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Duke Fashion Exchange wants students to express creativity through fashion

<p>Duke Fashion Exchange holds events such as “upcycle painting,” in which painted designs give old clothes new lives.</p>

Duke Fashion Exchange holds events such as “upcycle painting,” in which painted designs give old clothes new lives.

Sweatpants, flip flopsand an oversized logo t-shirt: the classic outfit of choice for your typical college student. Right? 

This campus, however, dispels all notions of the “college” stereotype. Five minutes of people-watching in West Union, and you’ll see that Duke students aren’t afraid to express their personality with their clothing. Furthermore, there's a huge diversity in how style manifests itself among the student community.

Duke Fashion Exchange (DFX) provides students a welcoming community for engaging in conversations about style and fashion. DFX seeks to promote personal expression to the undergraduate student population alongside principles of sustainability and affordability. 

In recent years, sustainability has become something of a buzzword in the fashion community. Even the fast-fashion retail chain H&M has faced controversy over allegedly burning unsold clothes while simultaneously advertising its eco-conscious brand under vague initiatives. Brands may promote their goods under the guise of sustainability in the hopes that their consumers aren’t dissuaded from repurchasing, but on campus, DFX offers a more organic means of sustainability. Its creative and innovative community allows fashion to progress in a fun, affordable and sustainable way, showing that you don’t have to come straight from the mall to look good.

The Chronicle had the chance to speak to several board members of DFX about the message and goals of the organization. The interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.


Abby Zhang is a junior and the current president of DFX. This is her third year on the board.

The Chronicle: What is Duke’s fashion community like?

Abby Zhang: Personally, I always see people wearing really cute outfits on campus, and I really enjoy it, but there’s not a huge established community around fashion. That’s what I want DFX to provide. Our mission is all about encouraging people to be creative with fashion.

TC: How does DFX incorporate the aspects of cost and sustainability into its projects?

AZ: Sustainability and affordability are two huge tenets of our club. Every single event that we do, we try to make sure that we keep those in mind. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to be creative.

TC: What makes the exchange event worth participating in?

AZ: It's my favorite event of the semester because it's a win for everyone — sellers can earn some pocket cash for cleaning out their closet, other students get great deals on really cute clothes, perfectly good clothing pieces get new life and everyone gets free food! It's seriously so much fun and we're really excited to put it on other year.

TC: Do you have any stories behind any items you’ve bought or sold through DFX?

AZ: All of our events are for the general student population. We’ll have a seller sign-up list; anyone who wants to sell their clothes can sign up and then we usually take them first come, first serve. The students determine the prices of the clothes, and they tend to sell their clothes at a pretty low price, usually five to 12 dollars. You can definitely catch me wearing something I bought from DFX. It’s really satisfying to get a good deal — I’ve gotten a cardigan for $5 once.

Annie Wang is a first-year and programming co-chair for DFX. 

The Chronicle: Can you give your impression of Duke’s style atmosphere?

Annie Wang: I was really impressed when I came here, especially looking at all the upperclassmen just walking around on campus. So many of them look super put together, and I feel like people here put a lot of effort into everything including their appearance, which I really appreciate. There are a lot of students here who are really passionate about expressing themselves through their clothing.

TC: Do you have any tips for being fashionable on a budget?

AW: One tip is that you can reuse different pieces for different purposes: for example, I have this dress that looks kinda ‘meh’ as a dress, but when you tuck it into pants, it looks really cool. Also, if I go thrifting, I also look in the men’s section — you don’t need to be restricted by labels. 

DFX has an upcoming exchange event Nov. 22 from 5 to 7 p.m. In addition, DFX regularly hosts various other events throughout the year that focus on  refashioning old clothing, including embroidery, upcycle painting and thrifting excursions.

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