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What is Swishing?

Swishing is the easy way to update your wardrobe! It’s guilt free shopping with no cost to your wallet and great for the environment. Swishing works like a giant clothes swap: you bring items you no longer wear and exchange them for something new-to-you!

You’re itching to know more, aren’t you? Like how one of these events would actually work? Your standard Swish will come in three parts: 1) the drop off, 2) the sort and 3) the opening of the Swish.

During the drop off time the Swishers (guests of the Swish) go to the venue to drop off their items. The Swisher exchanges clothes for tokens which are used to ‘buy’ their new-to-them wardrobe.

All the items swapped for tokens are sorted onto hangers and put out across clothing rails ready for the opening of the Swish. The time during the sorting is ideal for entertainment or refreshments.

Once everything has been sorted the Swish is declared open, and the shopping begins! Swishers check out the range of items hanging on the rails looking for great new outfits to take away with them, while they say goodbye as their old clothes go off to a new home. Having made their choices Swishers then hand back the tokens in exchange for some delightful new additions to their wardrobe.

Why Swish?

The secret is out –  we love clothes! The average household owns £4,000 worth of clothing, 30% of which have not been worn in the past year. Estimates put the value of this unused clothing at around £30 billion. Don’t you think it’s time to start getting some of that value back?

Swishing is a fun and social way of encouraging people to make the most of what they’ve got hanging in their wardrobe, sitting in a drawer or packed away in a box.

While our pockets benefit from Swishing, so do our bins. Textiles make up around 3% of the average household bin in the UK. In West London alone it’s estimated that almost 9,000 tonnes of textiles end up in our bins or bags. If we reuse or recycle these items instead we could save a whopping 39 million tonnes of carbon!

Swishing events can be held almost anywhere, be it at home with your friends, at your office with your co-workers or at a community hall for anyone to attend.

So you want to hold a Swish?

This guide covers all you need to know to get you Swishing. The following pages will take you through five simple steps to organise your Swish, from planning right through to the event.

Step 1 – Let’s get planning
In this first step you will answer some vital questions to work out the essentials of your event.

Step 2 – The particulars
Building on your essentials, this step is about running your successful Swish.

Step 3 – The cherry on top
This step is all about the little extras, the things that will make your event one to remember.

Step 4 – Call to Swish
Enough planning – it’s time to get things booked and begin spreading the word.

Step 5 – It’s Swishing time
A plan to guide you through the set-up, things to do during the event and what to do when it’s all over. Although we would advise taking a peek before the day itself!

But hold on, there’s more!

If you’re in west London we (the West London Waste Authority) are able to help with Swishing events within our partner boroughs (Brent, Ealing, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow and Richmond). We have all the equipment you need for a basic event (i.e. clothes rails, hangers, mirrors, tokens etc.) and can provide further information about organising the extra touches. Having run a number of events across west London we have the expertise to help your event go without a hitch. So if you are thinking of holding a Swish and would like us to help, or even if you just have a question, get in touch with us by emailing

Step:1 let‘s get planning!

Where to start? There are a few key questions to answer before beginning to plan your Swishing event. Download the planner resource A to help you keep track of the decisions you make.


Do you want to bring friends together? Perhaps you’re raising money for a good cause or to raise the profile of a local group? Maybe it’s about great fashion on a budget, to encourage a less wasteful society or just for a bit of fun? Knowing why helps set the tone for things to organise, as well as the message you want to promote.


Is the Swish just for family and friends or co-workers, or would you like anyone in the local community to be able to join in? Whose clothes do you want to swap: men’s, women’s, children’s or all of them?


Where to hold this frock frolicking occasion!? After choosing the lucky guests you can then move on to picking out a suitable venue. Perhaps it can take place at home, at work or your local hall. Think about venue size, location and parking! Remember, if you’re hosting it for a community group they might have a room they already use at a discounted rate. You may want to read Step 3 – The Cherry on Top before making your decision.


Who the event targets might dictate an appropriate time or day.  If you’re holding the Swish during the week it’s a good idea to have it in the evening after people return from work. A weekend event on the other hand is best done during the day. Before you decide, always check what else is happening on that date – does it clash with any big events or school holidays?

Step:2 The Particulars!

As we know it is all in the details, so get these sorted and you’ll be laughing! Add these particulars in to your planner (resource A) so everyone knows what’s going on.

