Gabrielle Ray isn’t a big shopper. The mall has always been one of her least favorite places, but buying clothes secondhand excites her.
“You go in and you have no idea what you’re going to find,” she said. “It’s like a treasure hunt.”
The 19-year-old UF anthropology sophomore is the president of Thrifting Club at UF. Ray said she started the club this semester to create a community for students passionate about secondhand shopping and upcycling.
She wanted to draw attention to issues like fast fashion, or the mass production of clothing and reliance on unethical labor practices by major fashion companies, she said.
Because so much water is required to make garments, Ray said, fast fashion practices can also be extremely wasteful and release greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
Thrifting Club hopes to educate its members on issues pertaining to fast fashion with activities and workshops once it can meet in person. Clothing swaps, carpool thrift outings, DIY workshops, partnerships with other clubs and keynote speakers are some of the events Ray hopes to host.
For now, she said the club will host Zoom meetings and is planning its first for the near future.
Emily Proehl, a 21-year-old UF public health and political science senior and the club’s external vice president, has been thrifting for as long as she could pick out her own clothes.
When she was little, her mom used to put her in a shopping cart at stores and take her to the sale section first. They would go to estate sales and Goodwill on weekends and come home with more mugs than they would ever use.
She said she likes that thrifting means no item is getting destroyed — only recycled.
“It’s so exciting to be able to use something that was someone else’s once,” she said. “I kind of look at it as being able to take that item and make memories with it yourself.”
Proehl said the club wants to break the virtual barrier with events like thrift challenges, which would have people show off their favorite thrift items on social media and thrift swaps, where members would trade addresses and drive clothes to each other.
“We’re trying to be as interactive and DIY-ish as possible,” she said.
In their “journey as sustainable consumers,” the team is trying to learn as much as they teach, Proehl said. Even those who haven’t gone thrifting before can join, and those interested should follow the club on Instagram and Facebook.
When the founders started the club’s Instagram account, it reached 200 followers in a single day. Proehl said the whole executive team felt like influencers, and it felt good because it proved they were fulfilling an unmet need. The account now has over 500 followers.
“It was very validating to see people be excited about it,” she said. “I wish I had found people like this earlier.”
Julia Doyle, a 19-year-old political science sophomore, follows the club on social media and sees it as a great way for people who have similar passions and interests to come together for the sake of sustainability.
Doyle has been thrifting for about two years and said Gainesville is a great place for secondhand shopping because of stores like Sandy’s Savvy Chic Resale Boutique and the Haven Hospice Attic Resale Store. They’re functioning through the COVID-19 pandemic, she said, with mask policies enforced at stores and limited dressing room use.
She sees thrifting as a skill and wants to continue doing it to raise awareness of the fashion industry’s deeper issues. Doyle didn’t know about the questionable methods of fast fashion until about a year ago and thinks the lack of awareness for it is a big problem.
She said UF has been missing a group like Thrifting Club.
“A lot of people don’t really see what goes on behind closed doors or across the world,” she said. “If we could spread that awareness more, it would make a very significant impact.”