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  • Clara Shapiro Morton

Fashion Meets Sustainability Meets School Without Walls

Freed, Tillie. The thrift club sells jewelry for a fundraiser in school during lunch.

A man known to the members of the Thrift Club as Rick the Dictator is a frequent visitor at their monthly clothing donation stand in Van Ness. The club president, Dima Chiaviello, marks these interactions as some of the more memorable moments at the club. “He talks about what’s going on, his dictatorship, and he always takes clothes, which I am always happy to help with,” she said in an interview.

The School Without Walls Thrift Club meets on Tuesdays at 3:30 in Room 14. Their 10-or-so consistent members spend their meetings planning clothing drives, fundraisers, upcycling products, and more. Most recently, the club held a homemade jewelry fundraiser, where, according to Chiaviello, they raised over $120.

“I love thrifting — I am addicted,” Chiaviello said. “I really wanted to share that with other people, especially at the school.” She started the Thrift Club in 2020 to get to know her classmates despite online school and form a community of people who share one of her passions.

Beyond thrift store trips, sustainability and ethical fashion choices have always been central to the club’s mission. “Thrifting is a sustainable option,” said Chiaviello, “and I want people to be aware of other sustainable options and make educated fashion choices.” The club members have discussions about their fashion impact as well as issues of overconsumption. While critics of thrifting often argue that shoppers buy excessive amounts and take away from those who rely on cheaper clothing options, Chiaviello disagrees.

“When it comes to thrifting and overconsumption, it’s one of the better ways to buy more clothing because a lot of clothes in thrift stores end up going to waste anyway,” she said. “What we say [in the club] is [to] try to be mindful of what you’re buying, but there’s a much less harmful impact than buying from fast fashion, for example.” She argues that the criticism of thrifting takes away a viable and sustainable clothing option, and that people need to be allowed to buy clothing even if no consumption is entirely without flaw.

Their monthly clothing drives with Feed the Family DC have introduced a social justice component to their work. The club operates a stand at the nonprofit’s food pantry in Van Ness on Sunday afternoons to hand out clothes to those in need. Recently, the influx of clothing donations has increased, allowing them to hand out clothes every other week, or even every week. Information on the timing of the drives and how to donate can all be found on their Instagram page, @thriftingatsww.

To close out the year, the club is putting together a fashion showcase. While details are still unclear, planning is underway and they are hoping that the show reaches a wide audience at Walls. “We’re having people upcycle, and those who don’t want to upcycle can also model clothes,” Chiaviello said. The club is looking for artistic students and those with an interest in fashion to help with the project.

“I think there are people that don’t know that Thrift Club is a good place to be design-focused and have fun with clothes, and I want to be able to showcase that,” said Chiaviello. To close out the interview, she says, “You should join Thrift Club and if you don’t want to join, that’s totally cool, but think about your fashion impact. Stay safe, stay educated, girlies.”

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