What could be better than free clothes? Free clothes plus an opportunity to clean out your own closet, that’s what.
The first-ever clothes swap sponsored by the Palm Springs Cultural Center took place on Leap Day, Feb. 29, as a pop-up event adjacent to the regular Saturday morning certified farmer’s market. The swap was the idea of market manager Megan Goehring. “The cultural center has a mandate for sustainable living,” she said, and she thought a clothing swap would be an excellent experiment to go along with the center’s efforts at sustainable cups and a water bottle filler at its cafe and theater concessions. At the center’s theater, a different film about sustainability has been shown each month for the past five years. Last year, the documentary The True Cost, about workers who sew fast fashion and the negative environmental impacts of cheap clothing, got Goehring thinking about recycling garments, shoes and accessories.
“People in Palm Springs have so much tremendous clothing,” she said. She publicized the event with flyers and a video on social media, and donors and swappers descended from the moment the swap opened at 8 a.m.
Candace Vance of Portland, Oregon, who lives half time in Palm Springs, was an early arrival, carrying a beautiful print Uniqlo silk dress that she donated to the cause. “I can’t wear silk,” she explained. “It sticks to me.” Vance said that clothing swaps are common in Portland. “Once people experience it, they will be hooked on it.”
There was no limit on what people could take away. Anything left on the hanging racks and tables when the swap was over at 2 p.m. was donated to Revivals, a Coachella Valley chain of three thrift stores that support the Desert AIDS Project.
I shouldn’t have been astonished by the quality of donated items, as this is Palm Springs, but the first two labels I saw on the racks were Eileen Fisher and Maggy London. I also spied Banana Republic, J Crew, Chico’s and Polo Sport.
There were several new-with-tags (NWT) items, including a pretty great men’s gold and black brocade dinner jacket with a Jogal tag. (Jogal is a men’s online shop with updated Hawaiian shirts, fishnet shirts, party costumes, dressy vests and sport coats – jogalshop.com)
My friend Kim Garretson, who lives most of the year in Minneapolis but also has a home in Palm Springs, made a beeline to the jacket. “I’ve been saying I needed to get a jacket for parties in Palm Springs!” he exclaimed. He had donated a camel’s hair blazer and several other men’s items, which got snapped up as he tried on — and kept — the brocade number.
And then he found some blue suede shoes (well, slip-ons) to go with his Elvis-like jacket.
There were many other happy swappers, such as James Honfer, who splits his time between Palm Springs and San Francisco. He walked right into a short-sleeved shirt with a cool car and surfboard print (below), before deciding he had to buy a vintage kimono from a vendor who set up shop a short distance away. After seeing Kim’s gold brocade coat, he also felt the need to gild the lily.
I have a feeling this will become a regular event in Palm Springs.
Top photo, from left, Having fun at the swap: Ellen Lambright, of Rancho Mirage, Alex Gildzen of Palm Springs, Megan Goehring, farmer’s market manager for the Palm Springs Cultural Center, and Candy Glickman of Rancho Mirage.