Sivona Lu is the founder of Savvy Exchanger, a second-hand clothing exchange platform. The entrepreneur explains why she started her business, and the importance of gender equality in fashion
When I first arrived in Shanghai in 2018, I met an American girl on a trip and we talked about how we both loved thrifting when we were overseas. We wondered why there were not many thrift stores in Shanghai and we both expressed a desire to see more. It wasn’t long before we decided to organise our first clothing swap event. People responded really well to our events and we loved the feeling of creating a sort of treasure hunt for everyone. However, after about three of these swap events we had accumulated an enormous amount of unwanted clothing. All these unwanted pieces were once loved by someone but so quickly they were abandoned like trash. We asked ourselves, “do we really need that much new stuff?” and thought about how we could change the situation. That’s when we started to learn more about sustainable fashion. Since then, our purpose has been to encourage people to come out to swap clothes with us. The more we use what we already have, the less we will need to buy from the shop and therefore, waste and consume less
One of my role models has always been Sorelle Amore. She is an Australian photographer and videographer. She inspired me most when I was at my lowest point and her work influenced me to pick up photography through which I found a way to express myself.
Something I’ve noticed is that we’ve had a difficult time recruiting males to join the swapping community. Even now, we still have more females than males participating. We understand that different people enjoy different things, and we don’t mind that Savvy Exchanger is a more feminine community, but of course we would like to see everyone participate.
If people were more open to ideas of gender diversity, my sales would definitely increase. Then I could sell dresses to both guys and girls, as well as sell men’s jackets to women. I personally have bought and wear men’s clothing and I have sold female jackets to guys. Genders are labels, but styles are personal. The most important thing is that people feel comfortable wearing whatever they want, regardless of society’s expectations.
For now Savvy Exchanger is only in Shanghai, but there are people from Guangzhou, Chengdu, and other places who have contacted me and want us to bring Savvy Exchanger to their cites. We are working on organising swap events in other cities so we can have an even bigger impact.
When I left New Zealand, my friend who runs a successful travel company told me this: “If you want to get the oil, you need to be a squeaky wheel.” I think that, especially in a big city like Shanghai, if you want to stand out you need to be busy making a lot of noise to get your voice heard.