Whether the motivations are to expand one’s closet or to make sustainable purchases, Seattle University students have understood the popular saving trend. In college, where affordability is a major factor, this trend responds to two concerns: the need for sustainable fashion and the desire to shop.
Two Seattle U organizations, the Gender Justice Center and the new Seattle U Thrift Club, have created spaces where students can find clothing at little or no cost.
In the fall of 2021, one of the release stations at the Gender Justice Center was a clothing swap. Since then, the center has had an abundance of leftover clothing which they recently converted into a permanent community closet outside the Gender Justice Center office in Chardin Hall.
Fourth year student Keira Cruickshank, who is studying sociology, creative writing and Spanish, is a member of the leadership team of the Gender Justice Center. She explained the importance of having a permanent and accessible clothing exchange, as local thrift stores have rising prices and gender-affirming clothes don’t always go to the people who need them.
“I think clothing exchanges are really important as a way to provide access to clothing that has limited barriers,” Cruickshank said. “We wanted to create a space where anyone can pick up the clothes whenever they want and then anyone can also leave clothes so we can have a more circular economy of clothes here on campus.”
The Community Closet officially opened on March 2 and students were invited to donate and swap clothes. Sophia Hounton, a first-year psychology major, who attended the event, shared why she thinks the closet is a valuable resource.
“When a group of generally economically well-off people participate in thrift stores, prices can inflate and deprive people who rely solely on thrift stores of this resource,” Hounton said. “I think this is a great way to combat this issue while letting it be an isolated resource for our community, without harming the resources that are there for the greater Seattle community.”
For the Gender Justice Center, it was particularly important to focus on environmental and economic causes, as the need for clothing without economic barriers is essential for some students. Recycling clothes through the Community Closet allows community members to access the clothes they might need while consuming in an environmentally responsible way.
The Gender Justice Center isn’t the only clothing resource for students. The Seattle U Thrift Club was recently founded and will officially launch in the spring.
The Thrift Club’s goal is to create a store where clothing can be purchased from students and then resold for less than $10, with all proceeds going to an organization chosen by the club. This year it is Outside the closet.
The new club isn’t just focused on building a store, as it also hopes to grow its organization into a community club with once-a-month trips to local thrift stores or sustainable clothing stores in the Seattle area.
Thrift Club president and founder Amanda Perez, a freshman majoring in philosophy and psychology, hopes the club will make a difference when it comes to student shopping choices.
“Fast fashion has become so accessible to everyone,” Perez said. “To some extent it’s necessary for people who can’t afford the slower fashion items that come with very high prices. What we’re trying to do is basically give people the opportunity to get away from fast fashion, give back to their community and also get the chance to sell their clothes.
For the Gender Justice Center and the Seattle U Thrift Club, these respective resources – the Community Closet and the Thrift store – aim to support the LGBTQ+ community and recognize the importance of gender-affirming clothing.
At past clothing swap events, the Gender Justice Center has prioritized trans and non-binary students to come anonymously pick up the clothes they want. The hope is that the Community Closet will be a similar resource.
“Access to clothing where people can anonymously pick up whatever they want is something we think is really important, especially as a center that supports trans, non-binary and female students on campus,” said said Cruickshank.
The Seattle U Thrift Club is looking to sell apparel in the LGBTQ+ Office of Multicultural Affairs lounge and has strived to have gender-neutral services and labels, so that all people, regardless of identity, feel welcome. . All clothing will be shown segregated by clothing, not by gender.
“We will have a shirt rack, a pants rack, a clothing rack, which will not be based on women’s or men’s clothing. [sizing] because we don’t think that’s the way clothing should be and the apparel industry should be,” Perez said.
The Seattle U Thrift Club and the Gender Justice Center invite everyone to get involved. The Thrift Club will be open to anyone to buy and sell clothes and become an active member of the club, giving them the opportunity to work at the store and go on excursions. The center is currently accepting nominations for next year’s leadership.
Both organizations can be reached on their Instagram pages @suthriftclub and @genderjusticesu.