Mireya Zellner ‘24 is a fashionista, and the clothes she’s wearing today may have been on someone else last week, and may be on someone else next week. That’s the idea behind her business Sustainable Swaps.
Since 2021, the business has hosted clothing and accessories swaps on the Boston Common and at the The Foundry in Cambridge.
“The basic premise is you go through your closet before a swap and pick out a bunch of stuff you don’t use anymore. Instead of throwing out or donating your clothing, you bring it to the event,” said Zellner. “Emerson is a fashionable school, and as I’ve gotten more into fashion, I want people to reuse textiles instead of shopping at big brands like Zara, H&M, or Forever 21.”
At the swaps, local bands play while a dozen or so individuals and vendors to bring their wares to either swap or sell. Anyone can walk around and either swap clothing or purchase it.
“I don’t want it to be a vintage market,” said Zellner. “The point is to swap. You can be willing to sell, but have to be open to swapping.”
Items being swapped include clothing, hats, jewelry, sneakers, bags, sunglasses, art prints, and more.
Just not underwear, because that’s not the kind of thing that people should get secondhand.
“Honestly, most of my wardrobe is from Sustainable Swaps. My favorite pair of pants, the top I’m wearing. I’ve received some really great jewelry,” said Zellner who’s netted designer brands such as Michael Kors and Nautica during swaps. “I try not to buy things. I swap with people.”
Zellner says the swaps are a good way for college students to earn or save some extra money, as well as get new-to-them clothes. At the end of the swap, people who don’t want what they brought to swap can drop it in a donation pile that Zellner brings to St. Francis House, a shelter around the corner from the Emerson campus. She estimates donating more than 75 pounds of clothing in the past year.
The junior Marketing Communication major held her first swap during her sophomore year. This semester, she’s been studying abroad in Spain, but swaps have continued to happen thanks to social media coordinator Ariel Wile ’25. Wile and Zellner sat down before she left for Europe to plan the coming months.
As the business has progressed, the marketing has grown to include Sustainable Swaps’ own Instagram, run by Wile. Zellner also was able to develop a Sustainable Swaps website as part of a class assignment, and developed a marketing brief on her own brand. Zeller said she enjoyed being able to bounce ideas of her class and professor.
Sustainable Swaps has also collaborated with other Emerson organizations, including INDEX Magazine, a student-run fashion publication produced by the Emerson Fashion Society.
Zellner would also like to expand the business’ reach from just young adults to the children’s market, as well as higher end women’s wear.
“There are moms who wear designer dresses once and would love to swap clothing with each other,” said Zellner. “Eventually, I’d like to expand the market to a warehouse or community center that can hold a larger capacity.”
She’d also love to see it become more of a festival and feature live, non-acoustic performances.
“I really want it to be a group of people who love fashion and the environment, hanging out, having a good time, listening to music, and getting new clothes,” said Zellner.
Sustainable Swaps is hosting an Earth Day Swap on April 22, 3 to 6 pm on the Boston Public Garden with live performances by Sweet Petunia, BEP, and Coney Island.