All change?: London fashion week launches first ever swap shop


Patrick Duffy, one of the organisers of the London fashion week clothes swap, presents the wares.

Is old the new new? That was the question at London fashion week yesterday, where, alongside headline names such as Mulberry and Vivienne Westwood, the five-day fashion event launched its first clothes swap.

Clothes swapping has become increasingly popular in recent years, as the appetite for dressing inexpensively and sustainably has boomed. But the practice has never before had such high-profile fashion industry approval.

Among the first to donate items were industry heavyweights including the sustainable fashion campaigner Livia Firth and Sarah Mower, a critic and British Fashion Council (BFC) ambassador.

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“It’s an experiment. It’s never been done before. It fits in with the way the world’s moving, towards experiences, rather than consuming,” said Patrick McDowell, a young designer presenting a “curated, evolving” collection made from donated pieces as part of the clothes swap, some of which will be decorated with upcycled Swarovski crystals. No money will change hands because, in a swap, McDowell explained: “The clothes on your back are your currency.”

The swap shop is one of a number of sustainability initiatives unveiled this fashion week, as the industry continues to be targeted by environmentalists.

Mulberry, for example, has launched an initiative to collect and repurpose vintage handbags while Ashley Williams used fabric from past samples in her new collection and Alexander McQueen announced a drive to donate its old, unused fabric to fashion students.

Though only open to attendants of London fashion week – those working in the industry as well as about 2,500 members of the ticket-buying public – the swap shop has a broader aim of promoting the “sharing economy”, which many believe could help the fashion industry drastically reduce its carbon footprint. Patrick Duffy, one of the event’s organisers, and founder of sustainability consultancy Global Fashion Exchange, said 150bn items of clothing were made each year, “but so much is sent to landfill – 300,000 tonnes each year in Britain. And that is growing every year. We have to remember the environmental social impact of that.”

There are many who are sceptical of attempts towards sustainability from within the fashion industry. Extinction Rebellion, for example, is calling for London fashion week to be shut altogether and has protests planned. The group has urged the BFC to “propose the legislation needed to stop the fashion industry’s exploitation of planet, people and animals”, adding: “There is no emergency action but tweaks to business as usual. We need to know how emissions and the loss of biodiversity will be addressed.”

One of the founders of fashion week, Lynne Franks, also chimed in, saying: “I believe now is the time for drastic change in how we do things. We’re in a different world, a world of emergency and there is a need for drastic action.”

For Duffy, however, working with fashion week can be an effective route to change. “It shouldn’t be shameful to buy something new,” he said. “But we should educate people about the process behind their clothes. If people knew what they were buying, like they do with food, it would be very different.”


Two Burberry coats and a retro Puma zip-up top were highlights on the rails as the first few curious visitors milled around the shop on the Strand at lunchtime yesterday.

All change?: London fashion week launches first ever swap shop

Is old the new new? That was the question at London fashion week yesterday, where, alongside headline names such as Mulberry and Vivienne Westwood, the five-day fashion event launched its first clothes swap.

Clothes swapping has become increasingly popular in recent years, as the appetite for dressing inexpensively and sustainably has boomed. But the practice has never before had such high-profile fashion industry approval.

Among the first to donate items were industry heavyweights including the sustainable fashion campaigner Livia Firth and Sarah Mower, a critic and British Fashion Council (BFC) ambassador

It’s an experiment. It’s never been done before. It fits in with the way the world’s moving, towards experiences, rather than consuming,” said Patrick McDowell, a young designer presenting a “curated, evolving” collection made from donated pieces as part of the clothes swap, some of which will be decorated with upcycled Swarovski crystals. No money will change hands because, in a swap, McDowell explained: “The clothes on your back are your currency.”

The swap shop is one of a number of sustainability initiatives unveiled this fashion week, as the industry continues to be targeted by environmentalists.

Mulberry, for example, has launched an initiative to collect and repurpose vintage handbags while Ashley Williams used fabric from past samples in her new collection and Alexander McQueen announced a drive to donate its old, unused fabric to fashion students.

Though only open to attendants of London fashion week – those working in the industry as well as about 2,500 members of the ticket-buying public – the swap shop has a broader aim of promoting the “sharing economy”, which many believe could help the fashion industry drastically reduce its carbon footprint. Patrick Duffy, one of the event’s organisers, and founder of sustainability consultancy Global Fashion Exchange, said 150bn items of clothing were made each year, “but so much is sent to landfill – 300,000 tonnes each year in Britain. And that is growing every year. We have to remember the environmental social impact of that.”

There are many who are sceptical of attempts towards sustainability from within the fashion industry. Extinction Rebellion, for example, is calling for London fashion week to be shut altogether and has protests planned. The group has urged the BFC to “propose the legislation needed to stop the fashion industry’s exploitation of planet, people and animals”, adding: “There is no emergency action but tweaks to business as usual. We need to know how emissions and the loss of biodiversity will be addressed.”

