Forget swapping with friends, this clothes swap service will tailor your trades for you


WORDS By Ruby Staley

“Sustainable fashion made simple.”

Well before sustainable fashion was even remotely in my vernacular, my friends and I were putting on our own clothes swap parties. Bringing along a few pieces from our wardrobes that we had either stylistically or physically grown out of, a small group of us would excitedly swap our items, one for one.

At the end of the day, we’d leave with a handful of new pieces that we would wear and re-wear until the next swap. These were the days before my friends and I had access to disposable incomes, so these swaps were a necessity. They allowed us to update our wardrobes, keeping them fresh without having to ask our parents for any cash.

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Without even realising it, by utilising the pieces we each already owned, we were being environmentally conscious (truly before our time). Fast forward to the present day and there’s a new way to satiate our collective hunger for these nostalgic clothes swaps.

Circolare Club is Australia’s first closed-loop clothing swap service. Operating under the mantra “Love clothes, hate waste: sustainable fashion made simple”, the service provides a customised garment exchange.

Instead of swapping garments among gal pals, Hannah Kingsmill, the founder of Circolare Club, makes sure each swap ‘bundle’ is accurately tailored to you, your measurements and your style needs.

After recently receiving my very own bundle (I’ve already worn every piece multiple times), I sat down with Hannah to find out a little more about the story behind the operation.

Hey Han! Tell me a little about your background in fashion, specifically secondhand or circular pieces.

Hey Ruby! I don’t have any kind of formal background in fashion or textiles, but it is something I have loved since I was a little kid. My first real introduction to secondhand fashion was actually from my mum and aunty when I was about 13. Both of them found huge vacuum-sealed bags of their old clothes that they’d held on to from the 90s – jackpot! I loved how I had all of these really unique, well-made pieces that I couldn’t find off the rack.

Later in high school, I started thrifting and buying secondhand at markets and op shops like Vinnies and Salvos. I actually volunteered at my local Vinnies in high school for two years, and ran a pretty successful Depop as well as stalls at the Glebe markets for my first few years at uni selling my old clothes. Then I would use the money I made to buy more secondhand clothes.

Why did you want to begin Circolare Club?

Sustainability is something I have always been really passionate about, and for a while, I struggled to reconcile my love for clothes with the horrific environmental impact of the fashion industry… I have friends whose closets are filled with pieces that they have never worn with the tags attached… I liked how swapping allowed me to cater to the fun and novelty of getting new clothes without increasing the demand for new garments to be made, instead keeping wearable clothes out of landfill and in circulation.

At the core of it, I wanted to create something that removed as many of the most common barriers to sustainable fashion as possible. I think the conversation about accessibility in the sustainability movement more generally is something that needs a lot more air time. Sustainable fashion is often out of the price range of many people, thrifting takes a fair amount of time, op shops and sustainable brands often only cater to straight-sized customers, or may not suit everyone’s personal style.

I wanted to start something that made sustainable fashion simple, fun, and accessible. So, Circolare Club Mystery Bundles are totally size-inclusive, affordable, and personalised to your style and taste. Basically, something that 16-year-old Hannah would have loved and been able to buy with her babysitting money. 

Love it! It’s definitely something my friends and I would have loved as well in high school. Is Circolare Club a one-woman show or have you enlisted some help?

It is a one-woman show! I style all the bundles, write the styling notes, make all the infographics and social media and website content… I am a bit of a control freak. I do have to shout out my sister, my boyfriend, and all of my friends for all of their support sharing content, buying bundles, and encouraging me when I first started up!

As you know, I was lucky enough to have previously received my very own bundle and I absolutely loved it. What’s the feedback been like from other customers?

Thank you! The feedback has honestly been really amazing. I was a little nervous when I sent out the first cycle of bundles, but I was flooded with super positive feedback which was really reaffirming. I have been sent the sweetest messages from customers after receiving their bundles, and it is so lovely when people go out of their way to let me know their favourite pieces or tell me that I nailed their style!

