When it comes to living the conscious life, buying new clothes isn’t exactly the kindest thing we can do for our planet. There is a significant amount of clothing that gets dumped in landfills every year. As fashion is the second largest polluting industry in the world, how about a friendly solution that helps reduce the burden on our earth’s landfills? Exchange Room is an eco-friendly fashion initiative and the first Curated Wardrobe Swap community in Bangalore. Started with immense passion by friends and fashion enthusiasts, it believes in bridging the gap between fast fashion and slow fashion where you get sustainable and green shopping experiences through Swap and Shop events. These events are hosted to create awareness about being environmentally sustainable while still being fashionable and by introducing fellow women to swapping and shopping pre-loved items of excellent quality.
Exchange Room was co-founded by four friends and fashion enthusiasts. The two active partners and cofounders today are Prithvi Rao and Sai Sangeet Paliwal. Prithvi Rao is a Design, Trend Consultant and Creative Head with 12+ years of experience in the fashion retail industry, worked with some of the top fashion retail brands in India. Also, a guest lecturer at NIFT & a certified yoga instructor. A NIFT Alumnus. Sai Sangeet Paliwal is the Founder & Creative Head of Soda by Sai Sangeet Paliwal, a home decor label established in 2007. A NIFT Alumnus, she has completed her Management Programme for Women Entrepreneurs from IIM Bangalore. They are an all-women team which truly believes in their mission and their aim is to create a culture of mindful consumption over consumerism and change people’s attitudes towards fashion and sustainability, while bringing a new awareness to fashion and style.
Journey Towards a Sustainable Fashion Idea
“It all started as a conversation amongst us friends in 2014 at a coffee shop. Being from the fashion background and having travelled quite a lot, we knew it was not a new concept in the West. We were quite aware of the wastage generated by the fashion industry and the problem of “abundance” in our wardrobes, which was reaching a saturation point. According to research, many items are just worn seven times before being discarded! We want fashion to be sustainable and clothes to not be use and throw. Our actions have the ability to create an impact – whether big or small. Something HAD to be done! The common passion to create awareness, inspire and influence change by encouraging women like us to choose longevity over trends and give their gently worn items an extended life-cycle brought us together,” recalls Prithvi.
Sai Sangeet adds, “The first swap held in 2014 at a friend’s attic for just a close-knit small group of about 10 friends, as a trial run was so well received and the response was so amazing, that we decided to host events that were open to all, and reach out to a wider audience. Our events are a fun social gathering among friends, fashion and sustainability lovers sharing similar tastes with the main intention of exchanging fashionable items of clothing, accessories, décor that were once loved but are no longer favourites and giving them an opportunity to find a new home while breathing new life into their wardrobes and having a fabulous time. We were surprised again by how open a greater number of people were to the idea of a recycling or revolving wardrobe and embraced the benefits of swapping from being cost effective to helping the environment. The best part is that you can keep swapping once you are done with an outfit. This ensures you are not discarding your clothes or buying new ones either! It’s guilt-free shopping at its best and a complete win-win for the environment and your wallet!”
It’s been a very organic growth for the duo over the years. With their lovely community growing with each event, they had to keep scaling up. Community comes before commodity for them, so they focused on building a beautiful community of like-minded women. They started with just 10 swappers and now they have a lovely community of close to 4500+ like-minded women who engage with them daily on social media and many of whom have attended their events. They are more than a curated wardrobe swap event – They are part of a movement! They were also the exclusive swap partners in Bangalore for the global movement, Fashion Revolution week, the world’s largest fashion activism movement.
So far, they have hosted over 20 events ranging from their exclusive swap events, pop-up events and events promoting and creating awareness around fashion and sustainability. They host events in chic, urbane co-working spaces or studios which elevate the concept and show the true value of each piece. By adapting to the swapping lifestyle, it is quite easy to reduce our fashion footprint as well as our shopping bills. Their last swap event pre-pandemic saw over 100 swappers swapping close to over 1200 items in just a matter of four hours.
They started their own thrift store online on Instagram called Exchange Room Shop in 2020. Exchange Room Shop showcases great quality curated preloved clothes and accessories. Through this they are available, catering to and building a beautiful community across India. They put up curated theme based drops every 15 days where one can haul some fabulous pieces from high-street brands and sometimes designer-wear too for super affordable prices. As the pieces are thrifted or preloved, each item they put up is handpicked and unique and goes through stringent quality control before it is put up for a swap up. You can grab stylish dresses, tops, pants, shorts, skirts to accessories like belts, corsets, earrings, necklaces and bags! It’s a purely sustainable fashion initiative so they do re-used and eco-friendly packaging along with personalised notes and they also ship across India.
Additional Sustainable and Social Initiatives
“Through our events and our online thrift store, we aim to keep fashion circular and to extend the lifecycle of the garment as long as possible. The items from our events which don’t find a loving closet are upcycled with the help of our upcycling partners into innovative fun accessories like bags, scrunchies, jewellery, etc and find new ways to shine! The primary focus through this is for sustainable fashion to continue and to be creative while innovatively extending its lifecycle and keeping it out of landfills again,” shares the passionate entrepreneur, Prithvi.
All the items which don’t qualify for a swap are carefully sorted and have gotten an extended lifecycle by being donated responsibly. They have tied up with a few charitable causes close to their heart. They hold jumble sales of the items of which the proceeds go to educating underprivileged children with preference given to the girl child. There is also another place where their garage sale proceeds are utilised for the welfare of underprivileged senior citizens and medical aid for the underprivileged as well.
– By Namita Gupta.