A recycled clothing catwalk show, a clothes swap party, a market selling sustainable clothing and accessories. Stitch that all up with a DJ and launch it in New York’s Brooklyn Mirage. The result? The sustainable fashion party of the summer.

When the invitation hit my inbox, I knew I had to go. Global Fashion Exchange was holding court in this summer’s Daft Brunch – an open-air disco day party for anyone who loves prolonging the bliss of weekend brunches. Yet GFX Daft Brunch is not all about just grooving to the summer tunes. Held in the vast event space that is the Brooklyn Mirage in New York, there was a marketplace for fashion brands that are ethically made and sustainable, a catwalk show celebrating diversity and recycled clothing, the much-anticipated clothes swap and yes, perhaps a little bit of boogying too.

BuyMeOnce Behind the Scenes at Global Fashion Exchange's Daft Brunch in New York.

What is Global Fashion Exchange?

Global Fashion Exchange (GFX) is the brainchild of Patrick Duffy, a chirpy creative marketing executive whose expertise lies in developing networks, producing events and creating marketing campaigns. The first Global Fashion Exchange event took place in 2013 at Copenhagen Fashion Week, “a tiny event” in Duffy’s own words. Yet this first clothes swap was so popular it saw 1500 people swap 5.2 tons of clothes and ever since GFX has grown into something more.

Nowadays, GFX is an international platform for cultural and clothes swap events and inspirational forums around the world. The aim for their swapping events is to empower consumers to take action for a better environment, all while stylishly updating their wardrobes. GFX previously held a New York event in April to highlight Fashion Revolution’s #WhoMadeYourClothes, and its London event at the V&A Museum brought in hundreds of conscious consumers who wanted to renew their wardrobes in a fun and sustainable way.

The Marketplace

As with its April event in New York’s Soho Grand Hotel, the marketplace was situated right before the clothes swap area, perfect for browsing whilst waiting for the swapping to start. Local brands displayed their sustainable and stylish fashion items, and in the case of GFX’s Daft Brunch, the brands ranged from vegan accessories, ethically made classic white shirts, and even boys’ hats made out of end-of-mill stock. Outside by the open-air dance floor, organizations such as the Human Rights Foundation and Remake talked to attendees about their current awareness programs promoting transparency in the fashion supply chain and the damaging repercussions of fast fashion choices.

Nearby, Regeneration Magazine, a quarterly magazine about people and businesses creating a better planet, showcased their latest issue on fashion and sustainability. With actress and GFX ambassador Jamie Clayton on the cover, the pages are filled with one-on-one interviews with sustainable fashion leaders, including Brian Linton of United by Blue, a brand we absolutely respect who are committed to keeping trash from our world’s oceans and waterways with each product purchased.

BuyMeOnce Behind the Scenes at Global Fashion Exchange's Daft Brunch in New York.

The Clothes Swap

Before the swap event started, I dropped off my items where they weighed and counted my pieces. I was then given a numbered ticket that corresponded to the number of items I could swap. The cheerful but busy volunteers kept coming into the swapping area with freshly sorted drop-offs, hanging them up on railings or beautifully laying them out on the tables.

Patrick Duffy reigned supreme by the entrance to the clothes swap area, and in his pleasantly buoyant manner, checked tickets and reminded swappers to have fun. All around us were reminders of what GFX Daft Brunch was all about, an event to raise awareness about textile waste, recycling fashion and promoting sustainability. There was a poster stating that “95% of used textiles are recyclable but 85% end up in the trash” for instance, and right next to it was a poster that set out the rules of the clothes swap: “Be Nice, No Hoarding, Give A Compliment,” amongst other rules.

The clothes swap proved to be popular – a line snaked around the marketplace – and Duffy kept everyone upbeat with his running fashion commentary as he played host and stylist at the same time. Hours later, I can still hear him pumping up the crowd by encouraging them to pick up new pieces and greeting newcomers. Spotted in the rails? BuyMeOnce-approved brands like Eileen Fisher, Patagonia and LL Bean, mixed amongst high-street brands and beautiful vintage pieces.

The Catwalk

Packed with plenty of attitude and oozing with realness, this catwalk show was hosted by Runway the Real Way, an organization founded by former model Catherine Schuller in response to the marginalization of plus-size models, minorities and the LGBTQ community in the modelling industry. Wearing recycled threads and holding signs with slogans like “clothing is not garbage,” this is one show that really hammered the message home. Textile waste is prevalent in the fashion industry, but we can do something about it by choosing the right textiles, making our voices heard and diverting usable clothing from landfill through swapping.

BuyMeOnce Behind the Scenes at Global Fashion Exchange's Daft Brunch in New York.

The Result

A week later, GFX released the results of their Daft Brunch Event: 1600 people attended and a staggering 4200 lbs of clothing and accessories were swapped or collected. 22 ethical brands participated in the event, and I have nothing but huge appreciation for the 140 volunteers who made everything run smoothly. Anything that does not get picked up during the swap event is donated to I:CO, the world’s largest textile recycling company, to close the loop and raise awareness for alternatives to throwing old clothes in the trash.

As for my swapped goods? My most prized item is a beautiful floppy straw hat that I’ve been wearing every day. I’m happy it didn’t end up in the landfill.

Jana Pleyto now lives in New York, but before that, she grew up in minimalistic, sustainable households in Melbourne and London. 'Mindful curation' may not have been a phrase then, but it turns out she’s been living it all her life! She loves her KeepCup, GIR tools and Swedish Stockings, and she is Head of Brand Operations for BuyMeOnce USA.

Catwalk images courtesy of @rickdavyfwbk and @muscle_park.