Swapping could be the ultimate in sustainable fashion, and it’s waiting to make you happy in Knutsford.

Those of us of a certain vintage will recall Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, the Saturday morning children’s TV show that ran from 1976 to 1982. At the heart of the show sat the Swaporama, with presenter Keith Chegwin travelling to locations throughout the UK where children could swap their belongings with others. It was brilliant – in a time when toys and games were not the easy-to-come-by commodities they are today, the idea that one could trade a much-loved but grown out of toy for something different was massively exciting. 

In the four decades since we have seen huge change – ‘conspicuous consumption’ and ‘fast fashion’ filled our homes and our wardrobes, until those with their eyes open started pointing out that overflowing  landfill would soon be the least of our problems, and now we’re swinging back to a more considered, careful approach to purchasing, and a more deliberate approach to living sustainably. This is especially apparent in fashion, where suddenly charity shops and resellers such as Vinted and eBay feature as much on our radar as the high street fashion brands ever did. 

Great British Life: Lucy Norris has established a fashion swap shop in KnutsfordLucy Norris has established a fashion swap shop in Knutsford (Image: Yasmin Thomas)

This was the starting point for Lucy Norris, who lives in Byley, and has recently opened a fashion swap shop, Second Hand Styling, in Knutsford.  

Lucy, with an acting career in mind, went to New York to study TV and Film, but soon fell in love with TV hosting, rather than acting. 

“It was about how to communicate things like fashion and lifestyle and I got really lucky when I graduated and found work with independent TV shows. Then I started to make my own content – this is when web series were a thing – and created a show called On Deck with Lucy, which was essentially a way to showcase my skills for TV work, highlighting the Three Ts of New York – Talent, Trends and Taste.” 

Lucy’s show was well received and opened those doors for her, leading to a role with Fashion News Live, working backstage at fashion shows, interviewing designers and generally living her best life.

Great British Life: Lucy carefully curates the fashions she accepts for swappingLucy carefully curates the fashions she accepts for swapping (Image: Yasmin Thomas)  

“I was always surrounded by clothes, always on camera and always had no budget, so I had to find ways to style myself – and the way I did it was through second hand stores. I was able to dress for the part – go backstage, interview major celebs and always on a minuscule budget.” 

Lucy moved to QVC and HSN, working for fashion and beauty brands and still looking the part in second hand clothes, before moving to the Karma Network. 

“Karma opened the doors to sustainable fashion for me,” she says. “My job there was the consumer trends expert – so to report on fashion trends. I saw a big rise in sustainable fashion, in conscious consumerism, and created a show highlighting all the emerging sustainable brands. I did some work with the UN and was part of the team that created a campaign called Conscious Fashion Campaign, which would highlight those sustainable brands that were achieving sustainable development goals and travelled a lot for that.” 

At this point, after 15 years of New York-style continuous drive, Lucy hit the wall. 

“I burnt out. Everything on the surface looked great, but I really wasn’t feeling great. After 15 years of being in New York, I needed to leave. So I came home. It was six months before Covid and I just had to start again. It was hard, I had to rebuild my life in my early 30s, which was not where I wanted to be. 

“I had left everything in New York, so had no wardrobe, nothing, so once again it was all about second hand styling. I found work in a marketing agency, where I am now a creative director.” 

It wasn’t too long before Lucy’s own creative spirit made a comeback and she started a blog, Second Hand Styling, drawing on all her previous experience.  

“All of the things I had done previously for someone else, I now could do for me, about something I am passionate about. It wasn’t long before people were asking if I’d do a pop-up, so I started doing those – and then Dragon’s Den contacted me.” 

Great British Life: Lucy undertook a fashion shoot using only clothes from her storeLucy undertook a fashion shoot using only clothes from her store (Image: Sandi Hodkinson)

Their researchers had spotted Lucy’s pop-ups and reached out, saying they really liked her idea, and did she want to pitch? 

“I said I don’t really have a business, this is just an idea, a concept, but they encouraged me to think about it and my partner, Andrew, and I came up with the idea of a subscription-based retail space, which is what I took to the Den. I pitched the idea that people would pay £25 per month and swap up to five items, which they said wasn’t commercially viable, so I didn’t get any investment. 

"I am so glad that I went on, though; it made me really think about what I am doing and how to do it. We knew there was something there, but it was how it might look. When it aired, in April this year, Kayley, who owns Mini & Moi on Minshull Street in Knutsford, reached out and said she had a space above her shop, and did I want to try it out – so that’s where we’re at.” 

Lucy opens her store every Friday from 11am-4pm. Swappers pay £25 for the facility, bring in three items to swap and are given tokens to trade for any number of other items in the store. Lucy has established a three-tier system, with tiers relating to brand and 'swapability’ of the item you are swapping in or out. A tier one item awards you one token, two for a tier two, and so on up to tier four, where you will find the high-end high street brands such as Coast, Reiss, etc. Lucy has also curated an additional section of premium designer or vintage one-of-a-kind pieces. And don’t worry if you’ve nothing to swap, you can simply buy any of the pieces you fall for. 

“The difference between this and a charity shop is not only in how I curate what’s available, but in the intention of the buyer. People who come to swap are purposefully removing three items from their wardrobe and may only replace them with one. It’s sustainable fashion in a nutshell. 

Great British Life: You don't have to spend a million to look a million, Lucy saysYou don't have to spend a million to look a million, Lucy says (Image: Sandi Hodkinson)

“We have enough clothes on this planet right now to clothe the next six generations. It's time to change our mindsets. People are already telling me how lovely it is for them to see items they loved going on somewhere else they’ll be loved. I had one client who told me they’d seen someone in the dress they’d brought in here and were thrilled to see it being worn again.” 

Lucy also offers wardrobe edits, and styling consultations for women who are perhaps struggling to understand who they are and how to express that in their fashion choices. 

“I will go and review their wardrobe with them, talk about where they are at, what items they are holding on to and why and what style means to them. We then leave it a week and I go back and we declutter that wardrobe, after our conversation has had some time to percolate. I help them sort into ‘donate’, ‘swap’ and ‘resell’ categories and absolutely nothing hits landfill. Things you can’t swap or resell, charity shops can sell by weight, so there’s no excuse ever to throw away clothes. 

“I recently did a fashion shoot, using all swapped fashions, to show you don’t have to spend a million to look a million,” she adds. “I am living proof, with all my TV work wearing secondhand clothes, that you can look and feel amazing on a budget.”