We’re excited about next week’s book launch and panel discussion; celebrating The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion by author Tansy Hoskins and chatting through some of the issues it raises with experts and activists.
We’ll be joined by a group of panellists including Lauren Cowdery, Director of Leeds Community Clothes Exchange. LCCE is a project that encourages the swapping of clothes in order to reduce consumption while raising awareness of unethical consumer habits — and providing a low-cost alternative to the high street. We spoke to Lauren about how swaps work at Leeds Community Clothes Exchange and
Hi Lauren! Can you tell us about Leeds Community Clothes Exchange?
Leeds Community Clothes Exchange was started back in 2008 by a student called Lizzie Harrison as part of her MA research. She had an independent brand called Antiform as well as a small studio space — she invited friends to do a clothing swap as part of the community side of the brand, Re Made in Leeds. It just grew bigger and bigger from there. I became involved as a volunteer in 2015 and quickly became much more involved. Eventually, I became one of the Directors!
Leeds Community Clothes Exchange has two main purposes, the first being to prevent usable clothing items from going to landfill. By swapping them, we can extend the lifespan of the clothing. Our other mission is to provide a low-cost alternative to the high street. We’re really aware that the people who need access to clothing the most are often those that don’t have it; and with the cost of living crisis having this access is increasingly important.
What does it cost to access the swaps?
It costs £3.50 for entry! While we don’t swap children’s clothes, they’re free to come along with their parents. We also have what we call our Charity Bank Scheme so that people who are experiencing homelessness or are in refuge can access clothing for free. We’ve worked with different charities to help facilitate that.
We’ve also donated clothing to refugee campaigns as well. Last year we donated jeans, jumpers and winter coats to Leeds Refugee Centre who took them to Calais; and we collaborate with local charities as well.
How important is it for us to have conversations around fashion and how to be more sustainable?
I think it's critical to our survival as a species. Fashion is one of the highest polluting industries; it has a terrible track record for human rights offences. It’s heartening to me to see that more people are starting to question the fashion industry and make positive changes and creating a circularity around fashion.
Leeds has a heritage of fashion and textile industries; the fashion programmes at the University are at the cutting edge of research into sustainability. We’re the place where these conversations should be happening and it’s brilliant to see that they are — as well as being at a great venue like Left Bank.
You can book your ticket to the Book Launch & Panel Discussion here.