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Interview with Lauri Apple - the creator of FoundClothing

Interview with Lauri Apple - creator of FoundClothing

Here is a short interview with Lauri Apple, the creator of FoundClothing.

You run a site called FoundClothing, which basically is an online archive of clothing and accessories that you find in the trash or left on the streets, take home, wash and wear.

How and when did you come up with this whole idea?

I had the idea for the Website in March 2006, while I was sitting in the lobby of my law school procrastinating. I had been thinking about how long I had been finding clothes -- since 1994 -- and that there might be potential for a project of some sort based on my activity. I went home that night, took photos of all of the trashion in my closet, posted each photo with details about where the items came from and when they entered my life, and had a site.

The idea itself originated in 1994, when I passed the trash area behind a resale shop by my house and found a bunch of vintage clothing, including a great fur-trimmed jacket that I still have. After that, I remember looking at trash a lot more frequently, and going on scavenger hunts with my roommates (we were all very frugal, pro-recycling types).

What made you consider starting a whole website dedicated to just this cause?

"I hope people look at my site and are disturbed by these reminders of wastefulness and consumerism run amok."

It seemed likely that other people were out there, doing the same thing, and I wanted to give them a place where they could also show off their finds. Also, it was my own spin on the whole idea of "foundness" -- we have Found Magazine, for example, but there was nothing about found clothes. We wear clothes every day, and use our clothing to communicate messages about ourselves, and we lose and throw away clothes, and all of this activity should be documented somehow. Finally, the site advocates recycling and conservation of resources. I mean, why are people STILL throwing away clothing -- perfectly useful, designer goods -- when we have Goodwill and Buffalo Exchange and so many resale shops?

Does this make you feel you're contributing in the drop of the number of garbage and thus protecting the earth?

In small ways, yes. Of course, I'm just one person, and I don't go hunting for things -- it often just comes to me. I'll be walking down the street, minding my own business, and suddenly get this feeling -- "look inside that can." This happened to me the other day on the way to meet a friend for coffee. I looked inside the can and there was a giant Steve Madden bag full of button-down shirts, sweaters and other clean, lovely things to wear. It's kind of eerie.

Anyway, I encourage other people to do what I do -- that's the way we're going to really impact the waste stream. Also, I hope it bothers people to see these great items that almost ended up in the landfill -- I hope people look at my site and are disturbed by these reminders of wastefulness and consumerism run amok.

Do you have any favourites among the clothes you've found?

Many: My fur-trimmed jacket. My Armani sweater with sequins. My favourite jeans. My BCBG Max Azria dresses. My black Club Monaco skirt.

I often get the feeling of "dirtiness" when I wear clothes that other people have used. I can't seem to get away from that feeling until I have washed and used the clothes a few times. Do you ever get that feeling?

No. I ALWAYS wash everything before wearing it. Also, when you go to the store to buy clothes, you don't know who or what was trying the items on before you -- it could have been someone with a skin infection or terrible hygiene habits (not to gross anyone out, of course).

What kind of feedback have you gotten since the launch in March 2006? Have you gotten any FoundClothing "followers"?

My feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. People from Australia to Addison St. in Chicago have emailed me their stories, pictures and encouragement. I do seem to have a few followers. Lately I've been putting more personal information up there, which is always tricky because I tend to be pretty open about my life, and you wonder how much information is too much. But that's a problem every blogger faces, I suppose.

Do you think your site influences people on acting generally in a more eco-friendly way?

Hopefully. Perhaps it takes away the stigma of wearing trashion for some people who are on the fence about it -- people who think there's nothing wrong with wearing trash clothes, but who are uncomfortable with what others might say.

"We abandon our clothes, we abandon each other — the book would tie these two themes together."

Did the media coverage increase the number of visitors of the site? Did people get any more interested?

This part has been a bit disappointing. When an article or TV segment appears, I see a spike in readership. Then it falls back down, always a bit higher than the previous baseline, but I have yet to figure out how to keep people coming back. I don't know if it's because some of the press I've received have treated my Website as more of a novelty than as an issues-based Website, or what. If anybody has ideas on how to resolve this, please email me.

Are you thinking of making some sort of expansion of the site and its activities?

Yes, I would love to write a book about the site. The focus would be on the issue of abandonment. We abandon our clothes, we abandon each other -- the book would tie these two themes together.

I read sometime ago that a person living alone is contributing more to climate change than people living together. What are your thoughts on that?

I think it depends on the living arrangement. A person living alone who does not own a television, stereo, or other major appliances, or a car, will use less resources than a couple that lives in the suburbs and drives everywhere. I try to keep my carbon footprint on the Cinderella side of things: No TV, no stereo or radio, no car. No CD purchases, no books -- everything digital or from the library. No meat. I also turn the lights off! Keeping the lights on in empty rooms is one of my pet peeves.

From your experience, do people throw away just too easily objects that are still useful?

Yes, all the time. All kinds of objects. And a lot of people don't think about making it easy for others to salvage these objects. If you're going to throw something away, set it aside. Don't put it in with the banana peels and the band-aids. Think about other people!

Do you believe that new media, like the Internet and blogs like yours, will play a big role in helping us all becoming greener?

It seems to be. Now, people in small towns can hop online and buy green. They can have more and better choices. People use the Internet to trade information on everything, and I've definitely benefited from this – often people in the UK and other countries send me photos of their own trashion finds. I couldn't do what I do without the Internet -- it enables me to both talk about my finds and display them, for almost-free. It's a wonderful thing.

It currently looks rather grim, but, do you think we will successfully combat climate change and stop its worst effects? And how do we do it?

It's going to take a major philosophical shift. People are going to have to get over their sense of entitlement, as well as their expectations that everything must be air-conditioned, convenient, and large. Living simply, scaling down one's lifestyle and recycling are the keys to fixing the climate change problem. Also, tougher standards to rein in the factories that make all of the stuff we over-consume.


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