Student entrepreneurs promote secondhand fashion

By Amanda Coscarelli, March 23, 2021

As online shopping booms during the pandemic, Cal Poly Pomona students are taking part in the secondhand fashion vogue to promote recycling unwanted clothing through thrifting.

This trend, which gained speed in the past year, has become part of a larger agenda to combat fast fashion.

Theresa Akubuilo, a second-year early childhood studies student, sells thrifted women’s apparel — from strappy tanks to patterned pants — on her Instagram and Depop accounts.

She explained that fast fashion styles are usually based on designer pieces and are inexpensive and easy to produce. Workers are typically underpaid in the factories that these items come out of, and the items are unsustainable, Akubuilo added.

Akubuilo believes her business is essential in the fight against major retailers.

“I think my business has helped combat fast fashion by selling items that are preloved. I think of it kind of like recycling,” Akubuilo said.

Akubuilo started her business last summer as a way to earn extra income. She shortly realized that there was a growing market for thrifted and secondhand clothing, noting that purchases on resale sites such as Depop have grown “exponentially.”

Although Akubuilo started her business by selling her clothes, she expanded to offering her favorite thrift finds when she saw a push for secondhand items, which she attributes to the growing interest in social media.

Especially among young adults, Akubuilo explained that fast fashion, which she describes as “mass-produced replicated fashion show and runway styles,” are more frowned upon.

“Usually, you see these types of styles in Forever 21 or H&M or even Zara,” Akubuilo said. “It’s bad for the environment because so much material and resources go into clothing production. And also, people are criminally underpaid and overworked in sweatshops to produce this clothing.”

She explained that when consumers purchase items from fast fashion companies, they are more likely to go through clothing and continue buying new items because trends quickly come and go. During the pandemic, with more people at home, online consumerism has increased among college students.

According to Forbes, a Bazaarvoice statistic found that 62% of U.S. shoppers said they shop online more than they did before the pandemic.

“(Fast fashion) items are oftentimes not built to last,” Akubuilo added. “When you shop secondhand, like with my or any other secondhand business, you’re getting an item that is more likely to stay in your closet longer and also help the environment and save resources.”

Like Akubuilo, third-year apparel merchandising and management student, Stephania Flores, manages Bad Lil Hyna, an apparel business on Instagram, where she sells various items including party dresses and bra tops that she designs and creates herself.

She started her business after interning for Guess, where she learned a lot about the harms of fast fashion. She explained that while buying from big-name brands is “inevitable,” supporting small businesses is important.

With a small budget, like many other small businesses, Flores depends on word of mouth and loyal customers to keep her business running.

Along with sellers, the secondhand fashion trend is popular among consumers as well.

Elisabeth Echevarria, a third-year geology student, found themself shopping more than usual during the pandemic since they had “nothing better to do” at home.

Echevarria explained that while it is more difficult to support local and small sellers during the pandemic, Depop and online thrift stores make it possible to stay away from major retailers.

While fast fashion is difficult to avoid, there are numerous ways to get involved with sustainability on campus. For tips on promoting an eco-friendly lifestyle, students can visit CPP’s Office of Sustainability.

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