Trinity’s campus is filled with some of Ireland’s most fashionable students, sporting unique, creative looks that reflect the talent at the heart of the university. In recent years, the fast fashion industry has come under increasing ethical and environmental scrutiny as details of its exploitation and degradation of the environment have come to light. This Second Hand September, Fashion Society, Environmental Society and DU Amnesty are collaborating with Oxfam to encourage students to get their fashion fix without supporting fast fashion brands. Chairperson of Fashion Soc, Chioma Muoneke, explains why it matters to “buy less and shop thoughtfully”.
As chairperson of Fashion Soc, Muoneke recognises how important clothing is for students’ self-esteem and social life. She begins by acknowledging that “Trinity is just such a fashionable college,” explaining why Fashion Soc must lead by example and “promote sustainability” in achieving this style. She argues that second hand shops “should be the default and should be what people think of first.” A passionate advocate for supporting independent companies, Muoneke encourages students to shop with “local businesses” and “charities that give back.”
In light of recent scandals in the fast fashion industry, most notably the exploitation of workers in UK factories, Muoneke stresses that this is nothing new. Although the story “hit home for people because it was right next door … There are people living like that in third world countries.” Unfortunately, fast fashion companies have been doing this for years. Muoneke notes that this exploitation only comes to light through whistleblowing or serious accidents and injuries in factories. She argues: “It shouldn’t take people being suffocated by these horrible conditions for us to pay attention.”
“Citing second hand apps like Depop as well as curated vintage stores, she acknowledges that it is a privilege to be sustainable.”
Muoneke also cites overconsumption as a detrimental effect of fast fashion. She notes, “Our first thought when we’re going out is to buy a new outfit … Why can’t we just re-wear something we have?” For students on a budget, Muoneke encourages students to find pieces to “wear forever, rather than consuming new clothes every few weeks.” For her, “that’s how you build a personal style.” Citing second hand apps like Depop as well as curated vintage stores, she acknowledges that “it is a privilege to be sustainable.” Once again emphasising the accessibility of charity shops, Muoneke stresses, “Oxfam, Oxfam, Oxfam!”
Trinity’s Fashion Soc, in collaboration with Environmental Soc and DU Amnesty, are hosting a number of events as part of their partnership with Oxfam this Second Hand September. Having hosted a clothes swap via sustainable shopping app Nuw during Senior Freshers Week, Muoneke thanks Environmental Soc for organising the event: “We were promoting them … It went really well.” Upcoming events with Fashion Soc this September include a charity shop crawl and an upcycling collaboration with Environmental Soc. The tagline for these stylish events is “Come and get some pieces for our upcoming events.”
As a small business owner herself, Muoneke understands how important it is to support independent businesses, especially those run by students. Started as a lockdown passion project, her company FurU&Me sells fluffy bucket hats. Each hat is made from sustainable materials and the faux furs are ethically sourced. Muoneke advocates supporting student-led Instagram and Depop businesses like her own, and believes it is “more rewarding when you know the Depop seller.” FurU&Me’s Instagram (@furuandme) will be announcing new designs later on this month.
“The society plans to focus on student-led businesses and vintage shops around town.”
For future Fashion Soc events, Muoneke assures students that clothing will be sourced as ethically and sustainably as possible. While acknowledging that no one is 100% sustainable, the society plans to “focus on student-led businesses and vintage shops around town.” Muoneke also notes that the society is reluctant to use charity shops as “they have limited stock and there are people that go to [charity shops] out of necessity.”
As students return onto campus this September, Muoneke has three main aims as chairperson of Fashion Soc: “Sustainability, inclusivity and highlighting independent businesses.” Most importantly though, following the incredibly challenging year it has been for college students, she wants us to “have fun this year.” Fashion Soc’s message of sustainability and conscious consumption is a testament to the power of our societies in bringing students together to create tangible social change.