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Swap Don't Shop - Topshop, Oxford St, Sat 29 Nov

Peter Marshall | 30.11.2008 13:22 | Culture

The Space Hijackers met in Topshop in Oxford St to show that you can get a new fashion look without having to spend money by simply swapping your clothes with others. Photographs copyright (C) 2008, Peter Marshall

Sorry, no photography, sir
Sorry, no photography, sir

Swoppers turned out onto Regent St
Swoppers turned out onto Regent St

An officer starts pushing people
An officer starts pushing people

Posing for the photographer
Posing for the photographer

Swapping bottoms
Swapping bottoms

Swapping tops
Swapping tops

Chance Card "Get out of Topshop Jail Free" and Dispersal Notice
Chance Card "Get out of Topshop Jail Free" and Dispersal Notice

"Take your clothes off! Swap them with your friends for FREE!" was the message from the Space Hijackers, who decided to set up their clothes swap - "the restyling fashion mash-up event of the year" - on the lower ground floor of TOPSHOP at Oxford Circus. The idea was to demonstrate that "we don't need to spend money we don't have on things we don't need."

The action, designed as it was to subvert one of the iconic temples of consumerism seemed to baffle police and didn't amuse the security staff, who stopped me taking pictures there. One other photographer was manhandled out of the store, but I was treated very politely, with several security men standing between me and the action and telling me that photograph was not allowed. On of the store managers even offered to personally help me find any clothes I might wish to buy elsewhere in the store, a possibility I found most unlikely.

I left the store (with a rather large escort until I left the premises) and walked around to the side exit where I expected the clothes swappers to be ejected, arriving just before they emerged, and was able to photograph them continuing to swap clothes on the pavement in Regent Street. Here one policeman did attempt to prevent me from taking pictures, claiming I was causing an obstruction (which clearly I wasn't) and as usual I moved back a couple of feet before returning to take pictures when he moved away.

Things did threaten to get out of hand when a rather elderly police officer (at my age all policemen are supposed to look young), helped by a 'Red Cap' (rather sinister private security wardens employed by the 'New West End Company' to ensure shoppers don't step out of line) started to push people around, but mostly other officers took a more sensible approach, some even talking and joking with the swappers as they continued to exchange items of clothing on the pavement.

Some shoppers passing by stopped to watch, and a few took a leaflet, but there was no evidence of any Damascene conversions, most hurrying on clutching their loaded shopping bags, desperate to spend more money.

One of those taking part was held by the police for a while as they had decided he was the ringleader. He got a big cheer when he was released, waving his pink 'Get out of TOPSHOP Jail Free' Chance Card and the Anti-social Behaviour Act Notice for the Dispersal of Groups (see ) which the Met had issued. This required him to leave the Oxford St/Regent St area for the next 24 hours. Fortunately the map provided didn't include the Red Lion, where he announced his intention of going - and at this point I also left as I was already late for a meeting with friends in Streatham. Some of the others looked as if they were going to continue their fun along Oxford Street.

A few more pictures on shortly.

Peter Marshall
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from a swapper

30.11.2008 15:50

All in all, I think it was a good action.

around 30-40 people turned up and swapped clothes, hundreds of leaflets were handed out on oxford street before the action, and when it did happen, TopShop had a shop full of Police, PCSO's and security, they closed the entrance to the shop and removed the 'red phone box' meeting point display.

Lots of literature was handed out, and plenty of pretty activist flesh, (oh my).

two arrests happened, one for refusing to give a name and address (section 50 of the Police Reform Act) apparently it was anti-social behaviour. On the contrary I thought it was incredibly social behaviour show by the hijackers. Both arrests were released without charge fairly swiftly. Although one was driven to Trafalgar square and dropped off there for no apparent reason?

Later on the actions continued with a street party in Kingly Court shopping centre, and then a road blocade at Seven Dials with plenty of dancing.

thanks to all of the non-shop swappers and to the lovely people who swapped their clothes with mine for the great new outfit I have.

Bristly Pioneer


Hide the following 2 comments

you can't satirise-ip a socialise relationship

30.11.2008 19:47

i was shopping in topshop the other day and like, these people started swapping things and like, i totally had a proper hard think and now i wear hiking shoes and cycle lots. I'm thinking of getting a little beard too maybe.

Oh wait, were there politics in this somewhere?

bill stickers

re: bill stickers

30.11.2008 21:18

good to hear bill stickers, me too!

I guess that's how you came to be on this site reading the report. Perhaps you followed the links to various websites on the leaflets that were handed out, or perhaps you were one of the people who got chatting to the swappers as they did the action? Personally I found all of the literature did get me to think for a bit, but it didn't have quite same effect as it did with you.

I know there were quite a few people who got chatting when they saw that topshop was full of police, and they wanted to know why? Or perhaps you were one of the people who was prevented from going into the store, and cost topshop valuable sales?

I too was surprised that this lot were involved in politics, as they didn't look like the usual march from A-B placard holders that I usually associate with lefty types. I was certainly surprised to see the police acting so aggressively towards a group of people who were simply swapping clothes and handing out leaflets. Made me question just what was so wrong in what they were doing?

They also seemed quite keen to engage in debate as opposed to sticking to their well rehearsed dogma and shouting at people who don't agree with them. Claiming that all routes other than their own very specific ones are completely useless and apolitical.

happy shopper