Sustainable fashion and “culture of savings” on the Cal Poly campus


Recently, second-hand fashion has played a big part in the style choices of many students. Whether it’s strutting around their vintage finds or hosting second-hand clothing sales on Dexter Lawn, sustainable fashion has become rooted in Cal Poly’s student culture.

“I think the occasion plays a huge role in the culture of the campus,” said Emily Zhu, president of the Sustainable Fashion Club at Cal Poly. “90% of the time, when I ask people where they get their clothes, it’s usually in a thrift store. ”

The love for second-hand clothing at Cal Poly can be attributed to the rise of fashion sustainability everywhere, especially on social media. According to Zhu, the benefits of saving and respecting the environment are all the rage on social media platforms, such as TikTok and Instagram, and have influenced the way young adults – including college students – are dress.

“The combination of social media, the popularization of individualism and the will to change are the main reasons for the popularization of second-hand culture,” Zhu said. “I think saving is one of the only ways [that] you can find unique pieces, and people use them a lot.

Student-run clubs have sprung up to help promote ethical consumption and second-hand fashion locally. Zhu said the goal of the Sustainable Fashion Club is to combine education, awareness and creativity in the wardrobe of students. They run workshops to teach the Cal Poly community how to deconstruct clothing and reuse fabric for quilting patterns.

The Fashion and Student Trends Club (FAST) also holds workshops and promotes sustainable fashion at Cal Poly. According to FAST co-chair Advaitha Bhavanasi, while sustainable fashion is not the club’s primary focus, their goal is to normalize it through their general culture and events.

“Many of our members value personal expression because it’s something we emphasize as a board, and a lot of uniqueness and personalization comes from dropping trends and following your own style generally. through the search for original, vintage or second-hand items. Said Bhavanasi.

So far, they have incorporated sustainable fashion by organizing clothing swaps and savings trips, as well as teaching Cal Poly students how to make clothes from scratch. FAST and Sustainable Fashion clubs collaborated and hosted a fashion fair with local craft vendors on November 18, 2021.

The FAST and Sustainable Fashion clothing fair was held on November 18. Photo: Alina Jafri | KCPR

Clothing sales and fairs are also on the rise within the Cal Poly community, as clubs aren’t the only ones hosting these events. Students who simply like to save also influence sustainability on campus.

Second-year journalism students Layla Bakhshandeh and Arabel Meyer began hosting second-hand clothing flea markets on Dexter Lawn during the pandemic.

Out of a desire to bring people together and out of love for savings, Bakhshandeh asked his friends to see if they were interested in a flea market on Dexter Lawn.

The idea for Dexter Lawn’s flea market may have just started with a group discussion, but it quickly grew into a much-loved and hugely successful event. In addition to Bakhshandeh and Meyer selling their unique finds, other student vendors have made appearances in the market, selling homemade jewelry, vintage T-shirts, and other second-hand items.

“A lot of the kids we sell have the option of buying cheap fashion, fast fashion, or cheap and sustainable fashion, so that’s kind of what it is. [driving factor was]: the environmental impact that sustainable fashion can bring. Bakhshandeh said.

When Gemma Palleschi, third year in corporate marketing, started working at local thrift store Fred and Betty’s a year ago, she only encountered the local and older crowd of thrift stores in San Luis Obsipo. That quickly changed as she now sees young crowds completely taking over the thrift scene.

“More and more students started to come in, and younger and younger children kept coming in as well. It’s really cool to see that thrift stores are really all the rage now. And that has a big impact, even if it’s just a trend, even if that’s all it is, ”said Palleschi.

Palleschi’s self-proclaimed economy obsession flourished when she started working for the nonprofit Fred and Betty’s and she attributes it to her own personal growth.

“Saving was definitely a way that I found myself and became myself, just experimenting with style, because I never did that. I was very “Plain Jane”… But, being in a thrift store environment, I can finally decide for myself what I like… because it’s so affordable, and I can just donate it, I can have the luxury of just buying a dress that I want to wear once to see what I feel in it, ”Palleschi said.

This article originally appeared on, the website for the Cal Poly campus radio station. hosts content related to new alternative music and local culture.


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