Omotesando is probably not the first place in Tokyo you’d expect to buy second-hand clothes. But nestled in amongst the glistening Gucci, Chanel and Ralph Lauren boutiques is a shop doing things very differently…
Pass the Baton describes itself as a ‘personal culture marketplace’ and a ‘contemporary select recycle shop’ on the bilingual leaflets available at its two exquisitely designed and presented stores (to which my amateur photos that the lovely staff kindly let me take really don’t do justice!), just part of a much wider online marketplace centered around the movement’s website.
The idea behind the concept is to help give owners of once-loved but now un-used items a way to pass them onto a loving new home. So far, so Ebay… but Pass the Baton eschews the auction process (‘games that only those with money can win’) and allows contributors to set their own price, splitting the proceeds from any sales equally with the store.
And where they really see things differently is in their philosophy – that items can actually pick up value over their lifetime as they are passed from owner to owner and develop a story of their own.
The idea of an item having added ‘social’ value is brought to life most clearly by regular celebrity collaborations. In Omotesando, part of the store is given over to showcasing clothes and other object donated by a rotating cast of contributors – whose personally curated collections help bring their story to life whilst giving shoppers the chance to take a fragment home for a reasonable price.
At the time of my visit the showcase had been put together by the Japanese stylist & photographer, Takashi Kumagai, who had donated clothes, photos, surf-gear and other items from his personal collection. Previous guests include Japanese street-style legend Nigo, who with his massive collection of clothes and American pop culture memorabilia, occupied the store for 6 months with a constantly rotating selection of goodies.
But Pass the Baton is about more than just celebrities and every item on offer comes with a tag telling the story of it’s previous owner, giving each item an added sense of value by raising it beyond being just another a ‘consumer’ good and placing it in a more human context.
Pass the Baton’s underlying philosophy is to encourage people to think a little more about their consumption by raising awareness of the value of the things that we already have – “Creating something new is a wonderful thing, but taking good care of an object that is already there can be magical”.
In that spirit, they also sell reconditioned items from selected partners, such as old Echire butter crates refashioned into tasteful lighting or Freitag wallets and bags made from recycled materials, and give a home to seconds from the clothing brand United Arrows that would otherwise have gone to waste but may still be in a good enough condition to find a happy owner.
The concept is a great example of a wider trend, that of Collaborative Consumption. As people gradually tire of being so swamped in stuff as a consequence of their consumer lifestyles and as awareness of the need to recycle grows then there will be opportunities for ideas that help people find value in sharing and pooling resources. Pass the Baton is one ingenious manifestation of how a more communal form of ownership can help add value to our lives by reducing waste, increasing the lifespan of the things we own and even adding previously unrealised ‘social’ worth to them.
Given the range of partners that are eager to get involved, from high-profile celebrities to high-end fashion brands – with Adidas the latest to get on-board – there’s a sense that Pass the Baton aren’t the only ones who see a bright future in this kind of collaboration.