  1. What will people be able to swish?
    You’ve already decided the type of clothes, shoes and accessories (women’s, men’s, children’s or everything) that can be brought to the event, so now write a list of what people will be able to Swish (i.e. skirts, trousers, dresses) and things you will not accept. We would suggest that things like earrings, swimwear, underwear and nightwear are not included. Put the ‘not accepted’ items in your event rules. You should also set an upper limit for the number of items people can bring, we’d suggest a maximum of 10.
  2. Event Rules
    We all need some guidance occasionally! The main rule at a Swish: people must bring at least ONE good quality item of clothing, pair of shoes or accessories in order to be allowed to take something from the event. Any other rules you decide should be clearly displayed at the event (see resource K). It’s also a good idea to have the rules on the poster/adverts/text for the local paper when you promote the event.
  3. Checklist of textiles criteria
    It’s important to make sure that all items at the Swish are good quality. Work out what you mean by ‘good quality’, ensure your helpers know this too and check items when they are dropped off. As a minimum, check for stains, rips and broken zips. You may also wish to include comments about ‘bobbles’, missing buttons and colour fading. Make sure your criteria are shown in your event rules
  4. Swishing start & finish times
    The event doesn’t need to last more than 4 hours including setting up and packing away. When can people start dropping off their clothes? Usually this only takes about half an hour, but take the size of your event into account – if you expect 100s to bring lots of items, allow a longer time. Ideally there should be a half an hour break after drop off finishes before people can take items, as you want to give yourself time to hang them up, sort the clothes into some sort of order (sizes, type of clothes together etc) and generally finish setting up! If you need longer consider putting on some entertainment or refreshments (Step 3 has some ideas about this) to keep your Swishers busy.
  5. Swishing tokens
    No money will change hands to buy clothes but you do need to make sure the Swish is fair. Tokens are your Swishing currency, everyone who brings at least one item should be given a token. There are several ways to use tokens, so choose how you want your event to work:
    1. If you want people to bring items and take as many as they like with no restrictions just give them one token.
    2. People can take away as many items as they bring, even if they’re different types of items - if they bring three, they are given three tokens and can take up to three items.
    3. What if someone brings a designer item but all other items on offer are high street items? You may choose to assign a token value to different brands to make sure everyone gets the appropriate value for their items. There’s an example token values guide in resource B.
    4. If you’re raising money why not give Swishers the opportunity to purchase more tokens later on for a small fee? That way if they see an item they just can’t live without nobody loses out!
  6. Disclaimer

    Unfortunately every now and again you can end up with a disgruntled Swisher so it’s good to let them know where they stand at the start. Explain that they Swish at their own risk! See our template disclaimer in resource J.

  7. Entrance fee

    An entrance fee is generally only used at community events, to help cover costs of hiring the venue or to raise money for a good cause. The fee should be reasonable, as you don’t want to put people off. If you charge a fee you could consider offering a free drink or raffle ticket to help encourage attendance. If there will be an entrance fee, don’t forget to tell people the amount when you advertise the Swish and put up a sign on the day as a reminder.

  8. Accepting items in advance

    Will Swishers be able to drop off items in the lead up to the Swishing event? This is ideal for larger events as long as you have the space for storage, although you need to keep a record so you can give the people the right number of tokens (Swishing currency) on the night of the Swish. A template recording sheet can be printed off from resource F.

Step:3 the cherry on top...

Those final few touches can make all the difference. If you’re truly out to make this an event they won’t forget than it’s worth spending a few minutes thinking about the following...

Food & drink

Offering refreshments at the event gives a real sense of occasion. They also occupy Swishers whilst waiting for the moment they can choose their new items. Remember to stay within the law, as you may need a license if you’re looking to sell alcohol. If you’re just looking for donations, refreshments can be a great way to subsidise any event costs or raise money for a charity.

A place to wait

If your location doesn’t have space for Swishers to wait after dropping off their items, is there a nearby café or pub you can guide people to? Contact the owner of the café or pub and explain what you are doing. Maybe you can work out a discount for those coming to the event if you advertise before-hand.

Additional services

Could you offer beauty treatments or a tailoring service at the event? Adding a pampering element or the ability to have items re-sized may attract more people. Local businesses might offer your Swishers a bit of a discount on the night to help promote their services. Just remember to leave enough space for all the clothes!

Love Your Clothes

A Swish could be the perfect opportunity to help people learn how to love their clothes a little more, or even to love someone else’s! If there’s a keen crafter in the area or a local sewing group see if they can offer their assistance at the event to demonstrate how to turn up a hem, patch up some trousers or customise a jumper. A lot of people would love the opportunity to make their clothes last longer but don’t always have the skills to do so. If there’s no one who can come along why not display some of the Love Your Clothes repair cards (resource L) with easy to understand instructions to sew on buttons, alter hems and other useful fixes.

