Strutting a second-hand runway

(Edmonton) Taryn Cooper has her eye on a loose, silky ”boyfriend” shirt that will be floating down the runway Nov. 24 as part of a special fashion show at the University of Alberta.

At a price of $5.99, the shirt, from Goodwill Industries of Alberta, will be a bargain for Cooper, who, as a student, is making do on a typically tight budget.

But besides the savings she keeps in her pocket, Cooper is also helping a bigger cause, taking action on responsible reuse by buying into the idea of secondhand goods—in this case, clothing from Goodwill that is being featured in a show and boutique sale on campus. Powered by the theme of “Rethink, Refashion, Reborn”, the show—planned by and featuring students as models— is part of the One Simple Act on Campus Project, an ongoing take-action program created by the U of A’s Office of Sustainability.

The 25 men’s and women’s outfits plucked from Goodwill hangers for the runway range in price from 49 cents for a bracelet to $19.99 for a suede jacket, and include footwear and accessories, said Cooper, who, as vice-president of the U of A’s ECO-Style Student Association, helped organize the show along with president and club founder Alice Sech.

Partnering with Goodwill industries of Alberta and the Office of Sustainability to hold the fashion show, the ECO-Style Student Association—devoted to fashion sustainability—hopes to challenge threadbare stereotypes about buying and wearing secondhand fashions.

“Used clothing is not second choice by any means,” said Cooper, a third-year clothing and textiles major in the Department of Human Ecology. “You can create your own style, you’re not spending a lot of money and you’re not increasing demand for new clothing,” she said, noting that the production process for textiles is damaging to the environment.

It is hoped that the show will encourage the action of donating and/or buying gently used clothing and other items.

“We want people to gain awareness, and to create a new image about secondhand clothing,” said Sech, also a human ecology student. “Plus, it’s more creative to go shopping at Goodwill than at a retail store for new clothes. You have to dig deep, looking for treasure.”

And shopping at Goodwill does more than add dash to your wardrobe, said Emily Dietrich of the Office of Sustainability. Last year half a million donors to Goodwill saved 4,500 tonnes of usable goods from going to Alberta landfills. As well, shopping at Goodwill helps people with disabilities access training and jobs. “With the everyday choices that we make, we can have positive impact on our environment and in the community. It all adds up,” Dietrich said.

The Nov. 24 runway show begins at 12:15 p.m. on the main stage in SUB, and is paired with the Goodwill Mobile Boutique from noon to 3 p.m., where clothing from the show can be purchased. As well, discount vouchers will be handed out for 25 per cent off at Goodwill stores in Edmonton, effective Nov. 25–27, and ballots for a $50 shopping spree are available and can be entered at the Strathcona Goodwill Donation Centre at 7808 Gateway Boulevard.