The problem

27 kilograms. Each. That’s the amount of clothing the average Australian purchases each year. We’ve all heard the statistics on fast fashion – the unhealthy consumer habits, the landfills brimming with clothes only worn once, the issues with unethical production. How the amount of water it takes to make one pair of jeans could sustain a human for 8-9 years. How the fashion industry is responsible for more global carbon emissions than international flights and maritime shipping combined. Everyone knows it’s bad, but the low price points and trend pieces can be difficult to resist.

The COVID-19 pandemic proved something in the fashion industry that we all suspected – the volume based model of fast fashion is ready to collapse at any moment. Warehouses and storefronts were packed with clothes that couldn’t even be saved by online shopping. If we are to meet sustainability goals, we need to think differently about what we wear.

The solution

So what’s the solution? Nine Lives is working to stop the vicious cycle by taking a leaf from the general recycling mantra ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’.

The first step is to stop buying into fast fashion. Sustainable brands have flourished across Australia and internationally recently, which reflects how seriously people are starting to take this issue. Still, ethical clothing can be expensive and budgeting is already hard enough as it is as a student. This is where second-hand clothing can come in – you can feel good about wearing something pre-loved.

Most of us assume ‘upcycling’ is just a buzzword to get more views on Pinterest, but you may surprise yourself with what can be made from old clothes. A stitch here, a snip there and all of a sudden you have a new wardrobe! Check out the scrunchies Nine Lives made out of old t-shirts below.

We all know it’s always better to donate than to throw out. It’s so much nicer to think that your old t-shirt will end up with someone who needs it, rather than in a landfill somewhere. But with the sheer amount of fast fashion out there, op shops and charities are overwhelmed with donations, many of which are in no condition to use again. Australian charitable organisations actually end up spending 13 million dollars a year sending unusable donations to landfill! One of Nine Lives goals is to take the pressure away from these organisations by accepting all kinds of clothing donations. Nine Lives are able to have a greater turnover of clothing by encouraging swapping as a price incentive – imagine switching out half your wardrobe for free! They’re also happy to take clothes that can’t be worn again – these are upcycled into new products.

Nine Lives is a social enterprise that targets each of the three facets above.

Swap or shop events:

These larger, rummage-style events are opportunities for people to bring in their unwanted clothes and swap them for other items. Alternatively, clothes are available to purchase at a low cost:
Clothing donations given to Nine Lives helps alleviate the inundation of second hand shops.

  • Swaps and low-cost sales encourage people to buy into sustainable fashion, reducing purchase of cheap, fast fashion items.
  • Any unusable items are not resold but instead upcycled in Nine Live’s workshops (see below).
  • The sale of items allows Nine Lives to afford equipment and hire spaces to continue their project

Click here for more info on the upcoming Clothes Swap event.


Nine Lives loves to make things! There is always satisfaction in turning an old piece of clothing into something new and exciting. Whether it be tote bags or scrunchies, they take unwearable clothes in their workshop groups and upcycle them. Not only does this process re-use textiles sustainably, but attendees get to learn new skills. 

Register here for the upcoming Scrunchie Workshop.

Circular swapping

One of their newer initiatives is group swapping. For some people, the prospect of second hand clothes can be daunting. It might be more comforting to know exactly where (and who) your clothes are coming from. This is involves establishing smaller groups of interested people (of similar sizing and style, if desired) who can first get to know each other, and then swap items at their own pace.

We can all play our part in creating a sustainable consumer model. For more information, visit or message the Nine Lives page!

Scrunchie Workshop

Clothes Swap


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