Swap Movement: Joburg’s Clothes Swap Phenomenon

by | Feb 29, 2024 | Johannesburg, Markets/Shopping | 12 comments

I’ve developed a great interest in clothes, as most of you know, especially locally designed and thrifted clothes. And clothes-swapping — the act of exchanging clothing items with others, rather than buying new or second-hand clothes — is like thrifting on steroids. We’ve all got clothes that we don’t want or simply don’t wear anymore…Why pay money for new ones when you can trade for them instead? This is the theory behind Swap Movement.

Swap Movement in Bedfordview
A customer shops at a recent Swap Movement event in Bedfordview.

Swap Movement is a new local initiative created by Skye West, who was introduced to clothes swaps while working in Vietnam. The concept is simple: The Swap Movement team hosts weekly events at various venues around Gauteng. Participants, who can buy tickets for R140 ($7) in advance or pay slightly more on the day, show up at the swap with up to 13 items of clothing, which they exchange for credits at the door. Most items are worth one credit but some high-value items are worth more; note that the items must be in good condition.

Clothes swap event in Melville
A clothes swap event in Melville.

Participants can then browse all the clothing on display — the selection changes as new stock comes in — and use their credits to “buy” new clothes. If you don’t use all your credits on the day, you can apply them toward your next swap.

Swap Movement accepts women’s, men’s, and children’s clothes. But the vast majority of clothes to choose from are women’s with a few kids’ things mixed in. (Sorry, guys.)

Checking in with Swap Movement
Customers check in at the start of an event.
More swapping
More swapping.

That’s more or less all you need to know. For more information, read the Swap Movement’s FAQ page.

My Swap Movement Experience

I’ve been to two swap events so far: one at Chiesa Di Pazzo Lupi in Melville and one at the fabulous Tea & Antique (my favorite Chinese restaurant in Joburg) in Bedfordview. I felt a little overwhelmed at the Melville swap and also realized it’s hard to take photos and try on clothes at the same time.

People at the clothes swap in Melville
This photo don’t convey how busy it was — these events are well attended.

I still walked away with two great items that day, but felt more prepared a couple of weeks later when I went to my second swap. I exchanged seven items total at the two swaps and snagged some fabulous vintage finds, as well as a dress that still had the price tag on it.

Here are a few tips I put together to help you make the most of a Swap Movement event:

1) Arrive on time (events start at 10:00 a.m.), or even a few minutes early, so you can check in your items before a line forms.

Clothes on display

2) Be prepared for a bit of chaos. Clothes-swapping is not the same as shopping in a store, and while these events are very organized and everyone is super nice and polite, items do get rooted through and you have to be patient.

3) The clothes are displayed on big racks and folded on tables, organized roughly by size. But don’t limit yourself to the racks/tables that you think are your size. Sizes vary wildly and clothes are moved around — keep an open mind.

Folded clothes on display at Tea & Antique

4) Wear an outfit that allows you to try on clothes over or under what you are already wearing (i.e., a loose-fitting skirt with a fitted tank top), so you can quickly get an idea whether or not an item will work without stripping down.

5) Swap Movement supplies a couple of stand-up tents as makeshift fitting rooms, with mirrors outside. I did use the tents a couple of times but they are dark and awkward to move around in. I suggest using the venue’s bathrooms as backup fitting rooms.

6) Don’t leave too soon. If you get tired of shopping, go have a coffee and come back. New stock keeps arriving as new participants arrive, so the selection keeps changing.

My Clothes Swap Finds

Here are bad iPhone mirror selfies of some of the clothes I got.

Heather in vintage dress
My most exciting vintage find — probably from the 1980s. The brand is Nuvelle by Rosecraft.
Heather in white button-down
Basic white button-down.
T-shirt and jeans from clothes swap
T-shirt and jeans both from the swap.
Heather in dress with tags
Not sure I’ll ever wear this — it might be too grandmotherly — but I couldn’t resist a dress with price tags.
Heather in crazy green dress
Grandmotherly in a good way. Possibly handmade, as there are no tags. I’ve already worn this one.

Swap Movement has another event coming up in Melville this weekend. Find all the details here.

I received free media passes to the two swaps I attended. Opinions expressed are mine.


  1. dizzylexa

    Really need to give this a bash, have so much stuff that I’m hanging onto purely for the memories. Love your purchases, the polka dot dress is my favourite.

    • 2summers

      I wanted to invite you to the Bedfordview one but learned after the first one that I couldn’t document it unless I was alone 😂

      • dizzylexa

        I did see it advertised, had good intentions of sorting my stuff out and going but that did not happen. I do need to make an effort to sort and let go.

        • 2summers

          I hear you. It’s not easy. I’m still holding on to a few things that I know I probably won’t ever wear again.

  2. Ms. Nancy Anne McDaniel

    What a great idea!!! Love the green polka dotty on you!

    • 2summers

      Thanks Nancy 🙂

  3. AutumnAshbough

    Those are some good finds! We technically have “swap meets” out here, but the transactions are in cash–more like giant flea markets.

    • 2summers

      I totally know the term swap meet but weirdly I don’t think I have ever been to one. Obviously we Americans like to deal in cold hard cash 😂

  4. wintermoonblog

    I think this would give me a literal high🤣 in the best way possible. Thank you for sharing!

    • 2summers

      It’s a bit of a high for sure.

  5. Lani

    Swaps, second-hand, it’s all so so good. There’s way to much new stuff being produced and why would you want something mass produced when you can have a unique and/or vintage item. Love the sheer white blouse and your red Berks. Awesomeness abounds. xo



  1. Swap Movement: Joburg’s Clothes Swap Phenomenon – Sunshine Coast Models - […] Swap Movement: Joburg’s Clothes Swap Phenomenon […]

Leave a Reply