A local clothing swap focused on sustainability, community, and giving back held its fourth iteration earlier this month at Pilates BKLYN. Julianne Simson, who created @howtobebrokeinnewyork on Instagram, co-hosted the event with sustainable fashion blogger and content creator Chelsea Henriquez at the woman-owned pilates studio at 58 Greenpoint Ave on September 12.
The clothing swap was born out of Simson’s habit of sharing clothes with roommates, which strongly aligns with the goal of her brand, How to Be Broke in New York, which is dedicated to sharing tips and tricks for those trying to practice frugality in the city with a cost of living over 154% higher than the national average. The event itself first materialized in June 2019, but was revived in October 2020 due in part to followers longing for a chance to connect in person with like-minded people again.
“During Covid, everything kind of shut down, and last October, people started reminiscing on [the event]. So I thought, ‘I’m gonna do it on my own, I’m going to really set a precedent that it’s going to be for people to be generous with one another and I’m going to try to manage the quality of things that come and the way people treat each other there,’” Simson recalled. “And it’s become a community feel when you’re there; I’ve seen people leave as best friends.”
The event also functions to support the Williamsburg WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) Center with overflow clothing donations. Simson herself lives near the women’s shelter and has formed relationships with the staff over time and admires the assistance they provide to neighbors in need.
“At my specific WIC, the women who work there also gather clothes and shoes and coats for the new moms and their children on their own time,” Simson said. “And I just think that it’s incredible that they’re so busy already and in their spare time they do that; so I kind of created a pipeline for them that twice a year they get all the clothes that they need … last time I came through with 12 jumbo bags of clothes and they said that after a week and a half it was all taken.”
For Simson, the pandemic and her background in advocacy played a large part in the event’s revival. A current law student, Simson spent a long time trying to find the intersection between her passion for community service and the How to Be Broke in New York network she maintained online.
“I moved to New York and fell on hard times myself and wanted to create this page about how I got myself back together and as people started to come to the account, I felt like I could also be like, ‘I’m @howtobebrokeinnewyork, but let’s also talk about those who are actually broke in New York, because if you have access to going out to eat, even at a place that’s very affordable, that’s still so different from so many people here,” she explained. “During Covid, I felt compelled to talk even more about some of the inequities that were happening, especially because I definitely feel like there’s like a class and race divide with how it affected people and I definitely felt like this was something to talk about on my page … And so I’ve been able to connect with other people who feel the same way about this and use our communities to impact the outside community.”
And the venue is just as important to Simson as the event itself. Pilates BKLYN, which has been in Greenpoint for four years and paired up with countless local businesses throughout their tenure, has been offering to host the event in their space for free since 2020.
“They always help us set up, they provide so much. The reason I was so glad to partner with them is because they have consistently been helping other businesses in Greenpoint through the pandemic and I love that there are so many places that I could host the swap, but it means so much to do it there,” she said.
Follow @howtobebrokeinnewyork for more tricks on living in the neighborhood on a budget, plus details about future clothing swap events.