Oct 18, 2016

The Nu Approach to a More Ethical Fashion Industry

Two Trinity graduates are using their swap shop formula to try and create a more sustainable fashion industry.

Ciara PignatelliFashion Editor

Aisling Byrne and Ali Kelly are two recently-graduated Trinity students and founders of the Nu company. Their vision is to transform the disposable and exploitative fashion industry into an ethical oasis through wardrobe recycling.

They saw firsthand some of the corruption of the high street clothing market during a trip to India organised by Trinity’s branch of the educational development charity Suas, where they saw horrific working conditions in which wages were continuously deducted from for minor mistakes and bathroom breaks. Determined not to switch off to such injustices with the all-too-easy mantra of “I can’t do anything to change this”, these girls set up their business and have been working with Launchbox, Trinity’s start-up incubator system.

So how does the swap shop work? For each item you bring you get a token, either “bling” or “basic”, depending on the style of your clothes. There’s also a €2 check-out charge for anything you take home. The swaps are monthly, so you could always take something for a few months then bring it back in exchange for a token. Nu is hoping that when people see how economical and fun this is they will start setting up their own swaps with friends – the start of a fashion revolution.


The swap shops are only the beginning of their visionary enterprise. With these events, they are gauging the level of interest in swapping clothes and starting to build a grassroots community that can then be developed onto an online platform. The idea would take the form of an app that you can use to connect with friends, housemates, people sharing your student halls or working in your company to exchange clothing. Something like a library for clothes, it could be a great way to alleviate your guilt over that expensive dress you never wear but don’t want to get rid of. When asked about the difference between their concept and similar apps that already exist, Kelly said to The University Times that she asks herself: “If this already exists, why hasn’t it changed the world yet?”. In the case of companies like Depop, the drawback is that you give away your item forever. Nu will instead offer a less-permanent way for you to support sustainable fashion.

If you go to anything this month, head to Wigwam on Saturday, October 22nd with a few wardrobe gems you never wear and swap them for a new wardrobe. Give it a shot, and maybe it will revolutionise the way you shop. Worst case scenario is that you end up with new clothes and no guilt.

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