During our on going research into sharing economies one that has caught my attention is The Clothes Exchange started by Kate Pears in Melbourne. People bring along items of clothing, normally six, all in good condition. In exchange for each item you are given a button with which you can ‘buy’ items of clothes.There is a charge for attending events, about £10 (still cheaper than 6 items of clothing!) I find this example interesting on a number of levels. Firstly it is a more sustainable model of consumption – you get to consume and fulfil your desire of acquiring something ‘new’ without the continual production and waste.
It is also a fascinating investigation into consumer behaviour. Pears has gone on to do a phD using the Clothes Exchanges as a revealing social experiment. Pears found that at people’s first exchange they tended to use all their buttons – suggesting a common consumptive response – thriving on spending, a process of acquiring more than needing. At people’s next exchanges, she found they were more selective, taking home fewer items, and leaving unused buttons - using the event to recycle their clothes and experience the social event.
This brings up the interesting social dimension – the social element is part of the draw and potentially social networks are born from the event.
‘They take on the air of must attend social events.’
(How good are you? Clean living in a dirty world.’ by Julian Lee).
Pear’s found that people mixed and promoted their own clothes and in this environment conversation turned freely and unforced to sustainability and consumption issues. Perhaps the most important moment in the evening is the 30 minutes when Pear and her volunteers prepare the clothes - people have a drink, mingle and wait in anticipation.