Thrift stores abound across the United States, but Sloth has aspirations beyond buying and selling secondhand clothes. Based in New York University, the campus-run outfit is the brainchild of seniors Celia Reingold and Sarah Ferguson, who want to leverage the school’s global network for social activism and change. “Sloth,” they tell Ecouterre, refers neither to the deadly sin nor the forest-dwelling mammal that sends Kristen Bell into meltdown mode. Rather, the name refers to the idea of mindful consumption, which Reingold and Ferguson plan to foster by keeping closet castoffs in circulation. With the help of a $4,000 Gallatin Student Resource Grant, the duo are working on setting up a permanent space in Washington Square. We caught up with the young entrepreneurs to chat about their vision, the philosophy behind Sloth, and how they plan to create a community experience that challenges traditional models of retail.

Celia Reingold, Sarah Ferguson, New York University, NYU, NYU Sloth, thrift stores, vintage clothing, vintage fashion, secondhand clothing, slow fashion, consumerism, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style

SLOW AND STEADY

How do you define ethical fashion?

To us, ethical fashion is a philosophy. Our idea of slow consumption embodies our ideals of ethical fashion—socially conscious spending habits that support fair wages, safe working conditions, environmental sustainability, and economic transparency. In the footsteps of the slow food movement, a “slow fashion” concept has been quietly percolating, which encourages conscientious purchasing from ethical suppliers who pay a living wage and use green/recycled textiles.

In the footsteps of the slow food movement, a “slow fashion” concept has been quietly percolating.

Expanding this platform, we advocate a heightened focus on the reuse of existing garments through their remaining life span. If not discarded as trash, used clothing currently is donated to charities such as Goodwill, with better items finding their way to pricey vintage shops or designer consignment stores. We seek to create an energetic middle market at NYU, where students can exchange clothes through our system and pay a minimal price for high-quality, wearable items.

What inspired you to start Sloth?

Sophomore year, we took an amazing class in the Global Liberal Studies school called “Approaches to Material Culture,” taught by the inspirational Jessamyn Hatcher. In her class, we read Pietra Rivoli’s book Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy, which is a book about the life cycle of a T-shirt from its manufacturing to its eventual distribution, consumption, and redistribution all over the world. The facts that we learned about abusive working conditions, as well as the detrimental effect the clothing industry has on the environment, was enough to inspire us and get our imaginations going.

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Celia Reingold, Sarah Ferguson, New York University, NYU, NYU Sloth, thrift stores, vintage clothing, vintage fashion, secondhand clothing, slow fashion, consumerism, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style

IF THESE CLOTHES COULD TALK

How do you see the culture on campus on NYU contributing to your efforts?

NYU is a huge, global school and Sloth functions within this structure in a number of ways. First and foremost, it provides a community of like-minded students, faculty, and alums who crave to be part of a more intimate and personal setting on campus where they can exchange ideas, form friendships, participate in Sloth, and contribute to society.

Sloth has the opportunity to interact with the NYU community on a global level.

Secondly, Sloth has the opportunity to interact with the NYU community on a global level. Because we have campuses literally scattered all over the globe, our ultimate goal is to establish Sloth outposts within our international campuses. This will not only serve as a way for students to interact with their new home abroad but also allow them to take part in a new community and the traditions of its people.

This global aspect distinguishes Sloth as something quite different than an ordinary thrift store. By being part of a school, it can function as a hub of community, service, and consumerism instead of being limited to a retail business.

Any personal stories about garments you’ve found, inherited, or revamped?

We both have articles of clothing that have belonged to various family members for decades. I have a bandana my dad got on his honeymoon in Antigua in the early ’80s that I wear constantly. Celia has a sweater of her mother’s that they revamped by adding colorful patches and thread.

We love that garments and textiles can tell stories and hold memories from generations ago.

We love that garments and textiles can tell stories and hold memories from generations ago, and that by keeping them in circulation and by continuing to wear them, we can also invest them with meaning and our own adventures.

My dad’s scarf has been all over the world by now and has seen some pretty amazing things alongside various family members. It is these kinds of shared experiences that allow clothes to transcend being ordinary objects and become something else altogether.

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