Recently, secondhand fashion has played a large role in many students’ style choices. From strutting around in their vintage finds to hosting secondhand clothing sales on Dexter Lawn, sustainable fashion has become ingrained into Cal Poly’s student culture.
“I think second-hand plays an immense role in campus culture,” Cal Poly’s Sustainable Fashion Club president Emily Zhu said. “ Ninety percent of the time when I ask people where they get their clothes, it is usually from a thrift store.”
The love for second-hand clothes at Cal Poly can be attributed to the rise of fashion sustainability everywhere, especially on social media. According to Zhu, the benefits of thrifting and being eco-friendly are trending on social media platforms, such as TikTok and Instagram, and have influenced the way that young adults –– including college students –– dress.
“The combination of social media, the popularization of individualism and wanting to make a change are the main reasons for the popularization of second-hand culture,” Zhu said. “I think thrifting is one of the only ways [that] you can come across unique pieces, and people are utilizing that heavily.”
Student-run clubs have emerged to help promote ethical consumption and second-hand fashion locally. Zhu said that the Sustainable Fashion Club’s purpose is to combine education, awareness and creativity in students’ wardrobes. They host workshops for teaching the Cal Poly community how to deconstruct clothes and reuse the fabric for patchwork designs.
The Fashion and Student Trends Club (FAST) also hosts workshops and encourages sustainable fashion at Cal Poly. According to FAST’s co-President, Advaitha Bhavanasi, even though sustainable fashion is not the main focus of the club, their goal is to normalize it through their general culture and events.
“A lot of our members value personal expression as that is something we emphasize as a board, and a lot of uniqueness and personalization comes from ditching trends and following your own style usually through the pursuit of original, vintage or second-hand items,” Bhavanasi said.
So far, they have incorporated sustainable fashion by hosting clothing swaps and thrift trips, as well as teaching Cal Poly students how to make clothes from scratch. The FAST and Sustainable Fashion clubs collaborated and hosted a fashion fair with local craft vendors on November 18th, 2021.
Clothing sales and fairs are also on the rise within the Cal Poly community, as clubs are not the only ones that host these events. Students who simply love to thrift are influencing sustainability on campus as well.
Second-year journalism students Layla Bakhshandeh and Arabel Meyer began hosting secondhand clothing flea markets on Dexter Lawn during the pandemic.
Out of a desire to bring people together combined with her love for thrifting, Bakhshandeh asked her friends to see if they were interested in a flea market on Dexter Lawn.
The idea for the Dexter Lawn flea market may have simply started through a group chat, but it quickly grew into a widely loved and extremely successful event. In addition to Bakhshandeh and Meyer selling their unique finds, other student vendors made appearances at the market, selling homemade jewelry, vintage T-shirts and other thrifted goods.
“A lot of the kids that we are selling to have the option to either shop cheap, fast fashion or shop cheap, sustainable fashion, so that is kind of what another [driving factor was]: the environmental impact that sustainable fashion can bring.” Bakhshandeh said.
When business marketing third year Gemma Palleschi began working at local thrift store Fred and Betty’s a year ago, she only ever encountered the local, older thrift crowd of San Luis Obsipo. That quickly changed as she now sees the younger crowds completely take over the thrift scene.
“More and more students started coming in, and kids who are younger and younger kept coming in, too. It’s really cool to see that thrifting is really trendy now. And it has a great impact, even though it is just a trend, even if that’s all it is,” Palleschi said.
Palleschi’s self-proclaimed thrifting obsession flourished when she began working for the non-profit Fred and Betty’s and she credits it to her own personal growth.
“Thrifting has definitely been a way that I’ve found myself and come into my own, just experimenting with style, because I used to never do that. I was very ‘Plain Jane’…But, being in a thrift store environment, I finally get to decide for myself what I like…because it is so affordable, and I can just re-donate it, I can have the luxury of just buying a dress that I want to wear once to just see how I feel in it,” Palleschi said.
This article was originally published on KCPR.org, the website of Cal Poly’s on-campus radio station. KCPR.org hosts content pertaining to new alternative music and local culture.