Changing room

If you can, create a changing area for people to try the clothes on. This could be in the venue toilets or by curtaining off another area. It’s easier to make a decision about whether an item will really get worn (or not) after seeing it on. We wouldn’t want any more unused items hanging in wardrobes now would we?

Seating area

Who doesn’t like to rest their bones for a minute or two whilst on the search for a new outfit? It’s also nice to have somewhere to sit before the sprint to the rails to choose your new wardrobe. Try grouping some chairs together near the shoes to make it easier for people to try them on.


It doesn’t have to be fancy, but having a few small decorations can help make the event feel professional. A bit of bunting or a few fairy lights perhaps? At least clear the area and make sure there is enough space between the items on display, have a couple of mirrors around, let the sun in and have music playing in the background.

Recording sheets

When people drop off their items record how many items have been brought in and ask Swishers to read and sign the disclaimer. This is useful for any disputes later on and helpful if you want to prove your event was a success. Depending on your reasons for holding the event you may want to record the weight of donated clothes as well as to show how much of a positive environmental benefit you had. Use resources F and G or make your own.

Comment sheet

Ask for people’s feedback before they leave the event. You can learn from the feedback for the next time you host a Swish. You can also use the nice comments for future advertising. There’s a sample comments sheet in resource H.

Taking items home

When advertising your event ask people to bring their own bags. Try and have some spare just in case!

Charity donation

Not all the items brought to the Swish end up finding a new home that day. It’s worth having a think about a charity any leftover textiles can go to. Let them know in advance so they can prepare for a delivery – they may even help you promote the event and when you’re asked what will happen to anything left at the end you can promote them too. Work out how the items left at the end will get to the charity shop, it makes clearing up afterwards a bit easier.

Step:4 call to swish!

Now’s the time to get booking and let everyone know that a Swish is on its way! Check our handy organiser checklist in resource C to make sure nothing gets forgotten.

Book the venue

Get it booked before it goes! Check what the venue requires from you. Do you need to provide an event plan or risk assessment? Health and safety should always be a number one priority. An example risk assessment can be found in resource E.

Send out the invitation to swish!

How you send invitations will depend on who your event is for. If it’s family and friends a phone call may suffice, for co-workers an email. If you’re going big, think about posters, advertising online or creating a press release for the local newspaper. If you are holding it for the community, place a poster at the venue you have chosen. Try and advertise your event as far in advance as possible so it gets a spot in peoples’ diaries!

Suggestions for promoting:
  • Find your community notice boards – will the library, local church and schools let you use theirs?
  • Advertise at the venue in which you are holding the event.
  • Ask community hubs like pubs, newsagents, doctors, churches and vets if you can put up a poster.
  • Tell businesses around your Swishing event’s venue and see if they’d put up a poster in their staff room.
  • See if any other community groups in your area would like to come along, if there’s a sustainability group they may be interested.
  • If you are raising money for a good cause see if they have any means to advertise. A local charity might be able to hand out leaflets in their shop or put a poster in the window.
  • You could do a leaflet drop to the surrounding area. If it’s close, hand out flyers on the nearest high street.
  • If you’re in west London tell us about the event, we’ll put it on our website and we have a list of email addresses of people who are interested in attending the next Swishing event in west London – so we’ll send it out on your behalf.
  • Use the power of social media – Facebook or Twitter - and use #swishing or #swish on Twitter to see how others promote their events.
  • Post the event on, and their associated Facebook pages.
  • Inform your local council’s Waste and Recycling Team.
  • Create a press release and send it to your local newspaper and local council – a week before the event gives them enough time and if you send it too early it may be forgotten.
  • See if your local radio will add it to their events list, or mention it during one of their shows.
  • Inform your local Freecycle or Freegle group.
  • Post the event on local websites such as Netmums, Mumsnet, Project Dirt, The Best of local, Stickyboard
  • You may also have other local groups, mailing lists or newsletters that are distributed that you can have information put in.

What to advertise?

A good start is to explain briefly what a Swish entails and what will be accepted at the event. Then move on to the important details like venue address, date, time and where they can get more information about the event – a website, the organiser’s phone number or their email address. If you’re planning to offer any additional services at the event it’s good to let Swishers know in advance so they can bring a few extra pennies. See resource D for a template poster.

