Priyanka Shahra, 34, founder and CEO of Swapaholic, faced a challenge when trying to reinvent the concept of swopping clothes: It was the notion that secondhand clothes were torn hand-me-downs, smelly polyester vests or messy flea-mart finds. She knew that swopping clothes, however, was a simple way to reduce consumption. Fashion was the problem, but being fashionable was the way to make her initiative appealing.
“I looked at it through the lens of a social enterprise and thought: ‘How can we take this beautiful concept and make it cool and convenient so everyone wants to partake in it?’” says Priyanka, who also founded and runs One With Earth, a social enterprise that nurtures, supports and develops solution-based initiatives.
She found a way to make her Swapaholic’s Swaps like parties, with food, music, and chic venues like Chjimes and Capella Singapore.
How it works: You set a pick-up date online, Swapaholic collects your clothes, inspects them, and assigns points to each item. You use these points to buy other clothes at the Swaps.
“In our first Swap back in January 2017 (they’ve done 16 since), it was a real challenge, as people were bringing their junk, but wanting quality clothing. Once we introduced the points system, people became more conscious about what they brought,” she says, adding that they’re in the process of taking everything fully online within the next six months.
“In one Swap we handle around 6,000 garments and have 250-300 people. I’m happy to say that at least 70 per cent are repeat Swappers. When we do get people from Outside the sustainability community, I take it as a win, as it proves our way of convenient and sustainable consumption is working.”
Priyanka also practises a sustainable lifestyle, a far cry from the days when she used to unnecessarily stock up on goods. “At home, everything is very minimalist. I used to buy two juicers in case the first broke, but now I’m more conscious. I really think about whether I need an item and how it will be used in the future. We only use glassware – no more plastic – and my husband is developing a vertical farm in the hope of expanding it and providing fresh, locally grown produce for Singapore consumers by the end of the year.”
This article was first published in the magazine's April issue.