The Ladies of The Swapaholics

Photo via Adam Towner

You may have read my post about the Swap event in Boston last July. It was my first one and it was insane. I had the pleasure of meeting Melissa Masello, one of the founders of The Swapaholics, at the SwapBoston event and she was so super nice. I mean what an amazing idea. Clean out your closet and steal from someone elses! Financially and environmentally responsible, two things we all need to be. Melissa and co-founder Amy Chase not only swap in states across the country and work for Swap.com, but they also have their own individual ventures. Melissa (aka @Stealfinder) started the savy online magazine Shoestring and Amy (aka @Punkystyle) has a fantastic vintage shop, The Haberdash. I actually bought a really fun vintage dress from her a few months ago. Really, these girls do it all.

Given that the 2nd SwapMaine is this Saturday the 29th, I thought it only fitting that I reach out to them to find out how they became the frugal ladies they are. And frankly, where they like to shop. I know I wanna know!

Check out my interview below.

To start can you talk a little bit about yourself, where you’re from, went to school and what you did before The Swapaholics.

Amy grew up in Worcester and went to school for interior design before starting her own style blog (PunkyStyle.com) and vintage clothing store (The Haberdash), inspired by her experiences working in the family antiques business and working as a stylist for musicians. I grew up in Lexington and Somerville and went to school for journalism, working at several daily newspapers, women’s magazines, an independent book publishing house, and as the editorial director for a handful of local tech startups before starting my own online magazine (ShoestringMag.com).

So, you are one of the founders of The Swapaholics. Tell me a little bit about how you got started with your partner Amy (Punky) and what you guys do.

We’d each been hosting clothing swaps for our friends and co-workers for a few years when we were introduced by a mutual friend who ran a local indie market in February of 2009. She invited us to team up to host a clothing swap together for the first time at one of her events in Cambridge, and after hosting about 300 swappers, in the middle of a snowstorm, and donating literally over a ton of clothing to Goodwill after the event, we knew we were on to something big. We hosted every swap together after that, officially as The Swapaholics, and are now completely addicted to swapping.

It seems natural, but how did you get involved with Swap.com?

After growing The Swapaholics nationwide, hosting events in Boston as well as LA and Denver last year, we approached Swap.com to become our corporate sponsor so that we could bring our swaps to even more cities in 2011, which was the perfect fit since Swap.com is the largest online swapping community, and we both happened to be based in Boston. At the first meeting with CEO Jeff Bennett, we got along so well and had the same vision and passion for swapping that we were talking about joining forces by the time we’d reached the elevators. Swap.com officially acquired The Swapaholics in late September 2010, and Punky and I joined the management team, bringing in-person swapping event and fashion expertise to the Swap.com community.

How many swaps have you done so far and in roughly how many states?

We have hosted more than 30 swaps in 10 states as The Swapaholics. We’ve been fortunate enough to connect and swap in person with communities in Boston, Worcester, Austin, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Washington, DC, and have supported swap organizers in Chicago, Phoenix, Dallas, Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, Portsmouth, Sydney, Melbourne, Toronto, Virginia, Florida, Philadelphia, London, Dublin, and so many more. We’re really looking forward to continuing to build the Events.Swap.com siteas a valuable resource for in-person swap organizers, and to educating swap hosts all around the world in 2012 through our upcoming eBook, “Confessions of The Swapaholics.”

What part of your swapping do you love the most? What is the best swap item you’ve seen so far?

We always find amazing things at every swap, but we rarely hold on to them for more than a few weeks — everything gets put back into the swaps for someone else to wear and love. (What we call “swapping it forward.”) In the past, we’ve found everything from a new with tags Chloe leather jacket and a Balenciaga silk top to a Botkier handbag and truck loads of designer jeans (AG, True Religion, Citizens, Seven, Joe’s, James, J Brand, you name it). We’re always amazed at the things that people decide to recycle through our swaps just because they were an impulse buy, were the wrong size, never fit correctly, or were just worn once and totally forgotten about. At the last swap for Boston Fashion Week in September, one of the first items I hung on the rack was a brand new (and super trendy) Geren Ford gunmetal silk dress with an asymmetrical zipper. If it had been my size, I’d be wearing it now. I’d love to know who went home with that sweet score!

What other kinds of swaps have you done other than clothing?

We’ve hosted beauty swaps, kids clothing swaps, halloween costume swaps, single color clothing swaps (the “noir” swap), book swaps, household items swaps, homemade food swaps, yankee swaps, gift card swaps, video game swaps, and vinyl record swaps, so far. Next year, we’re launching monthly swap campaigns around fun themes we haven’t tried out yet, like seed swapping, recipe swaps, ski swaps, and skill swaps, so that everyone can get in on the swap fun around something that they’re passionate about.

Are you primarily a thrift/vintage shopper? What are your favorite stores to shop?

Amy and I have always shopped secondhand and vintage, preferring quality items that have a history – like vintage and antiques – but we’re also suckers for a bargain and have a soft spot for certain modern designers. You can bet on spotting us regularly at the upscale consignment store The Closet on Newbury Street, Goodwill, Artifaktori and Poor Little Rich Girl in Somerville, the Garment District in Cambridge, and Alexis Grace and Blackstone Vignettes in Worcester. We’re also huge supporters of independent designers and artisans, and regularly haunt markets like SoWa Sundays in Boston and indie marketplaces online like Etsy.

What is your favorite part of swapping and of your job in general?

The best part about swapping, and our jobs in general, is connecting to people through the things that you both have owned. There’s nothing cooler than seeing someone find an item they’re totally ecstatic about at a swap, and then seeing the person who swapped it come up to them and strike up a conversation. I get warm fuzzies and goosebumps every time it happens, whether it’s at the event or seeing those people connect on Facebook or Twitter through a photograph of the item after the event. We’ve been able to do that for thousands of people all across the country at our in-person swaps over the last three years, and it’s the thing we’re most excited about sharing with the rest of the world through the new Swap.com Market.

Thanks so much to Melissa and Amy for taking the time to chat with me. I hope to see some of you peeps at SwapMaine on Saturday! Don’t forget, 10-12 drop off and 12pm is swap time!

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