Bloom tackles fashion industry complexity

Photo of woman's torso. She is wearing a white blouse and has a bead necklace with a die, flower, key letter and others attached to it. She's also wearing a shirt made of magazine cut-outs that say phrases like "Girls With Power" and "Pride."
Bloom Boutique equips students with sustainable practices when it comes to buying and owning clothes. (Photo courtesy of Bloom Boutique)

Bloom Boutique, a funky and sustainable resale boutique within the USC community, is redistributing donated clothing to raise awareness of fast fashion’s impact on the environment and labor workers. At pop-up sales around campus, you can find  unique items, which help keep excess clothing out of the landfills and teach about sustainable shopping options. 

Not only does the organization fight fast fashion, but, in a commitment to sustainability and social justice, the boutique also shares all of its proceeds with local charities such as the Downtown Women’s Center and Los Angeles Garment Worker Center.  

Casey Goldstein, a senior majoring in fine arts and the co-president of Bloom Boutique, has championed the club’s message and goals since her sophomore year.

“We take donations from anyone and any pieces of clothing,” Goldstein said. “It really is an amazing way for us to get connected with the USC community and also enable the circulation of clothing instead of the waste of it.”

For Kimberly Grabiec, a junior majoring in business administration and a member of the club since her freshman year, Bloom Boutique’s sustainability efforts are particularly appealing because of their focus on creating a difference locally.

“It stays really local and community-based since donations and sales all happen on campus,” Grabiec said. “Then we donate proceeds to local organizations, so I think that’s really cool because you really see where things are coming from and where they’re going.”

Sophie Hall, a sophomore majoring in theatre, said they joined Bloom Boutique because of their interest in the fashion industry.

“What drew me to Bloom, specifically, was first, Bloom’s values of sustainability, based in upcycling clothes and using the resources we have to create things that are more unique and just more exciting,” Hall said. “But, there’s also the element that we have of donating to charity … and the proceeds go to  different things.”

Hall works for Bloom Boutique’s creative team, where they spend their time as a stylist doing photoshoots to promote events and sales and creating content for the club’s zine, which is a publication that highlights Bloom’s emphasis on fashion and sustainability driven values.

Bloom Boutique created the zine  last spring as a way for the organization to keep creating during the pandemic, Hall said. Through poems, writing, photoshoots and doodles, the club was able to work together during a time they were physically apart. 

After the coronavirus hindered the ability to host events and clothing drives, the organization is shifting back to its in-person presence. During the pandemic, a lot of its clothing sales were virtual and centered around Depop as well as its social media and website. Now, the club is having in-person meetings, clothing drives called “upcycling days” and sales.

Within Bloom Boutique, there are multiple subcommittees that tailor to each aspect of the club. In addition to the sales team that organizes the clothing sales that garner lots of interest, Bloom Boutique produces editorial content, conducts photo shoots and distributes a newsletter, offering a variety of ways to share their message of sustainability. 

“It’s a group of people that recognize that there’s a lot of complexity to the fashion industry, as well as the importance of sustainability in it … It’s not your average fashion-related club,” Hall said. “There’s so much more to it that relates to values and relates to finding people with common interests.” 

This organization of the club allows for general members to look into each department and feel comfortable trying new things, Grabiec said. 

“You’re really able to do whatever you want as a general member, in terms of mixing together different groups in the club,” Grabiec said. “If you have any projects in mind or any things you want to do, you can just bring it up to your eboard leader and make it happen.” 

Bloom Boutique plans to continue raising awareness for the exploited and underserved communities of the fashion industry, while emphasizing a sustainable approach to the industry that fights back against fast fashion. According to Grabiec, the club is continuing to have the difficult and complicated conversations that come with fashion sustainability, including the ethics of reselling and thrifting.

“I think that [conversation] was pretty important since we are a thrifting club, so it was cool that we were able to sit down and recognize the negative sides of that, too, so we could work toward improving the club,” Grabiec said. 

Beyond the power of Bloom Boutique’s sustainable practices, Goldstein cherished the organization because, from the moment she became a part of the Bloom community, she knew it was an amazing community of like-minded sustainable creatives.

“Aside from just our mission, it is just like an amazing group, every single person in it,” Goldstein said. “Everyone wants to be there and be a part of the community, so it really is an amazing culture.”