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.
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.