Emily Merten | Mustang News

When Asia Croson started swapping clothes with friends in her little apartment as a college student, it was a way to renew and recycle her wardrobe without breaking the bank. Now, it has become a way to give back to her community.

Five years after graduating from Cal Poly, Croson’s clothing swaps continue, but have outgrown Croson’s apartment. 

Hundreds of community members flocked to The Wedding Space in San Luis Obispo Oct. 1 to donate their old clothes and find new ones. Every Cal Poly quarter, Croson hosts a clothing swap to encourage the San Luis Obispo community to reuse old clothes.

Emily Merten / Mustang News

“It’s so easy. It’s so fun. There are no rules,” Croson said. “You just bring a couple things and take a couple things you want.”

All leftover clothes from each swap are donated to the Women’s Shelter in San Luis Obispo. The swap brought in a donation of over 10,000 clothing items, from business attire to baby clothes.

“It feels like a free-for-all, but even though we are getting so much from it, there are also people in need who are getting so much more from it,” Croson said. “We really have so much that we donate.”

Croson said the Women’s Shelter caught wind of the swap after a large donation from the last one, held in Spring 2017. They reached out to Croson and inspired her to collect non-clothing items for donation as well. Croson also collected feminine hygiene products and gift cards for food and gas for the first time at the Oct. 1 swap.

“It’s cool to walk around and think that there are so many people in this room that I could’ve helped. Sometimes their stories are heartbreaking — leaving in the middle of the night, leaving all their things behind — and you don’t think about how they need clothes,” Croson said.

YouTube video
Video by Austin Linthicum 

Biological sciences senior Amy Kennalley has attended three of Croson’s clothing swaps, and she has watched them grow in size every quarter.

“I like that I know where these clothes are going,” Kennalley said. “I didn’t just want to send them to Goodwill or another place, because I know they just send those around the country. I think it’s better that they stay in [San Luis Obispo] for women who need it.”

Croson chose to give the extra clothes to the Women’s Shelter, rather than to Goodwill, as a way to keep the donations within the San Luis Obispo community.

Over 10,000 clothing items were donated to the Women’s Shelter at Sunday’s swap. | Courtesy of Asia Croson
Over 10,000 clothing items were donated to the Women’s Shelter at Sunday’s swap. | Courtesy of Asia Croson

“For me, it feels so community-oriented. But when I stop to think about it globally, thinking about labor, there’s a global effect as well,” Croson said.

Child labor is often seen in the apparel industry in a number of countries, according to the United States Department of Labor. In addition, the fashion industry can create harmful pollutants and generate hazardous waste, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Reusing clothing items rather than buying new clothes may reduce people’s environmental and social impact on a global level, but it also saves students money and helps local women in need.

“You’re literally putting clothes on their back,” Croson said.

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