Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Buy, wear, swap: Singapore shops offer ecofriendly alternative to fast fashion



Buy, wear, swap: Singapore shops offer ecofriendly alternative to fast fashion

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Shoppers browse through second-hand clothes at a pop-up swap event organised by a group of volunteers in Singapore. AFP

Buy, wear, swap: Singapore shops offer ecofriendly alternative to fast fashion

Singaporean Sue-Anne Chng used to wear a different outfit on all 15 days of the Lunar New Year, when it is customary to don new clothes to symbolise a fresh start.

But this year she will wear second-hand items exchanged for her old clothes at a store catering to people concerned about the impact of fast fashion on the environment.

Several swapping initiatives, from permanent shops to pop-up events, have appeared in the affluent city-state in a bid to encourage consumers to make the most of what is already in their closets.

The fashion industry is responsible for up to a tenth of global carbon emissions, according to the UN’s environment programme.

Clothes cause emissions in a wide variety of ways – from their manufacture to transportation and washing by the consumer.

On a recent trip to her favourite store, The Fashion Pulpit, Chng took along several dresses and a matching blouse and skirt, which a staff member assessed before crediting points to her account.

She spent her points on 17 items, including a yellow and green dress to wear for the first day of the new year as it looked like “an auspicious pineapple”.

The fruit, seen as a symbol of prosperity, is typically given as a gift or displayed during Lunar New Year in Singapore.

‘Insane consumption’

The 35-year-old said: “I’ve always been brought up by my parents to have a new set of clothes every [Lunar] New Year, and I fell into that behaviour of consumerism.

“In the past I probably made sure I have 15 days of outfits even if I’m not visiting [relatives], which is too much.”

But now, “as long as the item is new to me, I think it’s good enough”, added Chng, who works for a tech company and is married.

Chng first learned about clothes swapping at a work event five years ago, and decided to change her ways after realising her wardrobe was filled with unworn items.

She said: “Prior to switching over to swapping, my consumption habit was insane.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Sue-Anne Chng tries on second-hand clothes at The Fashion Pulpit store in the city-state. AFP

“I realised I had more than 50 per cent of my wardrobe unworn, but I still felt like I didn’t have anything to wear.”

She pays S$599 (US$450) for a yearly membership at The Fashion Pulpit, which allows her unlimited swaps and visits – about 80 per cent of her wardrobe is now from the shop.

“Swapping allows me to be like a chameleon when it comes to fashion but allows me to be environmentally conscious as well,” she said.

Tiny Singapore alone produced 168,000 tonnes of textile and leather waste in 2019, according to authorities – the weight of more than 400 Boeing 747 planes.

‘Not dirty, not dusty’

Filipino clothes designer Raye Padit founded The Fashion Pulpit nearly three years ago after learning about his industry’s impact on the environment and poor treatment of garment workers.

He said: “In Singapore, the problem is overconsumption and waste.

“We want to provide a platform where you can still dress up, express yourself . . . through clothes. But at the same time, it’s not damaging to the planet and to your wallet.”

His company now has more than 1,500 members and has started turning a profit. It also holds workshops where customers can learn how to mend or upcycle used clothes.

People have swapped everything from casual clothes made by high-street brands to top-end items such as Prada bags and Louboutin shoes, Padit said.

One-time swap events are also popping up in the city-state while a group of volunteers host monthly swap gatherings.

“When I join a clothing swap it reminds me to consume consciously because when I give away clothes, I think about whether I’m still wearing them,” said Nadia Kishlan, a 30-year-old participant at one clothing swap.

Challenges remain in persuading Singaporeans to swap rather than shop, however, and the city’s industry is still in its infancy.

Second-hand shops are not as popular in Asia as in the West, in part because many believe used clothes from strangers could bring bad luck, or be unhygienic.

But Padit said attitudes in Singapore were changing, driven by rising environmental awareness and a wave of trendy new thrift shops marketing their goods on social media.

“It’s slowly changing the perception of what second hand is all about,” he said.

“It’s no longer dirty, it’s no longer dusty – it’s a cool thing.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Angkor Beer, 30 Years of Prestige and Still Counting

    Let’s celebrate 30 years of prestige with Angkor Beer. In this 2022, Angkor Beer is 30 years old and has been staying with Cambodian hearts in all circumstances. Head of core beer portfolio, EmYuthousaid, “We have been with Cambodians for three decades now. We, ANGKOR Beer, pride

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,