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Future in Fashion Association keeps the spirit of fashion alive

<p>Originally established to help students navigate careers in the fashion industry, FFA now serves as a creative outlet for anyone interested in expressing themselves through clothes.&nbsp;</p>

Originally established to help students navigate careers in the fashion industry, FFA now serves as a creative outlet for anyone interested in expressing themselves through clothes. 

From minimalist styles to statement pieces, fashion offers everyone the chance to get out of their comfort zone. Here on Grounds, the Future in Fashion Association holds onto this belief, encouraging students to weave styles both old and new into their studies. Originally established to help students navigate careers in the fashion industry, FFA now serves as a creative outlet for anyone interested in expressing themselves through clothes.  

FFA hosts a range of events — from guest speakers to socials — but is widely known for its bi-annual Thrift on the Lawn, a marquee where any University student may sell old clothing and purchase new garments from the closets of their fellow Wahoos. This spring’s exchange is slated to take place Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on South Lawn. If bad weather occurs Friday, the tentative rain date is April 19 at Lambeth. 

The pop-up thrift shop will offer over 800 items that were sold to FFA in the past week. Student sellers receive 100 percent of the profits for every garment of theirs sold, and any remaining clothing will be donated to a local Goodwill.

According to Julianna Santella, FFA president and fourth-year College student, FFA not only offers events for students to purchase clothes but also hosts events where students may try on unconventional styles. Since some students may not often switch up their style when dressing for class, Santella said FFA hosts themed socials that encourage students to experiment with more formal attire.

“We want to give people an outlet to have a fancy event or something to dress up for because that’s not always the case when you go to college,” Santella said. “Everything's more casual, and you're not in New York, so you can’t always get away with an outlandish outfit.”

FFA attracts students with a wide range of fashion-related interests today, but Santella said the organization didn’t always have a large presence on Grounds. She said the Contracted Independent Organization initially aimed to prepare students for careers in fashion then expanded its mission to appeal to both pre-professional and creative interests.  

“[FFA] started because there wasn't a set career path for people who want to go into the industry,” Santella said. “Since then, it has expanded towards anybody who has interest in fashion or wants to have a creative outlet.”

FFA still aims to connect students with the fashion industry by hosting speakers who may provide professional advice about the field of fashion. The organization has previously hosted business executives from Steve Madden and Carolina Herrera and recently welcomed Olivia Cleary, founder of The Clearly Collective scarf company and Class of 2020 alumna. Santella said FFA has been able to host a variety of fashion professionals, often getting in touch with prominent names through online platforms.

“Social media makes it super easy to contact entrepreneurs in the fashion industry that are smaller,” Santella said. “[Cleary] is really cool because she was an Architecture student, but she makes silk scarves out of college [designs]. She’s viral on TikTok.”

Along with its speaker series, FFA organizes wine socials to foster community among its members. These gatherings have been held on Grounds and even at thrift stores, such as Wild Earth thrift shop, which closed early for the CIO and gave all its members a discount.

Jojo Moses, FFA events coordinator and fourth-year College student, said FFA’s mix of professional and social support is unique amongst CIOs on Grounds. As she prepares to be an assistant buyer for Bloomingdale’s this fall, she said FFA not only helped her prepare for a career in the fashion industry but also introduced her to a group of innovative students.

“The hub of people there is really perfect,” Moses said. “It's cool to be surrounded by people who are interested in fashion because at U.Va., I think that's a little bit of a rarity. You're surrounded by people who appreciate trying new things.”

The upcoming Thrift on the Lawn event is what Moses refers to as “her baby” — something both she and Santella have devoted great effort to fine-tuning over their years with FFA. 

“Every single time we have the thrift shop, we learn 10 new things we could do to improve it,” Santella said. “When we [first] started, it was on Mad Bowl, and it was just a table of clothes. It has been fun to [watch it] get bigger and bigger, and I'm really proud of how much it's grown.”

The event will also offer items from local stores such as Wilder and Quattro Tizi, expanding upon its already extensive selection. Santella emphasized how Thrift on the Lawn is an opportunity to shop secondhand right on Grounds and connect with people who are just as excited to discover hidden clothing gems. 

“It's an effort to fight overconsumption, you know, like not going out to buy a new t-shirt on SHEIN and instead looking for a shirt that maybe somebody else wore for three months and doesn't need anymore,” Santella said. “It’s about shopping sustainably but also bringing together people that like to shop, like to thrift and want to express themselves through clothes.”

For Moses, Thrift on the Lawn is a convenient way for students to engage in circular fashion, the practice of recycling clothing. She said the event captures the inventive spirit of FFA, inviting students to weave “old” clothes into their future outfits. 

“It's fun to see someone so excited about something that you didn't wear that much,” Moses said. “Now you know it's going to get a whole new life.”


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