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Diva Eve Clothing Swap

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Around 80 women shuffled into the California Museum Thursday night with overflowing bags in tow. The baggage wasn’t credited to a long day of shopping, but rather the beginning of a long night of swapping.

The Diva Eve Clothing Swap was a eco-friendly evening of fashion, beauty and philanthropy, benefiting St. John’s Shelter for Women and Children.

Seventeen years ago, Clothing Swap founder Suzanne Agasi invited three close friends over for a wardrobe exchange experiment. Guests cleaned out their closets and poured their belongings into Agasi’s Walnut Creek studio apartment. The evening was informal and intimate as the women picked through each other’s clothing and donated the leftovers to charity. Little to Agasi’s knowing, her small gathering would turn into a national trend.

"The idea just grew," Agasi said. "I kept having these clothing swaps and more and more women came."

Agasi, dressed in a black floor-length gown she discovered at a swap, welcomed all attendees as they entered the pre-swap reception. Available at the front door were "Nostalgic Notes," small tags to place on special items as women prepared to part with their once worn belongings.

"They are little notes to say something special about each piece," Agasi said. "If you bought it in Paris or if you wore it to a wedding, you can tell the next owner why the piece is special to you. And the next owner will have a new respect for it."

Agasi is currently in the midst of the Swap America Tour where she is on the road swapping in Denver, San Fransisco, Sacramento, New York and Los Angeles. Thursday’s event was her 221st swap.

Being in the business for over a decade and a half, Agasi said that swapping has grown immensely since the rise of the environmentalism. Now women are more apt to reuse and recycle clothing.

"I was doing this before green was popular," Agasi laughed. "It’s eco-chic."

During the reception, volunteers rapidly sorted clothing in the museum’s courtyard. While waiting for the big event, attendees were able to get their hair styled, browse the museum and enjoy beverages and snacks.

One beauty treatment available was the "It Works" body applicator which detoxifies the body. Breata Simpson was there representing the business, but also came as a veteran swapper.

"The best feeling is seeing someone else wear your clothes and see how much it’s appreciated," Simpson said.

After a brief speech by organizers, the swap began. Women scurried into the courtyard and the fashion frenzy ensued. Several makeshift changing rooms were set up for women to try on clothes. There was no limit as to how many items one could walk away with, but the women were advised to only take items they would absolutely wear.

As the crowd died down, many pieces were still left to donate to St. John’s Shelter. Rachele Burton of St. John’s commented on the success of the night.

"We are so thankful for this event," Burton said. "We focus on getting our women back into the workforce, and professional clothing is a necessity."

Burton also said that the shelter is always in need of volunteers and donations, particularly diaper donations. For more information, visit stjohnsshelter.org.

As Agasi travels the country hosting more swaps, she plans on creating a formula so that every woman can throw their own clothing exchange party at home.

"I’ve done this so many time and have made so many mistakes. I’m the ultimate resource," she said.

Within the next two years, Agasi hopes to update her website with tips on how to throw your own clothing swap.

For more information, visit clothingswap.com.

Photos:

1. Swappers in action

2. Shoes

3. Agasi addressing the crowd

4. Volunteers Maya and Chris

5. Breata Simpson

6. Volunteer sorting clothes

7. Rachele Burton of St. John’s Shelter

8. Kat Pran and Ammy Chang

9. Mary Bennett and Addy Cassero

10. During the swap

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