We’ve all seen and probably used them. Containers where we hand in our ‘old’ clothes so they can be resold or recycled. In an earlier article I wrote about The Clothing Myth Deficit and what happens to most clothes after they are collected. When I was organizing the first Clothing Swap Bergen -event, I coincidentally got in touch with Norge Gir, the company behind the blue containers with the big globe on them (you might have seen them around Bergen/Oslo/Stavanger). They offered to provide a first batch of clothing that we could use for the swap. This was an amazing opportunity to get enough clothes to start the event, so I decided to collaborate.
In comparison to Norway’s giant Fretex, Norge Gir is a small clothing collecting company in Norway, that operates mainly in the South. The company is part of an educational project that goes by One World Institute or ‘Den reisende høgskule’, situated close to Lillehammer. Like most clothing collecting companies, Norge Gir sells the clothes that they collect. They do not sort the clothing first, it is directly resold in big bags. Unfortunately, the market for second hand clothing is not transparent. Norge Gir sells their clothing mainly in ‘the East’, where it is partly distributed further to countries in Africa. Though there are no recent numbers available, they do have some from 2013. One of the companies they sell to, Humana Baltikum, a sorting company in Lithuania, shared the following numbers about that year: About 30% of the sorted clothes went to their own second hand stores in Europe, about 50% was exported to other second hand markets, especially in Africa, 14% was sent to recycling and the other 5% was waste and destroyed. Though I’m not sure if these numbers represent the entirety of Norge Gir’s distribution and neither whether they are still relevant after 8 years, they do correspond with the image that I have of where our clothes end up after writing my earlier article. Following Norge Gir, the profits of the distribution go entirely to their educational projects, some of which are focused on the harmful effects of the fashion industry. The company let me know that they are planning to visit each of their partners in 2022, as to get a better insight into what happens to the clothes they sell.
Norge Gir helped us by providing the first batch of clothes to Clothing Swap Bergen. The clothes were delivered to my home and filled my entire tiny living room for a week while me and another volunteer sorted them. The clothing was of really good quality and we had a lot of fun sorting. During the big day, Amandine from Norge Gir was present to inform people about the company and as an extra set of hands. After the event, which was a big success if I may say so, the clothes were picked up again by Norge Gir. You all brought more clothes than you took, so Norge Gir could take some extra bags with them. As the first event was really a test ride for us, this was a great solution not to get stuck with a pile of clothes without a place to stock them. I’m very thankfull for the way in which Norge Gir provided the clothes and for the amazing help that we got from Amandine.
We had the most amazing time during Clothing Swap Bergen and we got the strong impression that you guys were sharing our joy. It was heartwarming to hear people say that this was the best clothing swap they had been to and that it was a great way to score good quality second hand items for very little money, something that is nearly impossible in Norway nowadays. The only thing that didn’t sit right with me, was that all the clothes we gathered together, left our community afterwards just the same. The beauty of Clothing Swap Bergen should be that our clothes aren’t shipped abroad, but stay in Bergen. As the first event was such a success, and people kept asking when the next date would be, we immediately decided to organize a follow up. I shared my thoughts with Norge Gir and they recognized my problem. We decided that, for the next event, Clothing Swap Bergen will buy a stock of clothes from them, so we actually own and can keep everything. The clothes we are going to buy from them are collected from the big blue containers in and around Bergen, so the new stock will be local. Our clothes, for us to enjoy.
Our goal with Clothing Swap Bergen is to create a shared wardrobe if you will. So that we don’t have to buy any more new clothes. Our goal is to organize a swap at least four times a year. We are super excited to announce the date of the next swap at the beginning of next week. So keep an eye on our Instagram-page!