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Q&A With Cal Poly’s Sustainable Fashion Club: The Importance of Social Justice in Fashion

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Cal Poly chapter.

The sustainable fashion movement encompasses all processes, products, consumers, and sellers striving to create an eco-friendly and carbon-neutral fashion industry. The movement fosters changes in the fashion industry on a large scale based on social justice and ecological integrity. Sustainable fashion is important for various reasons including less waste through the use of enduring and good quality materials, proper working conditions unlike many fast fashion companies that exploit workers, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and animal cruelty safety which impacts our ecosystem. 

Cal Poly’s Sustainable Fashion Club (SFC) works towards educating students on ecological integrity and social justice in the fashion industry.  

1. What is sustainable fashion?

“Sustainable fashion is the mindful consumption practices that help in the effort to reduce textile waste and promote environmental justice. Some key practices include supporting small/local businesses, shopping secondhand when possible, and most importantly reducing consumption,” says 3rd-year Environmental Management and Protection major, Sarah Lafazia. 

“It is important because the fashion industry is one of the greatest polluting industries,” says 4th-year Statistics major and club Event Planner, Caitlin Lota.

“It is an issue that everyone contributes to in some way with effects that radiate across the world,” says 3rd-year Environmental Management and Protection major and club Secretary, Lenaya-Aiden Gonzales. 

“Especially the issues that arise and are not often covered or discussed in mainstream media such as human rights abuses and lack of protections for overworked workers of the garment industry,” says 2nd-year Environmental Management and Protection major and club Treasurer, Jordan Langley. 

2. how does the club promote and educate about sustainable fashion?

“SFC educates Cal Poly and the surrounding San  Luis Obispo community through our pillars of community, artistry, and education. Whether that’s holding educational meetings, hosting upcycling workshops, clothing swaps, posting informational graphics, or talking at conferences (e.g. Change the Status Quo), our club aims to build a community around sustainability within fashion,” says Gonzales. “SLO has had a sustainable art community since before I arrived here in 2020 that is thriving today. Something our club tries to do is both educate students on the existence of the community and encourage involvement, whether that’s by promoting local events (e.g. Art and Soul) or supporting local artists and businesses.” 

“We also work with many local and student-run small businesses at our events such as the monthly Swap n’ Shop we host in collaboration with Green Campus,” says 4th-year Business major and club Co-President, Emily Zhu. 

3. What are some ways that individuals can participate in eco-friendly shopping? 

“Being aware of overconsumption, only buying what you need, repurposing items before throwing them out, and swapping clothes with friends are great ways to get involved with eco-friendly shopping,” says Langley. 

“Above all, we encourage mindfulness, shopping locally, and supporting local artists/businesses,” says Gonzales. 

4. How does social justice play a role in the fashion industry? 

“Social justice goes hand-in-hand with the labor and environmental injustice issues we are seeing in the fast fashion industry. The exponential rise in fast fashion (the quick, cheap mass production of textiles with labor often outsourced to less developed countries) has had an increasing and disproportionate effect on underrepresented groups such as textile workers, low-income communities, and people of color,” says Gonzales. 

“Fast fashion exhibits an ironic cycle in which the top polluting countries are buying cheap garments with outsourced labor and exporting them back to the most polluted countries when they are done. Not to mention the perpetual stealing and gentrification of trends and cultural garments from other cultures and small businesses that we often hear about on social media,” says Langley. 

5. any thrifting tips?

“Understand that while some people thrift out of preference, many shop second-hand out of necessity. So it’s vital to be respectful towards the business, the employees, and other shoppers. This means only buying what you need in sizes that fit you,” says Gonzales. 

“If you can, avoid buying necessities (i.e. socks, underwear, warm coats) in order to leave some for those with a lower income. Avoid excessive reselling, removing used items from an already low pile to resell them for higher prices is detrimental for communities that depend on thrifting. Don’t thrift in low-income neighborhoods. Stick to stores with similar income levels to prevent the risk of raised prices. Also, the most sustainable item is one you already own,” says 5th-year Architecture major and club Graphic Designer, Jess Vanni. 

6. How can students get involved in the club?

“Anyone interested in getting involved with SFC is welcome to! There are no mandatory fees or attendance required, all are encouraged to join. The best ways to keep up with us is via our Instagram @cpsustainablefashion or through our GroupMe! Our LinkTree (also on our Instagram) has both of these including a few more awesome resources, including a sustainable shopping guide for SLO,” says Gonzalez. “If anyone is seriously interested in getting involved and building their resume/campus involvement, we are starting to recruit board members for 2023-2024! More information will be on our IG soon. You can also reach out to us directly via our email cpssustainablefashionclub@gmail.com.” 

Gillian is a fourth-year at Cal Poly SLO. She is majoring in Psychology and minoring in Child Development. Gillian is the Social Media Director and a writer for Cal Poly Her Campus this year. She enjoys writing about sustainable fashion, social issues, and current trends. Even though she is planning a career in psychology, she loves being a part of Her Campus because it allows her to have a creative outlet and continue her passion for writing.