The exterior of the former industrial building is starting to crumble. Inside, a staircase with high steps ascends three floors to a solitary steel fire door. The steady thump of bass can be heard on the other side.
But this isn’t some clandestine nightclub.
It’s a fundraiser.
The Stop & Swap event, held April 8, was organized by students in the event management program at the Waterloo campus as part of their program requirements. It encouraged students to “reduce, reuse, restyle.”
But the event wasn’t just a trial run — it was a practical application of the lessons that the one-year graduate program teaches.
“All the additional funds we make tonight and all the clothes we have leftover are going to be donated to Community Cupboard Kitchener,” said Amber Ferris, one of the organizers. Community Cupboard Kitchener is an organization that provides free food and clothing to those in need in downtown Kitchener.
Those interested in swapping clothes first had to offer up some of their own, and then purchase a ticket for $5 to participate. Then, participants could get an equal number of items from the swap, which took place on the third floor of 283 Duke St. W. in Kitchener.
The intended types of clothes were “higher end,” according to Dana Thibeault, another of the organizers. In fact, she said some of the donations were of very high quality.
“Something that shocked me is the things that people are willing to part with … brand new shoes, lots of designer, high-quality stuff … and then it really changed the direction of our event,” Thibeault said.
After seeing some of the great donated items, they re-emphasized that they were particularly interested in higher-end clothing.
But there were also some strange items donated, including a kimono and some “ugly” Christmas sweaters, according to organizer Janessa Good.
“I was actually surprised that people would give those away,” she said.
In addition to the actual swap, there was a DJ hired to provide music throughout the event. The atmosphere was, as a result, notably upbeat. Attendees moved quickly through the racks, hunting for bargains.
Further perpetuating the fashion show atmosphere was a creative photo shoot held in the same room. Volunteer models assembled some of the donated clothes into outfits before showing them off in front of the camera.
Organizer Raylene Laub came up with the idea.
“What’s great about the shoot is that they can take clothes that we have there and put them on, and take photos, and then take them off and get new clothes off the shelves. It also promotes the photographer, and she donated a photography session for one of the draws,” Ferris said.
The event also relied on several volunteers to help do a lot of the smaller tasks during the event itself – organizing clothes, bringing new clothes out to the racks, cashing people out and keeping tables tidy.
Local businesses got in on the act as well, with several donating prizes to a raffle.
Good said they learned a lot while planning the event, which has led to the creation of a 100-page plan.
“We thought that was a really simple idea … but it was really complicated. Like just collecting the clothes themselves, having to figure where people can drop off donations … that’s been a learning process, for sure,” she said.
It would seem that the course’s intent was fulfilled. But despite being the students’ final assignment, the event wasn’t drudgery. Thibeault said the reception from attendees was warm.
“The feel of the atmosphere … you can tell that everyone’s having a good time,” she said.