Cal Poly’s new Sustainable Fashion Club is calling all lovers of fashion, social and environmental justice and community. With plans for the upcoming virtual quarter, the club will provide ecological integrity and social justice education via Zoom webinars and other various events. 

Club co-presidents and founders communication studies senior Julianna Quihuiz and animal science senior Sophia Rivera met working at Campus Market their freshman year. This best friend and roommate duo bonded over a shared love of thrifting for clothing.

“Clothing is the one art form that everyone on the planet can share,” Rivera said. “It’s going to be exciting to have an outlet for people to love fashion.”

The selection of thrift stores in San Luis Obispo is “top notch,” according to Quihuiz and Rivera. Quihuiz said Rivera taught her to be more conscious in selecting stores to purchase clothing from. 

“Sophia was my muse in becoming more bold in my fashion and conscience of where I’m buying from,” Quihuiz said. “I’ve learned more about your shopping behaviors and how they have massive consequences that are beyond you.”

Growing up, both Quihuiz and Rivera said they were working class and did not have unlimited resources to purchase clothing. For them, this meant they shopped anywhere they could, which included engaging in the fast fashion industry, they said. 

“When you love something and are so passionate, you want to accumulate as much as you can,” Rivera said.

This included shopping at retail stores, flea markets and yard sales. Quihuiz and Rivera said shopping sustainably was not a popular option amongst their peers. 

Before learning about fast fashion’s impact on the environment, Quihuiz said she was an avid shopper at fast fashion stores. 

Fast fashion is clothing that is cheaply produced to capture current trends. Since fast fashion is inexpensive, people can buy new clothes more frequently. 

“High school was one big Forever 21 lucid dream,” Quihuiz said. 

Quihuiz said she is now ashamed to shop at Forever 21 and instead opts for more sustainable options. 

The co-presidents have many ideas for club events, from basic sewing workshops to an extravagant sustainable clothing fashion show.

“We want to celebrate the artistry of fashion,” Quihuiz said. 

For example, the two hope to eventually work with Career Services’ clothing closet and promote clothing swaps. Quihuiz and Rivera also want to partner with environmental clubs to teach students how to promote a more sustainable campus.

Quihuiz and Rivera said many college students do not consider fast fashion’s impact on the environment. Many students opt to buy from fast fashion companies, including new t-shirts for every club event or specific, inexpensive items for Halloween costumes.

“This capitalist society has trained us to do whatever is fastest and easiest,” Quihuiz said. “People will just order whatever online.”

Rivera said it is important to consider conscious shopping on every level, including thrift store shopping. Rivera said low-income communities need to buy certain items at thrift stores and do not have resources to waste. 

Rivera said many people also think the only way to be sustainable through fashion is by thrifting. However, many lower-income families rely on thrifting to have clothes. They said it is important to consider upcycling or purchasing clothing through sustainable clothing lines if you have the resources. 

“We need to emphasize the importance of your ecological footprint,” Rivera said. 

Rivera said students often forget about sustainability while moving out of residence halls and apartments. 

“When it’s time to move out, people just dump their things,” Rivera said. “College students opt to throw out their clothes versus driving five minutes to drop them off at a donation bin.”

Quizhuiz and Rivera hope to work with Career Services’ clothing closet and promote clothing swaps. The two also want to partner with environmental clubs to teach students how to promote a more sustainable campus. 

As Cal Poly’s Sustainable Fashion Club launches, Quihuiz and Rivera said they hope to build a club with connections that extend post-graduation. In addition to club members, the two wish to build a large club board.

Quihuiz and Rivera also have an art and jewelry business together. On Aug. 22 and 23, the two participated in a craft sale and clothing swap with other local artists. The event required masks and social distancing and 25 percent of proceeds were donated to the Free Tiana movement, Elias Bautista and R.A.C.E. Matter SLO. Quihuiz and Rivera plan on hosting a similar event with the Sustainable Fashion Club this fall.

Quihuiz and Rivera said they are not looking for people with a certain type of personal style or fashion sense to join the club. Rather, they want a diverse group of people with different styles to join the club.

“How you present yourself to the world with your clothing is your art,” Quihuiz said. “Everyone has their own sense of fashion. Diversity is beautiful.”

The Sustainable Fashion Club will host its first meeting on Thursday, Sept. 24 at 11 a.m. via Zoom.

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