By  on June 1, 2007

LONDON — Visa, the credit card company that makes a fortune on luxury shopping sprees, has gotten into the secondhand, cut-price fashion game.

Visa Europe opened a temporary "swap shop" Thursday on London's Brompton Road, between Harvey Nichols and Harrods, where customers can trade in their old clothing and accessories for others' castoffs. It's purely a marketing move for Visa, which has cottoned on to the swapping trend that's hot among London's young, fashion-forward — and environmentally conscious — crowd.

All clothing not sold in the temporary shop will go to the U.K. charity TRAID, which raises money for poor communities by selling recycled clothing and shoes.

"For us, it's about publicity — not about making money," said Fiona Wilkinson, senior vice president of communications for Visa Europe. "We want to appeal to a young, female audience and show that Visa can be about everyday shopping for small things — and not necessarily about spending vast amounts of money."

The company has tapped Mischa Barton as the face of the promotional campaign, and has recently launched an editorially driven Web site, visaswap.com, with comments from fashion editors, as well as advice on trends, hot items to swap and buying secondhand merchandise.

The shop started collecting used merchandise Thursday from customers who will earn points for the items they turn in. From June 15 to 17, customers can return to the store to cash in their points to buy the newly sorted, tagged and merchandised stock. When their points run out, customers can use cash or their Visa cards to pay for purchases. Visa plans to donate that money — it's expecting to raise up to $40,000 — to TRAID.

Although the bulk of the merchandise on sale will be secondhand, some of it will be new. Harrods plans to donate exclusive clothing, bags and shoes to an area of the store called Swap Shop Boutique. Labels and designers including Burberry, Issa, Sass & Bide, French Connection, Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Bella Freud and Philip Treacy will also donate new, exclusive wares.

Celebrities, including Naomi Campbell, Kylie Minogue, Samantha Morton and Helena Bonham-Carter have also pledged to offer some of their hand-me-downs for the event.During the June sales weekend, MAC makeup artists and stylists will be on hand to help shoppers put their looks together.

Wilkinson said if the shop is a success, they will take it on the road to other U.K. cities. and maybe even to continental Europe. The U.S. is a possibility, too, but Wilkinson said Visa wants to gauge first if there is any interest there.

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