Swishing - the latest clothes recycling craze comes to Clitheroe

Amanda Griffiths heads to a party in Clitheroe to join the latest clothes swapping craze<br/>Photography by Kirsty Thompson

It is a Friday night. It’s cold, wet and thoroughly miserable. A week before payday and I’m desperate for a girls’ night out, so when I’m invited to a swishing party in Clitheroe, photographer Kirsty Thompson and I head down to the Ribble Valley to see what ‘bargains’ we can grab. And I mean grab!

Swishing is the latest craze. There’s a few raised eyebrows when we tell the male members of the team our plans. I explain it’s simply a clothes swapping party, an eco-friendly way of reviving your wardrobe until pay day comes around and I can go to the shops.

It’s also a way of decluttering your closets and acquiring a few well placed pieces that other ladies have outgrown – mentally if not physically. It’s a concept that has been featured by fashion guru Gok Wan and Twiggy, and fans include Gwyneth Paltrow and Lindsey Lohan. If it’s good enough for Gwyneth, it’s good enough for me!

As I arrive there’s a certain tension in the air - you never know who might be getting rid of a Dior handbag or that Chanel jacket they’ve had buried at the back of their wardrobe.

Organiser Nicole Morgan from Girls’ Guide, meets me at the door at St Mary’s Centre in Clitheroe. The hall is decked with bunting and there’s plenty of tea and cakes to help get the evening started. As the ladies begin arriving with the goodies they want to swap, Nicole and her helpers hang up the clothing while we all enjoy a natter. You can’t help but feel the excitement build as the ladies reminisce about the last event and one or two have a sneaky peek at the rails.

After what seems like an eternity to us excited ‘swishettes’, Nicole finally announces it’s time to get started. We have approximately half an hour to longingly browse the rails and tables and try on anything we like the look of. Unfortunately there’s no Dior or Chanel, but there are a few higher end labels to choose from and many items still with their original price tags.

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As browsing draws to an end Nicole draws the charity raffle before lining the swishettes up and declaring the swish open.

That’s when order becomes mayhem as the ladies make a dash for their coveted items, even bursting through the rails to get to the items on the table on the other side. The initial dash dies down as people get what they’re after, and leisurely browsing starts to take place once more, this time with people picking up the items they want and adding them to their stash.

Some are disappointed though. There’s a sad moment as I see a top I had my eye on picked up by another, but all’s fair in love and swishing!This is the third event Nicole has held and she says they are getting better each time as word spreads. The next will be held in Burnley on Friday, March 2.

‘Swishing events vary,’ she says. ‘The way I do things is to try to make them as much fun as possible. The idea is a girls’ night out doesn’t have to be about drinking a lots or be expensive.’

The idea was developed in London when the founder of green PR firm Futerra and her colleagues wanted to combine a love of shopping with their eco-friendly principles.

‘There’s a bit of luck to it,’ says Nicole. ‘Nobody is going to bring stuff they really love, it’s things they no longer want. But often the clothes still have the tags on them.

‘I just ask people to bring along one item of clothing, shoes, jewellery or a handbag, but they can take home as much as they want. Swishing started in the cities but it has move to rural areas and appeals to people as a different kind of night out.

‘I think once someone comes once they only have to find one thing they love and they will tell their friends and come back in a bigger group next time. Ladies love it!’

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