Thirty-three-year-old Kim Cameron hates money. Sure, it may have to do with her measly salary as a local social worker, but we think it goes a little deeper than her bank account. "I think money is ridiculous," she says. "I don't think they were kidding when they said that money is the root of all evil." She knows what she's talking about; a while back, Cameron left social work for a slick marketing job, moved to a Red State, and immediately became ill with a mysterious disease. "I saw the empty side of money," she says. "[It was] toxic." So she returned to Portland and the human services industry, and (here's the middle-finger move) developed an airtight plan to end money: the closet swap.
And she started small. Literally. In August of 2004, Cameron started PDX Petite, a clothing exchange for women sized 0-5. Once a month, up to 30 women get together to socialize and trade clothes instead of heading to the mall and paying 30 bucks for a flimsy T-shirt. The rules for eligible clothing are simple: No rips, no tears, and they must be free of stanky living bacteria.
It all stemmed from a fashion crisis of magnanimous proportions: Cameron, herself a tiny girl, regularly invaded the closets of two similarly wee friends—who both happened to hightail it out of Oregon during the same month. "My wardrobe was getting really boring," she explained. "I thought, there's gotta be some small women I can exchange clothes with." One ad later on a local message board, PDX Petite (www.PDXPetite.com) was born, and Cameron had a rack of new duds. It was fantastic: Cameron hasn't been to her favorite fashion palace, Value Village, in over a year. But for her, it wasn't all about the "F" word. "I love free clothes," she admits. "But my goal is to save the planet."
Well, until then, at least Nordstrom's Petite Focus department is screwed. Her list-only trading parties, held at the Southeast Portland grocer People's Food Co-op and at PDX Petite members' homes, are so popular that attendance has nearly doubled at her events (from 19 women in October to 28 in November). Her next party on Dec. 16 is already nearly "sold out," so to speak. And this ain't just for the stick insects among us; an inaugural exchange for medium-sized gals took place on Dec. 6. "I'm providing something that people want at no cost, just...without electronics in between," says Kim. "It's just people standing near each other, looking at each other's eyes, wearing really cool clothes."
Visit www.PDXpetite.com for news and dates for Cameron's next clothing swap.