Young Londoners win grant to fight back against fast fashion

Two teenagers have won a grant for £1,800 from the Wandsworth Youth Opportunity Fund after launching a clothing exchange scheme in local schools.

SwopItUp was founded as a community interest company by the 16-year old Zaqiya Cajee in 2018, in response to the devastating environmental impact of fast fashion brands. Organised, promoted and managed by young volunteers aged 11-18, the initiative helps to develop a range of skills from entrepreneurship to design, while giving students the chance to update their wardrobe for free.

SwopItUp events are now established across three South London schools, with plans to take the concept into more than 25 schools by 2021. As part of the model, each participating school is encouraged to promote the scheme to two neighbouring schools.

The Youth Opportunity Fund is a youth-led initiative of Wandsworth Borough Council, offering grants of up to £4,000 for young people who live, go to school or attend a youth provision in the borough. Zaqiya and her friend Harry Byrne wrote the funding bid and pitched the concept themselves, receiving enough money to develop centralised marketing materials and cover legal costs for the programme.

SwopItUp co-founders

"We're delighted to have received this grant, which will help us to step up our plans and reach out to many more schools in our community, said Zaqiya Cajee, founder, SwopItUp CIC. "I'm very ambitious for SwopItUp, and we're still looking for more financial support to make the movement as big as we can and significantly reduce the amount of perfectly good clothing that goes to landfill every year.

"I believe that the only way we can fight the climate crisis is by empowering everyone to be more mindful of how their actions and purchases impact the world. For me, SwopItUp is more than just a clothing exchange – it enables young people like myself to take real action, in a way where we feel fully involved and engaged."