Sustainable SLO - Setting a Precedent for our City
Over the past 6 months I have come to witness that at their core, people want to make a difference. From the conception of the idea for this event (me literally contacting Elizabeth through social media) to the night of the gathering, every step of the way people said YES. YES to helping. YES to donating. YES to showing up. I was bursting with joy when about 250 people showed up at Hotel SLO on October 25th ready to learn, mingle, and take a stand for our future.
Prior to the main event, Elizabeth Cline (author and person extraordinaire) flew in a full day early so as to present at two local high schools. Elizabeth spoke to the creative writing class at Atascadero High School and two periods of AP Lit, Intro to Fashion and Interior Design, and the FCCLA Club at SLO High School. Students inspired us with their passion for thrifting and their knowledge of resale apps like Depop, TheRealReal, Thread Up, and Poshmark. One student even mentioned how she follows the "Business of Fashion" Instagram page (which we thought only fashion industry workers used).
While their knowledge of thrifting and resale apps was apparent, Elizabeth and I were surprised to learn that student shopping habits were largely influenced by what was readily available to them. Even a 15 mile difference between campuses impacted student style choices and how they thought about clothes. While students in SLO had access to Urban Outfitters, H&M, and Ross Dress for Less (all of which were named as student shopping favorites), unless the AHS students drove to another town, they only had access to a few secondhand stores and Kmart (which has closed since the writing of this article). There are a number of factors at play here, including student cash flow (limited as they usually don't have jobs) and access to transportation. While it is not inherently true that fashion choices are intrinsically tied to wealth, it is important to note that geographic location can act as a huge influence on how people shop (even with the democratization of fashion through resale apps).
Thanks to the generosity of Sesloc Credit Union and the Sesloc Education Grant, each high school was able to purchase 10 copies of Elizabeth's books (Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion and The Conscious Closet). Teachers and students now have access to read them personally or for a class assignment. Students were so energized by Elizabeth's visit, that BOTH campuses have decided to pursue a campus wide clothing swap.
HumanKind Fair Trade not only co-organized this event with SLOTH Fashion, but they also sponsored it. Due in large part to their contributions to the huge media campaign, at the city-wide event on Friday night, two HumanKind volunteers found themselves faced with a registration check-in list that they could not keep up with. Swarms of people were showing up to "Cultivating Your Conscious Closet" trying to find a way into the event. There is no way of knowing exactly how many people attended, but looking back at photos, it is clear that all 240 seats were filled with additional people standing on the edges of the room. HumanKind also set up a camera to stream the event on Facebook Live for those who wanted to watch the talk from the comfort of their own home.
The agenda for the evening consisted of a cocktail hour in which attendees could mingle with sustainable businesses, an hour for the author presentation and Q&A, and a final hour for the sustainable business expo, book signing, and free raffle. Mayor Heidi Harmon pulled the winners for our raffle items, which included a unique lamp, glass Christmas tree, leather handbag, fair trade jewelry, a sewing pattern, and gift certificates to various sustainable clothing stores.
Attendees were enthusiastic to meet the author and pick up a signed copy of her book as well as speak with me about other sustainable businesses and the possibility of future events. In my mind, "Cultivating Your Conscious Closet" was always intended to be a kick-starter for the sustainable fashion movement in SLO. After witnessing the turnout on Friday night, the enthusiasm from our community, and the hunger for more, I now know for sure that San Luis Obispo is on a journey towards dressing responsibly. Future events are already in the works.