At first glance, the window display spotlighting a pair of sexy Prada heels could belong to any number of high-end boutiques in Santa Monica.
But on second glance, it's clear this boutique is different. The Give + Take Swap Boutique at 1740 Ocean Park Blvd. is a members-only club that operates solely on swapping, offering its members points for the lightly worn clothing, shoes and accessories they bring in. The points can be exchanged for items in the boutique. Owners Celina Amaya, a former stylist and fine artist, and Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff, a journalist and sustainability advocate, believe that recycling clothing can start a shopping revolution.
"It's all based on bringing in great pieces that you might be sick of and swapping with others. It's like having a giant library of clothing at your fingertips," said Sarnoff. She also noted that there are 160 million women spending an average of $60 each month on clothes, while dumping 6 pounds of textile waste into the landfill. If every woman in America swapped rather than shopped for just 30 days, we could save about $10 billion and 1 billion pounds of landfill waste — in just one month — according to the boutique founders.
The boutique, which opened in Playa del Rey in 2010 before moving to Santa Monica in 2012, has more than 300 members and the inventory is constantly shifting. Membership is $35 a month, and additional perks include regular events and a newsletter. And the offerings aren't limited by season, style or size. The racks are filled with designer labels like Marc Jacobs, Rodarte, Gucci, Theory, Velvet, Zac Posen and more.
How does the swap work? "If you brought in an item that currently retails for $100 and it showed very little wear, we would give you six points credit for it; you could use that to take home two items worth $50 [each] or four worth $25 — or one worth $100," Sarnoff explained. "If it was a little more visibly worn or was purchased some time ago, we would reduce the value, maybe to four or five points — $80 or $90 worth of credit. Clothing is assessed on a case by case basis."
For Anita Yuan, an avid swapper, the idea of using points to purchase frees her up to take home things she wouldn't ordinarily buy. "And the fact that I can always bring it back takes away the shame of having to return something I no longer want," she added. Her favorite find to date: a Love Moschino dress that had never been worn.
"It's great for the holidays because you can literally come in and get a dress for a party, wear it, dry-clean it and bring it back," said Amaya. "Think of how many dresses you've only worn once."
On a recent afternoon, Katie Asmuth perused the racks for maternity clothes. "Good maternity clothing is so expensive and it's nice to know I can get top-of-the-line pieces and then swap them back," she said. But she was quick to note that she was a swapper long before she got pregnant. "I love the idea of being able to come in and take whatever I want, and I get great style advice at the same time."
This is one store where you can leave your pocketbook at home, unless you're planning to swap it.
Give + Take Swap Boutique
Where: 1740 Ocean Park Blvd., Santa Monica
When: 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday