwood cardigan

Photo author’s own.

As a shopping experience – as important to me as it ever was to Ms Bradshaw – a trip to the CCE is several notches up from a hunt round the branch of SCOPE opposite West Croydon station. This was a first-time event and a steady trickle of attendees came along. The idea needs time to grow and I hope that it does.

The highlight of the day beyond doubt was a pink Vivienne Westwood cardigan, tragically too tight to work on me. I could have grabbed it, snipped the buttons and sold them on eBay, but what would be the point of doing that? Pre-loved clothes are cast adrift between owners; that cardigan needs someone to find it, take it home with her and love it once again.

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Writer and editor. Views personal, not representative of editorial policy.

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  • Anne Giles

    I only buy from charity shops, Croydon University shop or Amazon.


    This sounds great – will get there as soon as I can (and look up who Carrie B is ……)

    • lizsheppardjourno

      Sex and the City just turned 20 and still worth a watch! It’s not aged that well, but its critics very easily forget how radical and empowering of women it was in its day :)