One of the founders of fashion week, Lynne Franks, also chimed in, saying: “I believe now is the time for drastic change in how we do things. We’re in a different world, a world of emergency and there is a need for drastic action.”

For Duffy, however, working with fashion week can be an effective route to change. “It shouldn’t be shameful to buy something new,” he said. “But we should educate people about the process behind their clothes. If people knew what they were buying, like they do with food, it would be very different.”

Caped crusaders: how Little Women lost the Oscars – but won fashion

Where were we? Ah, yes, the eyelet collar, of course. The white lace contrast collar – think Peter Pan, but a little bit extra – is incoming on style from all directions, being not only a Little Women staple but also the star of last month’s super-chic Chanel haute couture show. Leandra Medine, the founder of the Man Repeller site-cum-brand and all-round modern media mogul, wore a super-sheer, dinner-plate-sized white lace Chloé collar over an olive green sweater and a camel coat to attend the Tory Burch show. Medine was seated right next to Gabi Butler and Lexi Brumback, real-life cheerleading champions and the stars of Netflix’s cult documentary Cheer, who are very much the NYFW attendees everyone is falling over themselves to sit with.

Little Women dressing is the new power dressing, it seems. At the beautiful Zimmermann show, the morning after the Oscars, a delicate scalloped ivory lace collar sat in face-framing contrast over a rich purple velvet waistcoat.

The litmus test for the power of Little Women will be whether the ubiquitous boxy blazer can be usurped by the drummer-boy style jackets favoured by Jo in the film. Slightly shrunken jackets nipped at the waist have made the first stage of the transition, from screen to catwalk, elegant in black velvet with a peaked shoulder at the Tory Burch show. If they win over fashion audiences, they could be a box-office hit. Little Women may not have been the toast of Hollywood on Sunday night, but it has New York fashion week cheering in the aisles.

Caped crusaders: how Little Women lost the Oscars – but won fashion

The outfit worn by Amy in the film’s beach scene has also made a serious impression on fashion. A mididress fastened with a long row of covered buttons from collarbone to waist, paired with sturdy boots, is a front-row go-to look right now. For next season, Kate Spade’s new collection, shown this week, featured a lemon yellow dress with a pretty row of tiny buttons. The new New York show by Brock Collection, designed by Laura Vassar and Kris Brock, gave excellent contemporary Little Women vibes throughout, particularly with the long tiered day dresses in the kind of sheeny fabric that makes a lovely, rustly sound effect when you walk, which was teamed with flat riding boots.

As for the sturdy boots – at this point, dear reader, if you will allow me to break off from the Little Women narrative for one moment – I would like to share with you a public service announcement. I have found the absolutely perfect, sublimely comfortable just-enough-of-a-heel block heel lace-up ankle boots, in Marks & Spencer for £65. They come in stone- and black-coloured leather or tan suede. You won’t regret it.

Caped crusaders: how Little Women lost the Oscars – but won fashion

At Adam Lippes, the capes were soft and romantic – a floor-length claret wool version was layered over a calico dress in washed-out peach, with a frilled collar – while at Carolina Herrera, they looked crisp and urban in camel paired with white. This dual identity is precisely what makes Little Women dressing such an unexpectedly appealing trend.

These are clothes that have a dreamy, dress-up quality but translate remarkably easily into a 21st-century wardrobe. Spotted on one British fashion editor here at NYFW who is already working the trend is the oversized Scarlett boyfriend blazer, £180, by the Kentish Town-based London brand Palones, the wide sleeves of which convert to a cape style with a row of buttons. A practical touch of which I feel sure Jo March would approve.

Gerwig’s take on Little Women painted Amy, the most fashion-loving and apparently frivolous of the March sisters, in a sympathetic light. That Florence Pugh as Amy was the only actor to receive an acting nomination at the Oscars is another signpost of how fashion-friendly this interpretation of Louisa May Alcott’s book is. Amy March gives her more famous sister Jo a run for her money in the contest to be fashion’s current muse. Several looks from the Florence-Pugh-as-Amy wardrobe created by Durran have made their way on to fashion’s most influential new-season moodboards. The ornate, V-shaped bodice of the blouse and pinafore that Amy wears in the scene where she smartly schools Timothée Chalamet in the economic realities of marriage from a woman’s perspective echoed through the catwalks this week. At Adam Lippes, there were yoke-shaped frills on an oatmeal sweater with a lace collar; on the Tory Burch catwalk, Natalia Vodianova wore a black blouse with a V-shaped front panel edged in white piping, tied in a neat bow at the throat, paired with a long skirt over boots