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Written by: Diana Dupelord, Chef Andrew Scholar

When I was 16, I had a bit of an eye-opener about how the fashion industry really shapes our world today. You see, in my family, it was totally normal to have multiple copies of something, and we thought it was a big deal.

But as time went on, those “big deals” ended up stashed away in boxes, never to see the light of day again. Then came 2019, a year that turned out to be a real learning experience for me. I originally set out to learn about financial literacy, but little did I know, this journey would completely change how I looked at my wardrobe.

The word ‘minimalism‘ started to take on a whole new meaning for me. It began to signify freedom – not just in terms of finances but also in cutting down on fast fashion. I dove into documentaries about how fast fashion impacts the United States and, more importantly, the damage it does to underdeveloped countries. The sad truth is that this industry’s pollution continues to wreak havoc on marginalized communities worldwide, from landfills to beaches and waterways.

This newfound awareness lit a fire under me, pushing me to rethink my shopping choices and take a closer look at the story behind the clothes. After connecting with others and hearing their stories, I found myself asking, “How can I change my life?”

So, I embraced the idea of “quality over quantity” and started shopping smarter. I found two options that really worked for me. First, I began investing in quality items that were built to last and were versatile and sustainable. And second, I dipped my toes into the world of second-hand fashion. I got involved with a business that supported the second-hand fashion community, where people could buy and sell gently-used items. This led me to start my own small business, selling items that had lost their charm for me. I loved the idea of giving these items a second chance to shine in someone else’s wardrobe. It made me realize that second-hand fashion is way more diverse than I initially thought.

Over the last four years, I’ve changed my shopping habits to be more efficient. My closet now boasts a mix of second-hand gems and high-quality, sustainable pieces that can be styled in many ways. I’ve also joined clothing swap events both on and off campus. These events not only let me pass on items to others but also offer the chance to pick up gently used items that spark my creativity. I’ve turned these items into fun projects – whether it’s revamping a bag, patching up some denim, or giving a dress a fresh makeover.

As I continue to shine a light on the fashion waste issue, I’m constantly exploring new ways to reduce waste and get better at upcycling. It’s been quite a journey, and I’m excited to see where it takes me next!