Clothing exchange, art gallery brighten Old Union basement

May 20, 2011, 2:05 a.m.

Most Stanford students have probably never been to the Old Union basement, but Friday afternoon they will be able to witness its transformation from a storage space to Union Underground, a new student “art and sustainability collective.” The space is the brainchild of many students involved in a number of sustainability-focused groups on campus, particularly Students for a Sustainable Stanford (SSS) and Green Living Council (GLC).

Union Underground will combine the “Clothes Loop,” a used clothing store, and “Prevoir,” an art gallery exhibiting student art. However, the Clothes Loop isn’t meant to be purely a thrift store.

“We don’t just want it to be a Goodwill,” said Iberia Zafira ’12, who worked on marketing and advertising for the project. “We want [the space] to be a community where students can freely express themselves and feel empowered to act sustainably.”

Shaan Chugh ’14, who worked on marketing with Zafira, agreed.

“It’s something we created because we saw a great student demand for it,” Chugh said.

Union Underground incorporates elements of campus-wide events like VisionEarth and Ditch that Dumpster, an event at the end of spring quarter that allows students to give away used items that are then sold during new student orientation. What distinguishes Union Underground from these events, however, is its role as a permanent place where students can regularly find affordable clothing and other supplies.

“Instead of having just two events or one event at the end of the year, there was a need for having something that was more permanent,” said organizer Nicole Greenspan ’12.

The store will go through a three-week trial period following its opening, which organizers say is critical to determining its growth and future.

“We don’t have a previous model of this at Stanford that we can make accurate estimations out of, so it’s important to get baseline data from these few weeks,” said organizer Nicole Gaetjens ’12.

All the items and clothing will be free during the pilot period and, depending on the store’s success, will continue to be free for as long as possible.

“Initially we had been working on a thrift store model or another monetary model to make it financially sustainable,” Gaetjens said. “That’s an example of how this project has evolved. There’s a possibility that we might switch to another model later, but for this pilot it’s going to be free.”

The grand opening will take place this afternoon from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. in the basement of Old Union. Union Underground will be open from 12 to 4 p.m. every day, including weekends.

Although the students involved come from different groups and have different objectives, they have all come together for the project to promote a collective theme.

“What ties all of us together is that we’ve all identified the need for this sort of sustainability and arts collective on campus,” Chugh said.

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