‘I want to promo sustainable fashion’: Calgary clothing swap gives old clothes new life

Ally Li is passionate about finding ways to avoid fast fashion and sharing that with Calgarians

Li's original clothing swap, pictured here, was just for friends and family. PHOTO COURTESY OF ALLY LI

Old clothes might not be as useless to Calgarians as they once seemed. 

This Sunday, people can bring their unwanted clothing – in good condition – to the Chinese Cultural Centre to swap them for other people’s recycled clothing. 

Ally Li, the event creator and organizer, said this is the first public event she’s hosted. Older versions of the clothing swap were for just for friends. But now any Calgarian can attend. 

“When you can swap clothes regularly, and you just pay a small fee, then you can get a whole wardrobe of clothing for free basically,” said Li. 

Volunteers will take the clothing – each person can bring up to 10 items – from attendees and check them for holes, stains or other damage. Donors will then be given a token for each item that’s deemed sellable. The tokens are used to purchase recycled clothing.  

The event costs $10 to attend. Li said the fee is to help pay for the clothing swap venue.   

Clothing swap on Instagram

Li said she first started her Instagram page YYC Clothing Swap to build a community for people against fast fashion. She said seeing the True Cost documentary about fast fashion changed how she wanted to shop. 

“The whole point of starting this Instagram account is I want to promo sustainable fashion to people living in Calgary,” said Li. 

“I just want to reduce clothing waste being thrown away to the landfill and help people save money.”

Li said she’s read studies that say clothing is the second most polluted industry. That’s part of what inspired her to create this event for the public. 

“I feel like, right now, we live in this throw away society of fashion. I feel like the cheaper clothes they get, the more we buy, the less we wear, and the more we throw out,” said Li.

Li tries to swap clothes with friends

Li, an accountant by trade, said it can be tricky to try swapping clothes with friends. Being an extra-small means it can be harder for her to find clothes that fit. 

That doesn’t stop her from trying. Li went to Value Village just the other day and found some good pieces to add to her wardrobe. Li encourages people to ask themselves if they’d wear the item 30 times before discarding it.

“I still have a lot of clothes that I used to buy, because I used to buy a lot whenever it was on sale, I would go ‘oh my God, I have to buy that,’” said Li.

“So I tried to wear my old clothes if it’s still in good condition, and I’ll swap it with other friends.”

YYC Clothing Swap takes place Aug. 25 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Chinese Cultural Centre. 

Both men’s and women’s clothes are accepted but Li said it’s typically just women who bring clothes. People who don’t bring clothes to donate are only able to browse.

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