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Davis, California

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Thrift shopping offers a more affordable option for sustainable clothing

ASUCD Aggie Reuse Store employee, members of Aggie Trading Post talk about the sustainability, trendiness of thrifting

In recent years, more and more people — such as fourth-year communications major Lee Chisholm and fourth-year design and communication major Claire Ongaro — have made efforts to minimize fashion waste and make more sustainable choices. Chisholm and Ongaro are two of the founding members of the Aggie Trading Post, a newly-registered organization on campus. 

Chisholm, the president of the Aggie Trading Post, was inspired by a friend at UC Santa Barbara who was collaborating with the Isla Vista Trading Post to reduce clothing waste. 

“I reached out to her and was so, so inspired by what she was doing and I thought we could totally have this on Davis’ campus,” Chisholm said. “So I worked with her to open the second branch — the Aggie Trading Post. It’s been really incredible.”

With articles such as “DeWanda Wise, Star of ‘She’s Gotta Have It,’ Goes Thrift Shopping” published in The New York Times and a slew of YouTube content producers posting “thrift hauls,” there has been an increase in the popularity of thrifting in 2019. This movement was bolstered by added awareness of ethical and environmental concerns surrounding fashion companies — particularly fast fashion companies, according to Chisholm. 

“I think it’s not only for monetary reasons, especially for younger people [around] our age,” Chisholm said. “I also think that we’re increasingly becoming more aware of the negative environmental and social impacts of fashion and fast fashion. I think that the more aware that people are becoming, the more they’re choosing to shop at used and recycled clothing places.”

Chisholm also said it is important that thrifting and buying recycled clothes is more environmentally friendly than shopping at more expensive sustainable stores.

“We’re at a time in the world of fashion where you don’t have to be the last person to wear your clothes,” Chisholm continued. “Even if you’re over something, you can just go and give it new life.” 

The Aggie Trading Post held one event in Downtown Davis in spring 2019 and will be having its next one on Nov. 2. Attendees who donated a piece of clothing were allowed to take three home with them — Chisholm described a scene of attendees wandering around, clutching many items, unsure of what they wanted to take. 

“My favorite part is seeing on just how small of a scale we can actually make a difference with recycling clothes,” Chisholm said. “It’s so awesome. [Our first event] created that buzz [that] used clothes can actually be really cute; they can actually be really good quality. You don’t have to just toss your clothes away after one season of them.”

Ongaro said the group was not expecting as many donations as they received. She said this was probably in part due to increased awareness of the issues surrounding fashion and the following push for thrifting and upcycling.

“I hadn’t even thought about it until last year,” Ongaro said. “I took a sustainable design class. My eyes were opened to everything that’s happening in the world and it’s such a big problem in developing countries. It’s empowering people to make a change through their everyday consumerism.”

Helping the environment is just one reason why the Aggie Trading Post recommends thrifting; every item they carry has a history which makes thrifting and upcycling that much more special.

“Secondhand pieces of clothing are always fun to think about,” said Ella Jackson, a third-year design and communication double major and the design director for the Aggie Trading Post.  “Who was the person that was wearing this before I was? You’re not only saving a little bit of money, but you’re also buying someone else’s story.”

The next step for the group is to become philanthropically involved: they hope to give clothes to organizations that help women get jobs. The organization’s philanthropy chair will be working on that initiative this year. 

“We’re thinking about donating those things that we don’t end up giving away to places in need in Sacramento,” Ongaro said. “They have a […] donation center for women who want to apply for jobs and give [them] access to free business attire.”

Also on campus is ASUCD’s thrift store — the Aggie Reuse Store. The store started in 2011 as the project of two design graduate students and became an ASUCD unit in the spring of 2011. Originally located in the MU, the store eventually moved to its current location in front of the Silo. Fourth-year animal science major and Aggie Reuse Store upcycling lead Antoinyse Chavez works to educate the community on being resourceful to minimize waste.

“My goal and objective as upcycling lead is to provide guidance and structure for the upcycling team and all of its interns,” Chavez said via email. “We do this by hosting upcycling workshops at the Eco Hub teaching folks how to upcycle, sew and repair clothing and so much more. Not only does this help the environment by diverting waste from landfills, but it’s a great way to be creative!” 

Chisholm acknowledged that it’s not always feasible to buy everything sustainably — there are sustainable brands for underwear, for example, but often they are too expensive for college students. For other items of clothing, Chisholm recommends looking at places like Goodwill first. She recalled searching for a particular style of pants online and, after she couldn’t find them, she went vintage shopping and found exactly what she was looking for.

“It just really hammered it into me,” Chisholm said. “I was like, ‘Yes, that’s right. I should have looked here first. I don’t even know why I was looking somewhere else.’ I think people find it daunting to go to thrift stores and search through everything. And of course, there’s really crappy pieces out there and it takes a long time, but there’s also places like Buffalo Exchange and Goodwill, where it’s a more curated store and they have things that are super trendy right now.”

Chisholm plans to continue shopping sustainably after college and hopes that increasing awareness of ethical and environmental issues will contribute to more change in the fashion industry. The biggest problem now is that of expense. While some companies are stepping up to have more affordable and sustainable offerings — like Patagonia through its Worn Wear program — most sustainable fashion companies are extremely expensive. 

“I think that luckily as the world is becoming more aware of the super detrimental impacts of the textile industry and fashion, it seems like more people are working towards making sustainable fashion more affordable,” Chisholm said. “I’m hoping in the next 10 years that we’ll see a huge change and a huge influx of companies, brands and ideas that are working towards that.”

Claire Ongaro also works for The California Aggie.

Written by: Anjini Venugopal and Itzelth Gamboa — features@theaggie.org 


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