In Crumlin, a chance to exchange good clothes for better ones


Gemma Nolan clutches an armful of clothes.

She is really pleased with the loot she has collected from the lockers inside Scoil Ísogáin, she says. Above her pile is a lilac purple puffer jacket and a cardigan in the colors of the sunset.

Beside her, Chloe Wynne clutches the hanger of a brown checkered cardigan. Ciarán Gibson contemplates a white and blue zip-up jacket.

The trio appeared at Changing clothes Crumlin “swap shop” event last Monday with a black trash bag full of old Nolan clothes.

Nolan had been planning a cleanup for ages, she said, and had the bags ready to donate when she heard about Wynne’s Swap Shop. “I thought, might as well bring it, get some free stuff!”

In exchange for each resalable piece of clothing she turned in, a volunteer at the gate gave her a token to use in one of eleven clothes racks in the school hall.

“One token for one item,” says Mary Fleming, who organized the event, and upcoming events on Wednesday and Fridayand started Change Clothes Crumlin.

It is one of five climate action projects ongoing at Crumlin, supported by the Creative Climate Action Fund, from which Crumlin Taking Action Together secured funding Last year.

The funding flow from the Department of Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, managed by the Arts Office of Dublin City Council, supports creative projects on the impact of climate change.

Fleming says she hopes people have fun and learn about sustainability at the events, and that it could become a more regular, perhaps permanent thing at Crumlin, or beyond.

“Could there be one in every town in Ireland?” she says. “A swap-based business model, which could be self-financing.”

Talk about purchases

In the school gym, Margaret Murray and her daughter Ellen Kehoe browse the clothes racks. They smell of fabrics. Every once in a while they pull out pieces for a closer look.

Murray brought seven pieces of her young son’s old clothes to trade for things for her and Kehoe, she said. “We were sort of done with them.”

Visitors paid between €2.50 and €5 to walk in with their old clothes, get tokens, and browse the shelves for clothes to spend their tokens on, says Fleming.

On Monday, 58 people paid for tickets, she said. During the day, more than 500 garments were brought in and 350 were exchanged. The rest of the unexchanged clothes will remain on the shelves until Wednesday, Fleming said.

Nolan says the cost of a ticket was a bargain considering the quality. She flips a cardigan over to show the tag – House of Sunny.

“There are some really good bits,” she says. “Some things I’ve bought here from a charity shop would be 50 pounds because they know the stuff is good.”

Volunteers next to the National College of Art and Design student fashion display. Photo by Claudia Dalby.

The news traveled through Instagram, WhatsApp groups and posters on trash cans around Crumlin, Fleming said, and some people brought clothes in early so the shelves wouldn’t be empty that day.

Murray is holding a few things she likes: a red dress, a striped top. She tilts her head towards a short yellow cardigan. “I’m not sure about that exactly, but it might work.”

Kehoe is holding a black dress, with two stripes adorned with beads and threads. “I really like the look of it, I can just wear it to a party or something. Just the colors.

Kehoe says she often takes her clothes to charity shops when she feels she isn’t wearing them and wants something new.

An event like this is always a good incentive to get rid of clothes, she says, and then it feels like getting new clothes, for free.

attract people

At the back of the room, a white banner is adorned with the phrase “These Bits Were Banjaxed”. Hanging next to it, his counterpart says, “Now they look absolutely gorgeous.”

The banners hang behind a display of students from the textile department of the National College of Art and Design (NCAD), whom Fleming has invited to display fashion pieces they have made on mannequins.

Wynne, an NCAD student, has a piece in the exhibit, a round silver ring on the finger of a model’s hand. “It’s made from a recycled Coke can,” she says.

Fleming wanted there to be a reason people would come over beyond the sheer appeal of buying new clothes, she says.

“People were saying it was more than just an exchange,” she says. “It was nice to see people staying, to socialize.”

Heading to the parking lot outside, Kristina McElroy shows off rainbow felt stitching on an old purple coat. She had given a talk that day on fashion design, alongside workshops on recycling and mending.

Kristina McElroy shows off her felt embroidery. Photo by Claudia Dalby.

Her coat is 14 years old, she said. “It has been in the washing machine several times. The buttons didn’t come off as it was a great buy, which is kind of what you have to do.

Mary Kennedy, next to her, says she learned a lot from McElroy’s speech. “How to mix and match your stuff, what works for you and what doesn’t, what’s great.”

Kennedy clutched a small paper bag containing pieces she scavenged from the event’s mending library, where there were spools of thread, buttons and needles for mending and decorating clothes. “A load of embroidery floss and buttons, to embellish something else.”

Fleming says she loves that new people can meet at the event. “People talk to people they wouldn’t normally get to meet. And there were people of all ages.

Escape fast fashion

Murray says she hears in the news about mountains of fast fashion clothes that have only been worn once. “I guess if you can buy less [new]and buying more used is better.

Gibson says it can be hard to escape the marketing of fast fashion, high street and luxury brands on social media. “You always want more, and more and more.”

He also hears a lot about the environmental cost of cheap clothes and worker rights abuses at fast fashion companies.

“That’s kind of what gets to me personally. All the effort it takes to make a garment, you wear it twice and throw it away,” he says.

Fleming says the event aims to encourage sustainability, but she wasn’t sure she was overemphasizing the urgency of the climate crisis.

“I just didn’t feel comfortable telling people they were doing something wrong right now when there’s so much else going on already,” she says. She’s been hard on herself for unsustainable lifestyle habits in the past, and it wasn’t healthy, she says.

If people enjoy the event, they might form lasting habits, she says. “Make people feel like it’s a positive thing to do.”

“It’s more about being social and helping each other out,” she says. “This whole idea of ​​capitalism and consumerism growing, we want to be the opposite of that, as an antidote, I guess.”


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