Additional helpers

Remember you’re not Superwoman or Superman. Depending on the size of your Swish you may need a little help: setting up, sorting through, checking in items and then checking them out again. If you can, provide name badges so Swishers can easily identify who to go to for help. Book your helpers in advance or talk to us at West London Waste as we might be able to send one of our own team to a local event.

Displaying the clothes

Having rails and display tables are a necessity for an ultra sleek Swish! Your local charity shops may be able to lend you a couple of rails for the event. For west London events get in touch with us at West London Waste and if ours are free you’re more than welcome to them! On the rails, try and separate clothing into men’s/women’s/children’s and type (jumpers, t-shirts, skirts etc.), and leave space in between the rails so there’s no garment hunting collisions. If you’re not local then see if your local council or local recycling campaign might be able to help you out.

Step:5 its swishing time!

Finally the time has come to help those un-loved clothes find a new home. There‘s a lot to do but the event check list in resource I will help you keep on top of it!

Set Up

  1. Arrange the venue with tables, chairs, mirrors, rails, decorations, and changing rooms. If you’re serving refreshments make sure you have everything ready.
  2. Make the drop off area ready to accept clothes. Make sure you have plenty of pens, forms (rules, token guide, sign in form etc.) and tokens.
  3. Display the event rules and disclaimer at the drop off area and at various locations around the venue.
  4. Guidelines for volunteers – make sure everyone helping you knows what to do before the event begins, during and afterwards too.


  1. At the clothes drop off count and record the items donated and issue the appropriate number of tokens.
  2. Inform the Swishers when the Swish will be open. If people are going somewhere else to wait, suggest they arrive back five minutes early. Point out any services available at the Swish (beauty services, food or drink) and encourage them to have a look.
  3. Take photos of rails and tables filled with clothes, shoes and accessories. Then try to take some more when the Swish has opened.
  4. Declare the Swish open! Before they start picking items remind them to be a polite Swisher and not pick up more items than they can possibly take home. Enjoy the frenzy and make sure everyone stays safe.
  5. Have a method to deal with disputes over items, like a coin toss.
  6. Exchange the tokens for the items they’ve chosen and take the hangers back, thank the Swishers for coming and ask if they’ll complete the comment sheet.


  1. Time to tidy; the excitement is over although I’m sure there will still be a buzz in the air. Return the rails, mirrors and anything else to their rightful homes and make sure to leave your venue the way you found it!
  2. Thank your volunteers and helpers.
  3. Count leftover items and take the remainder to the chosen charity shop.
  4. Tell people how your Swish went – inform your local paper, community newsletter and us! We’d love to hear from you and send the photos as well!

A few final suggestions

  • There are plenty of places to read more! Why not visit our Swishing pages at Or visit
  • Don’t forget that we (West London Waste) offer support to anyone setting up a Swish in Hillingdon, Brent, Harrow, Ealing, Richmond and Hounslow. So if you need planning advice, clothes rails, an extra pair of hands for the event or you just have a question get in touch at
  • At a community event it’s not usually a good idea to let people browse the rails whilst you’re still hanging up items and before you officially open up the Swish. Some people may see this as favouritism and giving an unfair advantage.

This guide has been produced by the West London Waste Authority. Swishing is supported in the Waste Minimisation Strategy and yearly action plans. This guide, which may be freely downloaded, distributed and copied, is part of the activities in the 2014/15 Waste Prevention Action Plan. Funding was provided by the London Boroughs of Brent, Ealing, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow and Richmond upon Thames.


  1. Planner Key questions to answer before beginning to plan your Swishing event.
  2. Token value guide Assign a token value to different brands to make sure everyone gets the appropriate value for their items.
  3. Organising checklist Get orgainsed and make sure nothing gets forgotten.
  4. Poster Adverise your event before the big day to ensure a good turnout and well informed gusts.
  5. Risk assessment (with example)Health and safety should always be a number one priority.
  6. Drop-off recording sheet Template for recording items dropped off by Swishers before the event.
  7. Weight of items record You may want to record the weight of donated clothes to show how much of a positive environmental benefit you had.
  8. Comment sheet Ask your swishers if they’ll complete the comment sheet so you can take the comments on board for the next event.
  9. Event checklist This checklist will help you keep on top of everything.
  10. Disclaimer Explain to your swishers that they Swish at their own risk with this useful disclaimer.
  11. Event rules Define the ground rules of your event.
  12. Tip cards: Hemming by hand Hemming with an iron How to alter a seam How to sew a button