Scrap Story #3: Swap-O-Rama Rama

Monday, September 12, 2011

It would be safe to say that clothes are not a passion of mine.

I remember going clothes shopping with my mom a long time ago, high school or college. She said, “Some day you’re going to have a job and you’re going to have to get dressed up every day so you better get used to it.” I said, “No I’m not.”

Guess who was right.

A few years ago my friend Ann, who is executive director at The Scrap Exchange, heard about an event that an artist named Wendy Tremayne had started: the Swap-O-Rama Rama. It was a giant community clothes swap with do-it-yourself stations for sewing, silkscreening, fabric painting, etc., where people could alter the clothes they’d picked up from what other people had brought in.

The event is designed to foster “creativity over consumerism” and to build community. (One of the interesting rules is no mirrors: this forces you to ask people around you what they think of something, if it works on you, if you should take it or leave it on the table.)

The mission of The Scrap Exchange is to promote creativity, environmental awareness, and community through reuse. This had Scrap Exchange written all over it.

In 2006, we did two small Swaps in our Liberty Warehouse location.

The next year, we got a $5,000 grant from the Durham Arts Council to do a blow-out Swap-O-Rama Rama. We held it at the Armory. We hooked up with the Swap-O-Rama Rama national sponsors to deliver sewing machines for the day. We hired See Saw Studio designers help us with the screenprinting. We had a DJ. We had an emcee and a fashion runway. We had a raffle. We had the Scene of the Crime Rovers marching band. Our board member David Solow was walking around in a rubber skirt and knee-high boots.

It was rock ‘n’ roll.

It cost $5,000.

We had another one at the Armory in spring 2009. No one was wearing a rubber skirt but it was also pretty happenin. We did one in fall 2009 at Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh because we had free use of the Zanzibar Room there to hold a fundraiser, and we’re so not geared up for fundraising events that doing a Swap seemed like the best thing to do. That one was also pretty cool.

In 2010 we did a smaller-scale one in collaboration with Chapel Hill Parks & Rec as part of their Earth Day event. It was nice but didn’t have the same je ne sais quoi as the Durham ones.

Despite my lack of passion for clothes, I actually love the Swap. Most of my current favorite outfits have come from the Swap. (In fact probably about half of the things I regularly wear are Swap clothes.)

The big draw for me is that the Swap saves me from ever having to shop for clothes. It also gives me an excuse for wearing things that are way too big.

(My mom says, “Could you get some clothes that fit?” I say, “They come from the Swap! No mirrors! And I don’t even usually try them on. I just pull things that I like that seem like they’re not too small and see how they work when I get home. If they feel good and look okay, I keep them. If not, I take them back to the next Swap.” She shakes her head.)

Ann and I talked about things at the beginning of the year, she said she wasn’t going to do a Swap. Too much work, she needed to focus on other things. I wanted to have a Swap, I’m running out of clothes. I said I would do the Swap. Make it a Board event, get everyone involved, past Board members and everyone. Maybe even get David Solow out in his rubber skirt.

I had grand plans. Then roof fell. I was busy. But I said I was going to do a Swap in September and I wanted to do a Swap and I decided to go ahead and see if we could do a scaled-down version.

On Sunday, we had the Less is Enough Swap.

No announcer, no fashion runway, no raffle. The first version of the plan had silkscreening but we decided to drop it when we started thinking about everything involved — screens and sinks and people who know what they’re doing. Too much.

We went with clothes, sewing machines, stencils, paints. Music. People.

Less is enough.

The scaled-down Swap was still awesome. And it did not cost $5,000.

Creativity over consumerism.

Rock ‘n’ roll.


Help! The Scrap Exchange Needs YOU!

Visit the Scrap Exchange website for full details on our fundraiser, or to make a tax-deductible, online donation through PayPal or Network for Good.

Rather go old school? Checks can be made payable to The Scrap Exchange and mailed to 923 Franklin St, Bay 1, Durham, NC 27701.

2 Responses to “Scrap Story #3: Swap-O-Rama Rama”

  1. Susan Says:

    Wow, wish I had known about this BEFORE the swap. It sounds like it would have been a lot of fun. Even though I live very, very far away. SO next year, put the word out on your blog, which I am still very much enjoying.
    Thanks for what you do.

  2. lessisenough Says:

    Thanks! I’ll definitely promote it better next year. This year, I wasn’t sure how the space would work and figured we could handle a low-key one, but a huge one might do us in. So we promoted it to our internal mailing list and through some online places (e.g., EventBrite) but didn’t do a big blitz outside of that. Hopefully next year we’ll have things more under control in general and can handle a little bigger event, and will promote it accordingly.

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