Caryl Santos doesn’t normally attend school events but while walking past the Student Learning Centre with her friend Rhea Salinas on Thursday, the two were lured to the Student Learning Centre’s amphitheatre when they caught sight of a flared white dress on a clothing rack.
The dress was one of many outfits on display at RE:UP Clothing Swap, a collaboration between the Social Venture Zone and Fashion Zone, which drew a crowd to the amphitheatre all afternoon.
This is the second year for the event. It was first held on April 24 last year to coincide with the four-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, in which 1,100 workers in a clothing sweatshop were killed.
Santos loves to thrift shop and to create new styles.
“I think there’s this bias about thrift stores. Some of my friends think that [thrift shopping] is gross because other people have worn it,” said Santos.
Andrea Romero, who is the director of business development and community at the Fashion Zone, is working to change that bias, advocating that buying new or cheap is devastating to the environment.
The fashion industry – a $1.2 trillion industry globally – is the second largest polluter globally next to oil mining. According to the website Alternet, 60 per cent of the clothing is produced in developing countries.
“The main goal is getting students and faculty engaged in the process of where our clothes go and help foster the greater sense of community, we hope students promote this as well as the zones and our members,” said Anne Pringle, co-ordinator of the Social Venture Zone at Ryerson.
According to Value Village, North Americans throw away as much as 10.5 million pieces of clothing in landfills every year.
Amongst the students relaxing or studying, a mini “pop-up shop” was set up at the base of the amphitheatre. Students were given a ticket for each item they donated, or if they had no donations they could send out a tweet with the hashtag RE:UPRyerson. Clothes hung off hangers on six racks, with additional items finding a home on a nearby table.
Everyday clothing hung on most of the racks. But two carried professional wear for students who needed pieces for job interviews, work and other formal opportunities.
“We want to help students find and get access to professional wear, because the transition from student to professional is very costly,” said Pringle.
Visitors to the pop-up were drawn to the business-attire rack.
“[This] is a nice economical way to reuse clothing, I support it completely,” said
Jasmine DeZeeuw, a master’s biomedical engineering student who is looking for professional wear for her career. “I’m going into the real world now, so I have to dress professionally. I’m currently in my master’s… I’ve been to a couple of clothing swaps back in Nova Scotia, so I know the concept.”
Pringle hopes this event will heighten awareness about the conditions of factory sweatshops where many clothes are produced. And that it will also educate consumers about what happens to the clothes they discard.
For Romero and Pringle, the success of this event means a lot more than sustainability:
“Awareness is one of our goals at this event, with everything that happened with hurricanes Harvey and Irma, we really want to create an awareness about global warming and how to be more cautious with your clothing,” said Romero.
All leftover clothing was donated to Covenant House, the downtown homeless youth centre.