Junior Yara Mohamed lays out her clothes before the style swap begins. Photo by Kaitlyn Fulmore

Wednesday Shiflett, Contributing Writer 

A variety of clothing with a mixture of colors, patterns and different textures was set out on the tables at the Eco Fashion Style Swap event on Monday.

Room 419, located in the VCU Pollak Building, was packed, complete with a small cat welcoming people as they walked in. Discussions and laughter rang throughout the room as attendees wandered about the room, picking up and examining the clothing. 

“I found out about this event through my friend, she sent me the link on Instagram,” nursing student Genesis Amaya said. “I had a lot of fun meeting people and looking at all the clothes people brought.” 

When an attendee found a clothing item they liked, they would hold onto it or put it in a bag or box they had brought with them.  

The “style swap” was hosted by Eco Fashion, a student organization aimed at educating students about how damaging the textile and fashion industry is to the environment, according to Eco Fashion president Arianna Jackson.

“Everyone knows that plastic is bad for the environment, but no one thinks about how there is plastic in clothes,” Jackson said. 

Eco Fashion’s goal is also to educate the students at VCU about sustainability in fashion and teach students ways to make their clothes last longer, Jackson said.

“We want people to feel good about helping the environment,” Jackson said. 

Jackson said she joined the organization approximately three years ago. She said connecting with people via fashion and clothing is something she loves and that fashion is a way to boost her self confidence.

“I feel like my relationship with fashion is that it is an outlet for me and I use it as a way to make myself feel better,” Jackson said. 

Jaeden Wells, the social media manager for Eco Fashion, said she grew up working on different projects with her grandmother. 

“I love to make my own clothes. I like having that sense of pride once you finish something because you know just how long it took you and how much effort went into it,” Wells said. 

Wells said it is a team effort to come up with different events. Wells said the organization holds meetings where ideas are pitched, and then hosts events that it would want to see on campus.

Kimberly Guthrie, a fashion design and merchandising professor at VCU is also the founding and faculty advisor for Eco Fashion. She said she is concerned about the amount of waste fashion creates.

“Right now my current project is figuring out how we can integrate textile recapture and waste management,” Guthrie said. 

Approximately 2.5 million tons of textile waste was recycled in 2018, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This waste includes all nondurable goods, such as clothing, furniture, carpets, tires and footwear.

Guthrie said students have transitioned from throwing scrap in trash bins outside of the classrooms to throwing them in recycling bins. The scraps are then taken by Goodwill Industries and are shredded. Guthrie said behavior modification for students was very easy and she thought it was “very cool.” 

“It’s a little mini gold mine,” Guthrie said.

She said when Eco Fashion started out, there were only about 10 people involved. Since then, the organization has grown to around 400 members, and the organization will be celebrating its ten year anniversary this year.

“I’m so proud of the leadership, and I want to applaud the organization for being so community based,” Guthrie said. 

Alyssia Farkouh, Eco Fashion vice president and fashion merchandising student, said she grew up around fashion and was drawn to it from a young age. She said she views fashion as her “armor and protection.”

Farkouh said sustainability and fashion isn’t as talked about in Richmond as it is in other places, and Eco Fashion wants to bring more awareness to the issue. 

“You don’t want to talk about it. You don’t want to see it,” Farkouh said.