OXFAMSWHOPJOANNA.jpgHigh street giants, Marks & Spencer have joined forces with Oxfam and Ab Fab actress Joanna Lumley, to launch 'shwopping' - an initiative which aims to revolutionise the way we shop and make disposable fashion a thing of the past. The scheme is designed to help customers live more sustainable lives whilst helping some of the poorest communities in the world. All you have to do is shwop, which basically means giving up an unwanted piece of clothing every time you buy a new one. As someone who already operates on a "one in one out" wardrobe ethos, I can tell you that the concept is far less painful than you might think! From today, all M&S stores (except Simply Food) will accept unwanted clothing from ANY brand all year round via the 'shwop drop' system, with all clothing going to Oxfam to be resold, reused or recycled. Not a single item will go to a landfill and M&S ultimately aims to recycle as many clothes as it sells, with all money raised going towards helping people living in poverty. As well as launching this amazing campaign, the high street favourite have unveiled infamous campaigner Joanna Lumley as the worldwide ambassador of 'Plan A' - an eco and ethical programme which aims to make M&S the world's most sustainable major retailer.

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Joanna joined M&S CEO Marc Bolland on an East London street covered in unwanted clothes to highlight the problem of clothes going to landfill. Almost 10,000 items of clothing (the number used to cover the street) go to landfill every five minutes - a staggering amount when we consider the sheer number of people worldwide living in poverty with little to no clothing. The actress said, "We're asking people to open their hearts, their minds and their wardrobes. Remember we used to just throw away plastic bottles. Now we recycle them without even thinking about it. We need to do the same with clothing. Bring in something old; buy something new. Swap and shop. It's that simple."

The launch coincides with the opening of the 'Shwop Lab' in collaboration with London College of Fashion's Centre For Sustainable Fashion. The pop-up project is set to explore the future of fashion through a series of collaborations with the UK's leading stars of environmentally friendly design, giving M&S customers a behind-the-scenes look into the world of 21st Century fashion, as well as the opportunity to witness sustainable designers at work. Eco-conscious visitors will even be able to try their hand at designing and creating their own items through expert-led master classes! To find out more about LCF's involvement and to view the lab events programme, head over to M&S Stories. You can also watch Joanna's shwopping advert here, and get involved with the scheme through a specially created Facebook app which allows customers to share their experiences, see how many clothes are shwopped at their local stores, and advice other shwoppers on which items in their wardrobes to donate.

The Swhop Lab is situated at the Old Truman Brewery in East London, and will be open between 10am - 5pm every day (except Mondays) from 26 April - 9 May 2012.