A constant flow of students browsed through donated clothing items between classes at the Lehigh University Swap Shop and Lehigh Panhellenic’s collaborative pop-up shop. Students were able to both donate and take clothing items on the STEPS lawn.
Lehigh Panhel teamed up with the Swap Shop to host the event. Each of the eight Panhel sorority chapters donated a box of clothing to be used at the Oct. 26 event.
Students were able to take up to two items of clothing each. They also learned more about the shop’s efforts to combat fast fashion.
Fast fashion describes cheap, stylish, mass-produced clothes that have an impact on the environment. These garments appeal to shoppers because they are affordable and trendy.
The Swap Shop is a free thrift store that started in 2020. When it first opened, the store operated solely as a pop-up shop for Lehigh’s campus. Now, they have a permanent location in the Office of Sustainability, where students are able to donate and shop for clothing at this location.
Elen Karagulian, ‘24, a member of both the Swap Shop and Panhel community, said a big reason the organizations came together for this event was to increase awareness of the shop around campus.
Karagulian said the two organizations collaborated in part because Greek life on campus is a large contributor to fast-fashion trends. She said members of the Greek organizations will better understand their consumerism by connecting with the Office of Sustainability.
“I hope to just get the student body more aware about sustainability on campus,” Karagulian said. “I feel like people don’t even know that Swap Shop exists, and that they have this creative outlet and space in the Office of Sustainability.”
Karagulian said the shop aims to mitigate the issues presented by fast fashion on college campuses. She said buying cheap clothing results in unsustainable practices.
“In this age range, everyone is spending so much money on fast fashion and not really thinking about the consequences,” Karagulian said. “They are just mindless actions, spending money on cheap clothes. This is a good way to still take into consideration the cost but do it in a more sustainable way.”
The clothing ranged from Halloween costumes to winter coats and summer dresses.
Jada Gonzalez, ‘24, a frequent donor and shopper at the shop, said sustainability is a passion of hers.
She said the impact of fast fashion is something she worries about, especially on college campuses and within Greek life.
“Fast fashion in a global sense is a really dangerous thing to encourage,” Gonzalez said. “From our standpoint, it’s probably really awesome to buy cheap clothes, but there’s a lot of situations where the people who are making the cheap clothing you are getting are actually crying for help.”
Gonzalez said she is content with the success of the pop-up, as it was a great way to educate a larger student population about fashion sustainability.
Grace Allen, ‘23, member of the Panhel community and an event attendee, had similar concerns about the issue of fast fashion.
Allen said it can sometimes be more convenient for college students to buy cheap clothing, but the Swap Shop is a much smarter option to reduce waste coming from shopping first-hand.
Although she was familiar with the Swap Shop before, she said many of her peers were not. She said teaming up with the Panhel community was a successful way to get the word out about the Swap Shop.
“Being able to have events like this not only brings the Panhellenic chapters together, but also connects them to the greater Lehigh community,” Allen said.