Renew, Reuse, Recycle – Swap Clothing

They say swapping is the new shopping and this has been touted on the tele as well as in magazines. This makes a great deal of sense in the ever-growing concern for the environment since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act perceives many textile manufacturing facilities to be among the largest hazardous waste generators. Of course, bits of fabric here and there are bound to add up, but the dyes and treatments take a true toll on our planet. Which makes you think if you need a red sweater, why not look at one that has been around the block since you would then be supporting recycling of apparel. It is no small leap to consider thrift, charity, second-hand, and swap shops to be the new hot spots. Not only do they offer recycled items, but also more variety. If you shop at a department store there are dozens of the same item being sold in your city at that time and you will be dressing like many others. But clothes can travel from far and wide and end up in a second-hand sales situation so there is greater variety and sometimes you find something exotic.

This morning, a friend and I explored Chambers, a bar across from the Cork City Courthouse. Perhaps the origin of the public house is a place for judges and solicitors (lawyers/barristers) to go for a bite or pint and be able to tell their families, “Sorry I’m late tonight, I had a meeting in Chambers.” But today, it is decorated with bolts and swatches of fabrics as well as upholstered dressmaker forms in its daytime role as swap shop. Upon entering, it was quiet since we arrived just after it opened, but within an hour it was bustling (but still not crowded like Penney’s). The way it works is that you can bring something ingood condition and clean from your closet and approach the bar with the item(s). The keeper will look it over, keeping in mind the current inventory needs, then let you know if it can join their rails (aka, racks) or if it will stay yours. If you decide to part with it, you receive a voucher for use at that place. Now, here is the beauty of Chambers – the voucher is good towards clothing, alterations (done in-house), or drinks when Chambers is serving as a pub. Yes, you can bring in your lovely dress you’ve never worn but wish you had a reason to and get a pint instead. There is such poetry in this. Sometimes items are desirable but not needed in the inventory since Chambers has very limited storage space so you’ll be told if that’s the case and can bring it back in a few weeks time, as was the case with the pair of jeans I brought. There are two fitting rooms and if you get something that needs alterations, there is a seamstress on-hand. Everyone is so nice too – I took forever in the fitting room because I am still unaccustomed to what size I am over here and no one fussed at me or gave me dirty looks (they may have been thinking about it though). 

If you don’t bring anything, you can still go home with something by just buying it (so old school, I know). I bought a green/white houndstooth mini kilt, a cream linen embroidered skirt, a brown lightweight sweater, and an Asian-inspired silk handbag for just 26 Euros. The reasonable prices and fair trade-in offers are what keep people coming back and that keeps the inventory fresh.

Chambers even hosts Swap Nights, which basically are the same as the shop’s function during the day but with the excuse to drink cocktails and chat with other like-minded clothing swappers. They announce the Swap Night dates in posters on their storefront as well as on Chambers’s Bebo page.

All-in-all, it was a wonderful experience and perhaps a habit forming one. It has the appeal of very reasonable prices, friendly staff, clean, innovative business idea, and you are recycling.

Chambers Bar - Stitch or Switch Swap Shop
Chambers Bar - Stitch or Switch Swap Shop



5 thoughts on “Renew, Reuse, Recycle – Swap Clothing

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  1. Your blog is wonderful and has been extremely helpful. Do you know of any other second hand shops, or charity shops that are around in Cork?

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