The clothes are free - and that’s it!

(l-r) Kitty McGrath (31) and Charlie Buckland (27) at the Portsmouth Clothes Swap stall.''Picture: Sarah Standing (14268-8237)
(l-r) Kitty McGrath (31) and Charlie Buckland (27) at the Portsmouth Clothes Swap stall.''Picture: Sarah Standing (14268-8237)
From left, Terence Rierkert, Matt Chapman, Steve Kramer, Dan Deeks, Theresa Newstead, Simon Freeman and Josh Roux
Picture: Ian Hargreaves (170948-1)

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IT is a simple initiative that people seem to question. But the organisers of the Portsmouth Clothes Swap have one message - the clothes are free and that’s it.

Kitty McGrath and Charlie Buckland set up the Portsmouth Clothes Swap two years ago.

The group started as a small scale swap between friends to raise awareness of how many clothes are thrown away or wasted when people no longer want them or need them.

The clothes would then be revamped and offered to people at the next swap.

But over the past two years, the group has grown and Kitty and Charlie now run a stall at Guildhall Square, in Portsmouth, on the first Sunday of every month.

‘The group grew quite a lot so we decided to expand it to reach the wider audience,’ says Kitty, from Portchester.

‘We got permission to set up at Guildhall and we have been here ever since.

‘While we are here, people can drop off clothes they no longer want and have a browse at the other stuff we have here.

‘Then, they can have it for free - it is really that simple.’

But it is a concept that many people cannot seem to grasp.

Charlie, aged 27, from Fareham, adds: ‘When people come along, they grab an item and ask “how much is this?” We tell them that 
it’s free, that everything is free but they grab another item and ask the same question.

‘For some reason, people cannot believe that we are stood giving out free clothes.

‘They expect to have to pay something because nowadays, everything has a price.’

At the moment, the stock is kept in a caravan and Kitty and Charlie are so overloaded with items, the have been giving some away to the Salvation Army.

The range of clothes they have include children’s clothes, baby clothes, shoes and jackets.

Occasionally, they also have bedding.

Kitty says: ‘We don’t bring all our stock down a Sunday because there is too much.

‘We already load up to cars so to take more would be a lot harder.

‘But we have many different items for people to look at and we have loads of children clothes.

‘We find people donate a lot of kids stuff because they grow out of it so quickly.

‘They are in great condition but people just don’t need them anymore.’

Kitty and Charlie pride themselves on being different from the buy and sell pages that are on Facebook.

The sites give members the chance to sell unwanted clothes for a price but Charlie says costs don’t need to be involved.

‘At the end of the day, we are selling other people’s clothes,’ she adds.

‘Some do still have tags on them but the others are second hand.

‘We don’t believe they need a price because for a little more, they could buy it brand new.’

And Kitty agrees. She thinks that charity groups are great for raising money and awareness but she says their prices have hiked.

She said: ‘Charity shops are great and I think it’s good that people volunteer to work in them.

‘But their prices are high now and have gone up massively over the years.

‘Most things are a few quid and yet they are still second hand items.

‘We are selling the same stuff but for free.

‘The high prices can discourage people so they still aren’t getting the money.’

With hoards of clothes waiting to be put out on the rack, the volunteers from the Portsmouth Clothes Swap want to encourage people to buy more.

Niall Dixon, from Southsea, says that people prefer to give rather than take.

The 42-year-old says: ‘We always have people giving us bags full of clothes but they never take anything.

‘They feel likes its a good deed, and it is, but it would be great if they could take stuff away too.

‘It’s not bad if they do, or selfish. It is what we are here for.’

And the volunteers don’t mind donating two hours of their time to run the project.

‘Giving two hours a month is nothing,’ adds Kitty.

‘We don’t mind standing in the cold because we are making a point that clothes do not need to be wasted.’

To keep up to date with the Portsmouth Clothes Swap, visit their Facebook page at on.fb.me/1ng8H25

FOR the year ahead, Kitty and Charlie want to see the Portsmouth Clothes Swap grow.

They hope to move to permanent premises and raise more awareness for what they do.

Currently, they keep their stock in a caravan and they use rails and stalls to showcase them.

But, they want to set up a shop so they can keep items in one place instead of transporting them back and forth.

Kitty says: ‘Seeing as we don’t make any money from what we do, we are hoping that somebody might believe in what we do and offer us a site.

‘This would give people a place to come all the time rather than a stall on one Sunday a month.

‘That is our big plan for this year but till then, we will keep going as we are.

‘We have things under control so getting permanent premises would just be about making it better for the people who use the service.’

Also for 2014, Kitty and Charlie hope to make their presence known in Portsmouth.

Charlie added: ‘Meeeting on the same day every month should hopefully help people out.

‘Those who don’t have access to Facebook will just know when to meet us.

‘It is about keeping things simple.’

THE Portsmouth Clothes Swap meet on the first Sunday of every month.

The 2014 dates are below.

March 2

April 6

May 4

June 1

July 6

August 3

September 7

October 5

November 2

December 7