We had the good fortune of connecting with Nicole Robertson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nicole, how does your business help the community?
Social impact: how does your business help the community or the world?
Variety may be the spice of life, but when it comes to the clothes that we wear, we humans have taken things a bit too far. Our closets and our landfills are overflowing. The fashion industry tells us that we are perpetually out of style and that we need to constantly update our wardrobes, pushing endless overconsumption and creating an environmental catastrophe. There’s so much clothing waste that every second a garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or incinerated. Meanwhile, millions of women have “a closet full of clothes, but nothing to wear,” with 70% of the average woman’s wardrobe never getting worn. For those who get inspired to do a closet purge, more than 80% of well-meaning thrift shop donations still end up in the trash.
Whether women simply want variety in their wardrobes, or whether they need it due to lifestyle changes or weight fluctuations, breaking free from the take-make-dispose linear fashion model can feel daunting. Selling your clothes can be very time consuming (and often unsuccessful) with very little payout. I created Swap Society, an online clothing swap for women and kids, to make it easy and affordable for women to mix up their wardrobes sustainably.
Members send us the clothes that don’t fit or aren’t their current style and swap them for clothes they want to wear now. Our alt currency SwapCoin™ makes swapping super fair. Every garment we accept is assigned a SwapCoin value and ensures everyone gets equal value for the items they swap. Unlike traditional retail and resale, we don’t have any markups, and everything ordered from our site costs $4.99 + SwapCoin.
We accept all brands and sizes because we believe that all wearable clothing should be kept in circulation for as long as possible. We also swap kids’ clothing to help parents keep up with their growing children’s needs. As a mother of two young boys, I know firsthand how expensive it can be to keep up with growth spurts. Affordability and accessibility were top priorities.
Swapping has benefits beyond saving money on clothes and keeping them out of landfills. The fashion industry is one of the biggest industrial polluters, putting more greenhouse gasses in the environment than all international flights and maritime shipping combined, and it’s one of the biggest water polluters. When you slow down your fashion consumption there are numerous environmental benefits. Simply swapping a shirt with a friend instead of buying something brand new saves enough water for a person to drink for 2 ½ years!
Another dark side of the fashion industry is its enslavement of millions of garment workers around the world. We collaborate with non-profit organizations that are working to change the industry for the better including Remake, Fashion Revolution, and the Garment Worker Center here in Los Angeles. We were proud business supporters of the Garment Worker Protection Act SB62, which Governor Newsom recently signed into law, making California the first state to require hourly wages for garment workers. Garment workers in LA were making an average of $5 per hour (⅓ of minimum wage!) due to the piece rate system that pays per garment. I feel very strongly that the people who make our clothes deserve safe working conditions and fair pay.
The fashion industry is long overdue for a makeover of its own. I love having fun with fashion, but I don’t think it should harm the earth or our fellow humans. Circular fashion is the future, and we are doing what we can to make fashion fun again by giving women access to an unlimited wardrobe, without the guilt. #swapbeforeyoushop
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
We are on a mission to make sustainable fashion accessible for all. When garments are ethically made with environmental sustainability in mind, they naturally cost more. But not everyone can afford to pay high prices and shop fast fashion instead. We created a business model that is incredibly affordable and inclusive so that everyone can afford to swap. Most resale focuses on designer and luxury brands, but we accept all brands, even fast fashion and garments missing their tags, so long as they are in excellent condition.
We are also focused on making swapping extremely convenient. When a new member joins, they receive a welcome kit that includes a prepaid mailing label and a bag for sending us clothes. Orders are shipped in reusable bags with a pre-paid mailing label as well, so shipping clothes back and forth is very easy.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live on the west side and I definitely have a few favorite spots. Lunch at Matthew Kenney’s Double Zero on Lincoln for the amazing truffle pizza, or The Butcher’s Daughter on Abbot Kinney. Dinner at Plant Food + Wine, Felix (both on AK), Wallflower and Chulita (on Rose), and Venice Beach Wines for drinks.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Swap Society would not have been possible without my partner in business and in life—my husband Edward. He’s a tech exec who built our MVP, created our alt currency SwapCoin, and basically made my circular fashion tech dreams come true. I am also incredibly grateful to our first members who were so excited about our idea that they didn’t mind when we had a small selection of items to swap, and helped us get Swap Society off the ground. I am grateful to all of our members who are making positive changes one swap at a time, and to the overall sustainable fashion community for pushing for a transformation in the fashion industry.
Other: @swapsociety on TikTok and Pinterest too
Photos by Laura Palladino have her name in the file name.