Marks and Spencer has started a ‘shwopping’ fashion revolution. “It's time to open your mind, your heart, your arms and your wardrobe. Shwopping is a way of living and thinking, because we think that old clothes shouldn't just be thrown out, they should do some good,” explained Ab Fab actress Joanna Lumley at the initiative's launch back in April.
Shwopping asks every shopper to donate an old item when purchasing a new one at selected stores, and M&S will pass the clothes along to Oxfam's network of charity shops across the UK to help those less fortunate. The campaign’s Facebook app lets users shwop socially and register for a monthly prize draw.
In-store Shwop Drops (two items per store visit) make donations easy, and items need not be from M&S. “Our ultimate aim is to collect as many clothes as we sell and change the way we all shop,” says the brand, which just launched a "swhopped" ladies coat (above) last week: a stylish black peacoat that is also the first high street clothing product made from used clothing.
The Shwop Coat, made from customers' donated garments' wool, is on sale in selected stores across the UK and online from October 10 and retails for £89. "The Shwop Coat marks a huge step forwards for creating a sustainable future for fashion,” said M&S’s Mark Sumner. The move follows the retailer's "world's most sustainable suit" that was released in June.
Creating a concrete way for consumers to participate in its sustainable commitment, which the retailer calls Plan A, more than half a million items donated in the first three months — a fact that M&S attributed to the "Joanne Lumley effect" in a nod to its brand ambassador, who has been an ardent campaigner for the program.
More than one million items have been donated since the campaign to date, making real the bigger goal of fostering a "buy-and-give-back" culture and collecting 350 million items a year, about the same amount it sells of its regular merchandise. "I'm thrilled that UK shoppers have become UK shwoppers," Lumley commented. "We're determined to give every item of clothing a future and help some of the world's poorest people in the process."
M&S added a QR code to the label on its shwopped garment, which can be scanned to download information on the suit and the materials it is made from. Five hundred suits have been produced and launched online and in stores in September as part of the M&S ‘Saville Row' collection, priced at £349.
“We're leading a change in the way we all shop for clothing, forever,” said M&S CEO Marc Bolland. “This is the right, responsible move for the UK's biggest clothing retailer and the ultimate goal is simple – to put a complete stop to clothes ending up in landfill. We want to get back one garment for every one we sell. For us that's 350 million a year. It is a big number, but with our customers' help, we will do it.”
M&S research indicates that the UK is a nation of fast-fashion ‘one-wear wonders' (despite efforts by the Duchess of Cambridge) and “one in five Britons have admitted to having binned an item after just one wear. At an average cost of £22.73 per discarded item, this equates to over £91 million of perfectly wearable items ending up in landfill every year after only being worn once.”
For a retail brand to promote used clothing is a daring concept, and to be sure, "shwopping" has a monumental task as 9,513 items of clothing are thrown out every five minutes in the UK, with one billion items sent to landfill (one in four items sold in UK each year). That's 2,739,726 every day and 114,155 every hour.
That's why it's no surprise that M&S was last month named Responsible Retailer of the Year.
Click here for a look at how M&S refashions used garments and tell us below: what do you think shwopping does for the M&S brand?