Amelia’s Magazine | My Visa Swap weekend

Ok fellow Amelia’s blog followers – a couple of weeks ago I wrote a story on the Visa Swap event in Covent Garden and promised to keep you all updated on how it went and what treasures I managed to find. Well – the official swap took place the weekend just past, and true to my word I’m back to share my adventures.

So – if you remember – the idea behind the visa swap campaign was that people take unwanted clothing to specific drop off points in Covent Garden throughout a three-week period. In exchange for our goods we were offered a little visa card with a number of points coinciding with the value of our donations. These points could then be used to purchase other items during a huge two-day fashion swapping event.


I arrived at the swap boasting a healthy 8614 points, which was mainly thanks to what I believed to be a random grey jacket that I found in my spare room at home. After deciding I didn’t have a clue where it had come from, or whom it belonged to, I handed it in at the drop off in the hope of scoring a couple of extra points. What I was rewarded with was a ‘ooh – this is nice’ and a whopping 700 points (as apposed to 40 or 50 which I had received for other items) from a delighted Visa assistant. Turns out I had just handed in a Christian Louboutin jacket which was worth at least 400 pounds. I think it must have been the fear of looking uncharitable that prevented me from snatching it right back and attempting to flog it on eBay. Instead I accepted the points and walked away, still wondering where the hell it had come from – and why I hadn’t bothered to look at the darn label!

On the first morning of the swap I thought I’d be smart and arrive at the location ten minutes early. Unfortunately lots of others were smarter, and I was greeted with a queue that backed a quarter of a mile up Covent Garden. Hundreds of eager visa card holding individuals held excited conversations between themselves, all of us joined in our excitement and anticipation for the event ahead of us. At ten on the dot the doors swung open, and all thought of unison flew out with it. It was every man, woman and child for themselves as Visa Swap participants stampeded the building in the hope of being the one to discover the hidden designer gems. Half the crowd – clearly Visa Swap veterans – charged up the stairs to the bag/shoes and accessories section, while I, after finding my bearings, calmly headed for the ladies clothing area.

The building was organised into three stylishly designed levels: ladies clothing, men’s clothing and accessories. In house tailors sat in wait by the changing rooms ready to take in, sew up or amend any of our finds – free of charge! As pop music blared from the surround sound system we darted around manically, heaps of clothing draped over our left arms, our right arms free to wander through the racks. We greeted and excused each other politely, wishing each other well out loud, but secretly hoping that that annoying person beside us would somehow miss the gorgeous shirt in front of them! Everyone’s tactic was the same – grab anything and everything that slightly catches your eye and sort through the load afterwards. The room could almost be likened to a cage full of hungry gerbils, everyone scurrying from rack to rack before retreating to self-made sorting stations, all the while clutching ferociously to their discoveries as though their very lives depended on it. At one particularly low point I found myself alone in a dark corner of the building, sweating and hovering protectively over a heapful of second hand finds! Thankfully I managed to snap out of this uncharacteristic trance after witnessing a bizarre argument between a middle aged women and deceitfully pleasant looking little old lady, who couldn’t agree over who owned the rights to a small leather clutch bag.

I must say I managed to pick up a great collection of skirts, shirts, dresses and shoes that are bound to liven up my flagging wardrobe. The organisers refused to accept faulty items, so the clothing and accessories were of an impeccable quality.


On our way out the friendly staff issued our garments to us in fantastically designed sustainable bamboo shopping bags, while congratulating us with ‘well done’s’ and ‘you’ve done well’s’ as though we’d all completed a gruelling charity cross country run.


As I stepped out the Visa Swap doors and back into the sunshine of reality, I immediately missed the whole experience of the event. I think the sense of community I shared with other fellow Visa Swap shoppers, the creativity in the air and the pang of delight I experienced when I spotted other people picking up items which I had brought, was what made the whole event truly special. Well – this as well as the knowledge that I now own a couple of garments that my friends won’t be able to rush out and buy for themselves. Result!

Dress, bag and boots from Visa Swap

Shirt, skirt, belt, sandals and bag from Visa Swap

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