The Brits Go Shwopping


British retailer Marks & Spencer and charity Oxfam create a giant Union Jack from unwanted clothing as part of their new scheme to get customers “shwopping.”

It’s quite a banner year for the British—the Olympics and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Lots of reasons to celebrate with the Union Jack and now, thanks to a campaign by British retailer Marks & Spencer and charity Oxfam there is one more.

To raise awareness for their new shopping scheme called “Shwopping,” they have created the world’s largest Union Jack flag from unwanted clothes. Using 2,100 unwanted items of clothing that was donated to the initiative, pieced together by local volunteers and school children who put together the clothes mosaic – measuring 65’ by 33’ – in East London in under 2 hours (see video below). All the contributed garments will be recycled by Oxfam.

So what exactly is shwopping? The idea is to encourage consumers to adopt a “buy one, give one” mentality when they are shopping, rewarding customers with gifts and prizes for donating an item of clothing to charity whenever they purchase something new from the store.

Old items are dropped into “Shwop Drop” boxes located inside Marks & Spencer stores and are then directed to partners Oxfam. The clothing is then resold in one of their stores or forwarded on to those in need in the Third World, or recycled into fibers to make new material. Absolutely nothing goes to the landfill. Oxfam will use the money raised to help people around the world overcome poverty.

The initiative is part of the Marks & Spencer Plan A program that was launched in 2007 in partnership with Oxfam. Since its initial launch, Plan A has already collected over 10 million garments. Aiming to create a new retailer culture beyond throwaway fashion where reusing, recycling or reselling old clothes becomes the norm. Their goal is to become the world’s most sustainable retailer by 2015 and to recycle as many clothes as they sell, currently more than hundreds of millions of items each year.

Find out more by visiting Marks & Spencer.

Rowena Ritchie

Rowena is EcoSalon’s West Coast Fashion Editor and currently resides in San Francisco, CA.