I have had one or two customers receive an item that didn’t fit quite right, who have either sent the piece back to swap again in another bundle or have told me that they passed it on to a friend.

I know that you offer a variety of bundles, can you break these down for me?

Sure! For all three sizes you receive roughly the same amount of clothes/accessories as you send in to swap:

  • Beginner Swap ($20): You send in/receive back two to three pieces. This one is ideal if you want to try out swapping before fully committing to a bigger bundle.
  • Original Swap ($35): You send in/receive back seven to 10 pieces plus a personalised styling note with suggestions on how to style your garments. This is the most popular swap size.
  • Super Swap ($60): You send in/receive back 10 to 15 pieces plus a personalised styling note with suggestions on how to style your garments. This size is great if you want a full closet revamp.

I also have gift cards available online for the Beginner and Original Swaps if you want to gift a Swap Pack to a friend!

For someone who has a bundle of clothes in good condition that they want to swap for some new pieces, how would they go about doing this?

Head to the Circolare Club website and select and purchase the correct Size Swap Pack. After you check out, you will receive a confirmation email that will contain a link to a survey where you will be asked to fill in your sizes, measurements, and answer a few questions about your (desired) style, and your likes and dislikes when it comes to clothes.

Once your clothes are freshly washed and ready to swap, package them up securely and post them off [to] the address provided in your confirmation email. Then just sit back and wait, and by the first week of the following month, you will receive a mystery bundle full of pre-loved and vintage clothes hand-picked just for you.

On the website, I have also included a bunch of tips on how to best package up your clothes to swap as well as a guide for taking your measurements, so if you are planning on sending in a package definitely take a look over there for more info! 

What is the process of selecting and compiling each person’s individual style boxes like?

A lot of fun! The Style Surveys are my guide for the pieces that I select for each bundle. In the survey, you have the chance to tell me all about your style icons, your favourite aesthetics, your ‘no-gos’, as well as having options to link Pinterest boards, Instagram, and Depop pages. There is also a survey question to include your age, so I take this into account as well in regards to how versatile or ~parent appropriate~ a piece might be. The more info you give me, the more I have to work with, so tell me as much or as little as you’d like!

Circolare Club runs on monthly cycles, so for example, all bundles purchased in January will be posted out in the first week of February. This gives me as much time as possible to mix and match pieces to style each unique bundle. All of my inventory is organised by size, and throughout the month I read the surveys as they come in, and start putting together bundles as new pieces arrive, then write the styling notes just before I send them off.

Do you think a circular economy could be the solution to the fashion industry’s huge waste problem?

I think that it is definitely part of the solution! But it will involve a massive (but much needed) transformation in the way that the industry has grown in the past 15 to 20 years to position clothing as highly disposable. Whilst ultra-fast fashion brands have been on the rise over the past few years, we have also seen the popularisation of thrifting, buying secondhand, and (amongst A LOT of greenwashing) attempts from fashion labels to make their lines more sustainable through circularity

There is a conundrum in the fashion industry of balancing maintaining profitability and embracing sustainability. Ultimately, producing and consuming less is always the most sustainable option, but this is at odds with the capitalist business model. I think that community-based circularity is always a great way to go, whether this be swapping clothes, buying furniture of Gumtree or Marketplace, or joining ‘no-buy’ lifestyle groups on Facebook. Odds are you’ll find something more affordable, and that is pretty great, if not better quality than buying something new as these older pieces (whether they be clothes, furniture, accessories) tend to be better constructed and made to last.

What’s in store for the future of Circolare Club?

I have some exciting plans coming up in the new year that will (fingers crossed) go ahead! Once things are less uncertain COVID-wise here in Sydney I am hoping to host a belated launch party/IRL swap event and team up with some friends, who are also small businesses, to put that together.

Find out more about Circolare Club here.

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