The Big Shwop (25th July 2010)

Rissa had sent round an email to the girls inviting us to join her on an eco-fashion event called The Big Shwop, where women would bring their unwanted, barely worn, good quality clothes and exchange them with clothes of others on offer. Sure, why not? I hardly hang out with the girls so this would be a good opportunity to do more girl-bonding. Plus I’ve never been to clothes-swapping event – something fun to try and blog about :) Cost $20 to pre-register online and I gathered several of my gfs too to come along for some Sunday girl-time together, including a yum char lunch in between so we could catch up before the actual shwop.

I headed over to St James Theatre where the event was held around 10am and there was already a queue at the registration desk. Had my name checked off and a stamp on my hand, then off to the upstairs foyer I went with my 10 items of clothing (20 is the maximum allowed) to the Shwop Shop to have them accessed for suitability. The clothes I brought along were taken out from my storage boxes in the garage, items I’ve posted on TradeMe for sale but still not sold. 8 of them were accepted and for each item of clothing, I was given a voucher which I would use this afternoon to ‘cash in’ other items available. It was rather amusing that the vouchers weren’t tickets but pieces of jigsaw puzzles! The volunteer shwopkeepers would check to make sure the clothes were in good condition and they wouldn’t accept common clothing labels e.g. Glassons. Strangely, they accepted a sleeveless black top of mine I owned since 18 which I had worn several times back then (a bit too tight for me now) and still kept in as-new condition. Hopefully the clothes I brought today would go to wardrobes of ladies who would appreciate them! This year, men were also able to participate in a men-shwop though I can’t see any men lining up in throngs at the male Shwop Shop, just the male shwopkeepers grinning at the sight of the number of women eagerly queuing up to get their items checked on a Sunday morning.

Now, you must be wondering what if I didn’t use up all my jigsaw puzzles. Well, for starters, you won’t be getting back the clothes you brought in nor would you be getting money back. Instead, you will be given a voucher which you would be able to use in next year’s shwop. Hmm, what if I’m not here next year for the event? I had better make sure I get all my puzzle pieces ‘cashed in’ regardless I like the item or not, and just sell the ones I don’t like on TradeMe.

Stacey, Bronwyn and Liz turned up shortly and we headed over to Majestic Cuisine on Courtenay Place for yum cha brunch. Thankfully I had booked us a table earlier this week – the restaurant was fully booked today! Rissa and mum Daisy joined us shortly (Daisy’s visiting from Australia) and Chris popped in for a bit as well. We chatted and laughed over our food and Chinese tea, and I even took up Chris’ dare to try their durian custard roll, a sweet pastry filled with durian flesh. Ok, I still do not like durian, even made this way – it’s not the smell or texture that puts me off; I just don’t like the fruit in general. Eek, not trying it again…

Around 12pm, us girls headed back to the lobby of St James Theatre to redeem our free drink, a choice of a glass of MOMO wine (Momo means offspring in Maori and is a winery based in Marlborough) or a Tuatara beer. I had the wine – fruity though rather acidy. As we chilled out over drinks and listened to the event sponsors talk about their organisation and products, the shwop area was closed with busy shwopkeepers sorting the clothes into racks according to type and size. Oh, and if you brought along your non-Trilogy cleanser that’s less than ¼ full, the folks from Trilogy would happily swap them for a brand new Trilogy cleanser. How awesome is that? I must have missed reading this in my registration email so wasn’t aware of it until Rissa mentioned she was heading to the Trilogy desk to get her new cleanser! Doh!

As time got closer to 1pm, more and more women started to gather by the stairway, as if gearing up for a race. God, seriously, is there such a need to push around to the front??! There were SO many women concentrated in the lobby!! 1pm and all hell broke loose – the women were in a mad rush to grab clothes and running over to the changing room to try on their garments (maximum 5 garments each trip to the changing room). It was such a stressful sight to see the women. It was as if they were possessed or something – they were just raw, cave women-like fighting for food, their eyes all carnivorous/mean – it was rather horrific! Clothes were getting taken off racks like nobody’s business. Everything felt like a haze and so hurried. I just dodged the ‘crazy’ women (especially the bigger ones – I wasn’t in the mood to be tackled by them) and took my time looking for my own items. Just leave me alone! The event photographer, DJ who was there playing music for us in the background and some of the male volunteers were found smirking and shaking their heads when they witnessed the female carnage happening in front of their eyes. Not nice ladies anymore…

Huh, I thought so…as expected, the shwop hardly had clothes to suit my size (most were bigger) so the choices available to me were limited. I had to return to the racks several times just to see if more tried but unwanted items of my size came back. I did find a few nice pieces though on closer inspection, there were nicks or stains, the result of women in their rush and not handling the clothes with care. Hmm…I don’t think I’ll be having that one…The changing room was an emptied conference room that had full-length mirrors stood up all along the walls. Yes, that meant no covered changing area but a large room where women stripped away to their bare essentials (bra and undies, that is). So far, no dramas seen in the changing room and the women would take turns checking how they looked in their potential new clothes. Chris had warned me beforehand that some women can be quite forward and would ask to try the item in your pile of clothes regardless whether you have tried it on or not. Well, that happened to me twice when I was in the changing room! Oh, one woman got really upset (I’m not sure if it was the stressful environment or the fact she couldn’t find anything her size) and had to be calmed down by the volunteers as she was starting to make a scene and eventually stormed out of the venue!

I left St James around 2.30pm with all my jigsaw puzzles swapped (was somewhat disappointed as I didn’t find anything I really wanted but oh well, I was in for the experience so it’s ok). Once you’ve ‘cashed in’ your vouchers, you weren’t allowed back into the shwop area. Some of the girls were still in there finding items to swap! Every one who registered for the event was also given a bar of soap and packet of laundry powder from EcoStore as well as a Trilogy Everything Balm (RRP$22).

Personally, I think it would have been much better if the racks not only had clothing type labelled but also the sizes clearly specific. That would work brilliantly for everyone as you would head directly to those sections than skim through the entire rack. It was a really interesting experience though not something I would like to try again – it was just way too stressful an event for people to actually relax and have fun. Hmm, maybe us girls should get together and do our own little shwop at home, bring along nibbles and make cocktails.,.Photos taken today:


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