Image: Unsplash

Amy Cooper

4 March 2019

According to co-founder of the Global Fashion Exchange Patrick Duffy, you can cop fresh garms without actually shopping. The secret? Swapping.

With all due respect to our (most awesome) corner of the fashion universe, it’s not unfair to say that menswear has been a little slower than our female-focused counterparts to embrace and promote the sustainable fashion movement.

Of course, there are some obvious reasons for this. To make a sweeping generalisation, traditionally, guys don’t shop in the same way that women do. Studies have proven that women are more influenced by trends and therefore are likely to shop more often, whereas men prefer to do bigger shops less frequently.

Fashion has also been marketed to women differently than it has been to men (up until recently, at least). For every men’s fashion magazine on the newsstand, there are at least five that are geared towards women. While menswear brands habitually show two collections a year, womenswear labels show between four and six.

Basically, the idea we’re positing is this: maybe menswear has been slower to jump on the ethical fashion bandwagon because we’ve got less of a carbon footprint in the first place?

Don’t get us wrong – this is no excuse for inaction. But sitting down to chat with Patrick Duffy, co-founder of the Global Fashion Exchange, this is one of the conclusions we drew. As Duffy points out, “men aren’t marketed to change their outfits morning, noon and night, like women have always been.”

Another conclusion we drew was that (sweeping generalisation alert #2) women tend to be slightly more vocal when it comes to engaging in social activism, which includes the ethical fashion debate. Full disclosure – I can say this because I am a woman. And of my male and female peers, it’s the ladies who’re more comfortable with publicising (read: Instagramming) the brands and causes they value and seek to align themselves with.

Guys, on the other hand, prefer to fly a little more under the radar – which could also be why men have been slower to engage in the sustainable fashion sphere. Which, like any form of activism, can be loud, overwhelming and at times a depressing space to orbit.

But Duffy – who’s just opened the Global Fashion Exchange’s first ever ‘Swap Shop’ in Brooklyn – is here (literally, he’s coming to Melbourne to spread his wisdom at the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival’s inaugural Australian Fashion Summit this Friday!) to show men that curating a sustainable wardrobe and changing your Instagram bio to ‘activist’ aren’t mutually exclusive (however, if you’d like to do things this way, by all means do).

How? According to Duffy, all it takes is a bit of healthy bartering.

Image: Unsplash

  1. Gather your mates

The Global Fashion Exchange was built on the premise of ‘clothing swaps’ – public events whereby participants bring along good-quality clothes they no longer wear and exchange them for pre-loved items that other attendees have brought along to trade. Almost six years after launching, the ‘Swaps’ have become a global phenomenon; it’s not unlikely to see hundreds of swappers turn up to an event, ready to snag themselves some vintage Balmain or second-hand Supreme.

We’ll be the first to admit that tussling with fellow garms enthusiasts for clothes sounds a little overwhelming. But that’s why the GFX have a toolkit whereby you can stage your own swap, with your own friends, within the comfort of your own home.

First step? Gather a bunch of your most trusted confidents (even better if they have great style). Want to push the boat out further? Duffy says he’s working on bringing the swaps to sporting clubs and teams, too.

“If you are among your friends, you curate the experience, you curate the feeling, and you curate the group and then you get to invite five of your guy friends over and have control of the experience,” he says.

  1. Select your swappables

Next up, identify the clothes you no longer wear – or wear very rarely (we advocate the use of the KonMari method here, should you need) – and encourage your mates to do the same.

According to Duffy, while the GFX find that more women come to their public clothing swaps, it’s actually men that have the greatest success with finding and trading pieces at the events.

“The great thing with men’s clothing is it isn’t that complicated,” explains Duffy. “The fit for womenswear can be really complex; it’s rarely one size fits all. It’s easier for men to get things tailored, and in general, the ratios of men’s bodies are more… uniform,” he says.

If the thought  of swapping clothes with your mates makes you feel odd, it’s time to change your mindset: according to Duffy, that same boost of dopamine you get from purchasing something new can be achieved through swapping something old for something new, (new in the sense that it’s new to your wardrobe).

Just without the environmental impact that comes with accruing new threads.

  1. Throw a party

One of Duffy’s biggest impacts on the sustainable fashion space – and something we’re sure he’ll elaborate on at the Australian Fashion Summit later this week – is that the ethical fashion conversation shouldn’t always be doom and gloom.

“If it gets too heavy and too dark, people aren’t going to take notice. They will turn away from the idea and not want to save the world,” Duffy says, of the pessimistic narrative  that tends to revolve around fashion’s environmental cost.

“I don’t want to focus so much on all of the depressing things that are happening, because there’s other people for that,” he says. “This is about empowering people, and thinking about how we can get people excited. The GFX was founded on the moral of community-building, and bringing people together through collaboration.”

What better way to collaborate than by switching on some music, assembling some snacks (and wine) and staging a Global Fashion Exchange-style swap in your own backyard? It’s like shopping on Grailed, but within your friend’s wardrobes, for free.

“What it’s doing is showing people that it’s easy to participate in the circular economy,” says Duffy, as we near the end of our chat. “People will often come to me and say, ‘what can I do?’ And I say, ‘well, if you commit to no longer buying fast fashion, and not disposing of your clothes in landfill, and be more conscious about where your clothes actually come from…’ if people just do small things like that they can make a huge impact.”

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