A person in a matching sweat set, someone in patchwork pants and another decked in head-to-toe pink with a matching beret all wait at the Sheridan Road crosswalk en route to their morning classes.
From sweats to stilettos, Northwestern students turn the campus into their very own runway. Now, with ReWear, a student-run nonprofit, students can share their style with other students to establish a communal shared closet.
Weinberg second-years Anika Dewjee and Colleen Charchut founded ReWear, a nonprofit Instagram business where students send in images of their clothing for other students to borrow or purchase. The Garage startup has grown to an Instagram account with nearly 250 followers that gives students an opportunity to buy, sell and exchange used clothes. The account has featured twenty pieces of women’s clothing since launching in July.
To get an item of clothing posted, the seller must direct message the @ReWear_NU Instagram account with size, brand and quality, and their desired price, as well as pictures. Charchut and Dewjee then make a post featuring the piece with the seller tagged. When a buyer finds a piece of clothing they want, they message the tagged seller to coordinate pickup and payment.
Dewjee developed the idea in high school after noticing how often she was buying cheap, low-quality fast fashion clothing items and how often she was borrowing clothing from her friends. Back then, she ran a similar model for about four months, and she decided to bring it to Northwestern with the help of Charchut.
Dewjee said she thought this was the “perfect place” for it because she knew many people were facing the same problems she was.
“We brought ReWear to Northwestern to create a shared closet on campus. By empowering students to sell their clothes on campus, we hope to promote secondhand shopping practices and combat the detriments of fast fashion,” she said.
Dewjee and Charcut developed ReWear as an Instagram business to encourage sustainability by creating a streamlined marketplace where students circulate used clothing. In addition to noticing the habit she and her friends had of borrowing one another’s clothes, Dewjee said she felt that there was a general sense of trust in the Northwestern community. This sense of trust coupled with students’ desire to make money made Northwestern students the “perfect customers” for the business, Dewjee said.
ReWear was selected as one of eight businesses in the Garage’s Propel Program this quarter, an award-winning entrepreneurial mentorship program for female students. This quarterly program invites any full-time female students who have a startup idea to apply. The selected students will be matched with a mentor whom they meet with three times a week. Propellers also participate in eight weekly sessions either regarding accountability or with a speaker. Charchut described Propel as “a great mix of people and just a plethora of different businesses” and Dewjee added that it has served as “a great way to like get your foot into The Garage.” The program has helped them stay on track with the goals they have set and served as a space for knowledge sharing, Charchut and Dewjee said.
“Every solution starts with a problem. Our problem was that we found ourselves spending hundreds of dollars on clothes we would only wear once from fast fashion sites we felt icky buying from,” Charchut said. “If everyone could access everyone’s closets, then the chance that someone would need to buy a new piece of clothing was unlikely…We thought, ‘Why don’t we create a collective Instagram account where all Northwestern students can post the clothes they aren’t using?’”
Weinberg fourth-year Allie Gold said having a business like ReWear would have been “amazing.”
“Every school year, I found myself getting rid of old clothes or having items of clothing that I didn’t see myself wearing very often,” she said. “Having an account like ReWear would allow [me] and my friends to easily sell/rent clothes. On the other hand, when there are themed events like tailgates or formal events, instead of buying a new piece of clothing I would have used ReWear to rent an item from another NU student. I see this account being very helpful for Northwestern students!”
Weinberg second-year Ashton Arjomand said his “fatal flaw” is wearing an article of clothing once and then feeling like he can’t wear it again. While recognizing the importance of sustainability, he described ReWear as a “double-edged sword,” specifically highlighting the uncertainty that comes with this format. Arjomand highlighted the fact that buyers don’t have the ability to try on the clothes beforehand and stressed that “clothes fit everyone differently.”
“I would follow through and buy stuff, but I would be cautious about what I'm getting,” he said.
Despite this uncertainty, Arjomand emphasized the importance of thrifting and said he hopes ReWear expands beyond just women’s clothing.
“I feel like for Northwestern students, and also just for college students in general, it's so nice to have a system like this, especially because I feel like thrifting and secondhand apparel is so in now,” he said. “I kind of hope it takes off and it becomes more inclusive for everyone.”
Although Dewjee said ReWear is currently in a “learning stage,” she and Charchut said they hope to create a website and app. They also look forward to hosting a clothing swap event down the road.
“Even though we are currently only operating through Instagram, we have seen a positive response from Northwestern students, who clearly care about the environment,” Dewjee said. “We are continuing to spread the word about ReWear to engage both buyers and sellers to grow our campus marketplace.”
Thumbnail image courtesy of @rewear_nu / Instagram