Interview: Michelle Lowe & Jessica Schoefer Of The LoopCycle

Twenty Two got the special opportunity to learn a bit more about The LoopCycle, a brand new sustainable fashion project at UC Berkeley, from founders Michelle Lowe and Jessica Schoefer.

Twenty Two: Tell us a little bit about yourselves.

Michelle: I recently graduated in December 2011 from UC Berkeley with a double major in Media Studies and Society and Environment. I enjoy photography, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

Jessica: I’m currently a senior at SF State studying Apparel Merchandising and a Marketing minor. When I have a chance, I love to hit the tennis courts and spend time with my friends, family, and two beagles.

Twenty Two: Awesome. Tell us a bit about The LoopCycle. Why did you start it?

Michelle: It first started off with me working with the UC Berkeley Office of Sustainability on several media projects, as featured on our Talking Louder About Sustainability page. I was asked to think of a relatable topic on sustainability and how we could present that idea in some visual format. That’s when I thought about sustainable fashion specifically on the topic of reused and recyclable materials. Since people are hesitant to wear used clothing, I thought it would be a creative idea to showcase used clothing through a more stylized, fashionable light. So with my interest in photography, I thought it would be interesting and unique to do a photo shoot using models from FAST and clothes from the Berkeley co-ops’ free piles.

Jessica: Michelle came to me to ask if I could come on board to help her with the shoot. Before we had mentioned working together in a shoot, so it was good to have something to work on together. As a student at SF State there is a huge emphasis on sustainability within the Fashion Program. So really there was a natural synergy.

Twenty Two: Sounds great. So, it started out as a photo shoot. Now it seems like a resource covering a variety of topics, like removing stains on used clothing, upcycling, and even how to make a stunning statement necklace. Can you tell us more about this?

Michelle: It started out with a photo shoot and then we began thinking about how we’d be able to display the images and what sort of platform we wanted to use. Working with Kira Stoll, the Sustainability Manager, we decided on creating a blog where we’d have a few articles as a resource for people to find more information on sustainable fashion. With our one year time frame and with just Jessica and I writing the articles, our main goal/focus is to inspire students with the blog.

Jessica: The resulting articles were pulled from some of the things we ran across as we went about styling the photo shoot. There really was a plethora of information to work on that it was hard to narrow it down.

Twenty Two: Can you talk about some of the partners and sponsors you’re working with?

Michelle: We worked with the Office of Sustainability (Kira Stoll). The project that this is under is the Talking Louder About Sustainability campaign which is funded by The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF). The landscape that we used for our photo’s backgrounds are from the UC Botanical Garden.

Twenty Two: You’ve mentioned that you’ve spent some time in the free piles of a few of the Berkeley Student Cooperative houses. That’s a great place to get some free stuff. (I’ve been in a free pile or two… or most of them). How was that experience? Did you luck out in some more than others?

Michelle: First off, the two co-ops we went to were Lothlorien (Loth) and Casa Zimbabwe (CZ).

Jessica: Both of the above co-ops were really nice and welcoming in allowing us to go through their share closets, especially as we weren’t members. I don’t think we can say that we ‘lucked out’ at one co-op over the other as we had no idea what we would find. Whatever we found in the free piles that excited us we pulled and later worked to make into a cohesive, overarching theme for the outfits in the shoot.

Twenty Two: What was it like to style clothes that you found for free or for cheap? It must have been a bit more difficult to find pieces that complimented each other and fit your vision.

Jessica: We just had to go into the co-ops and keep an open mind as we had no idea what we would find there. It really helped that after the pulls we would go through and look at all the items we found and try to figure out what could work with what, what themes were going on, etc. It was a fun challenge.

Michelle: Then looking at our photos from the photo shoot I think we pulled it off pretty well in making free/cheap clothing look fashionable and wearable.

Twenty Two: What kind of an impact do you want to have on Berkeley students? Would you like to expand outside of Cal?

Michelle: As I mentioned before, we wanted to focus on inspiring students to think about sustainable clothing, reusing materials (not just clothing), recycling, and reducing the amount of waste that end up in landfills. We know that our blog really only touches the tip of the iceberg, but it’s nice that it can be a starting point for more discussion on sustainability. One idea that would be cool is to start up a sustainable fashion magazine. We have Bare Magazine and FAST so it’d be neat to surround one around a sustainable lifestyle.

Twenty Two: What are your short-term goals for The LoopCycle? Long-term?

Jessica: Short-term goals for The LoopCycle are to continue to update and gain a greater readership. Long-term goals would be to have a greater number to writers and to bring other topics into the discussion.

Twenty Two: You found some of the clothing for the shoot from Plato’s Closet. What are some of your favorite thrift stores in the Bay Area?

Jessica: Crossroads and Buffalo Exchange are two good ones. You can find some good steals at Goodwill as well.

Twenty Two: How can Berkeley students get involved with The LoopCycle?

Michelle: They can email the Office of Sustainability and check out their Facebook.

Jessica: We really tried to structure our articles so that readers could comment and interact with the blog as well. We love to hear feedback!

Twenty Two: Last question: What are some resources that you’d recommend for students who want to be more eco-friendly? How about in the larger Bay Area?

Michelle: I’d say in terms of Berkeley there are so many resources. We’ve linked many here. Also a good place to start is asking the Office of Sustainability. They have a newsletter that comes out with all sorts of sustainable ideas, information, and events surrounding sustainability on campus. For clubs, there is a sustainability forum that happens every year where they can find out more about the different sustainable clubs.

Jessica: As for the larger Bay Area there are so many different resources out there that are underutilized. I would encourage everyone to get out there and look into organizations near them. SF State really works to promote sustainability as well.

A special thanks to Michelle and Jessica for giving us the opportunity to learn more about The LoopCycle. You can keep up with The LoopCycle by taking a peek at their blog.

Click on the images below to see more from The LoopCycle.

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