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Los Angeles City College Students Open Their Own (Free) Clothing Store

A young woman with dark curly hair and dark-tone skin folds clothes in a room with rows and rows of hanging clothing
LACC student body President Elizabeth Yamasaki is hard at work organizing and refolding inventory after 100 students visited Cubby's Closet this past week.
(Jackie Orchard
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Los Angeles City College opened an on-campus, completely free clothing store for students this month. The idea for “Cubby’s Closet” came from the LACC student government, who identified a need on campus for students to be able to clothe themselves for interviews and fancier events, save money, and not contribute to fast fashion.

About 16 student government members and four administrators at LACC made the 2021 idea for a closet a reality. Student body president Elizabeth Yamasaki saw the idea through to completion.

How it works

Yamasaki says all of the clothes are donated, an idea she had while working at a clothing store in Beverly Hills.

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Brightly colored mural of "Cubby" the grumpy bear mascot surrounded by hanging clothes and flowers
The usually grumpy LACC mascot "Cubby" likes to shop as much as the next bear, and now decorates the hallway outside "Cubby's Closet," LACC's new free boutique for students.
(Jackie Orchard

“Items about $400 or $500, they probably had a stain, like a mark or pen or some makeup, or like a broken zipper, things like that — that are fixable, repairable — the company would tell us to like completely snatch off the tag, and cut through the clothes and throw them away,” she said.

Yamasaki asked her boss if the “unusable” clothes could be donated instead.

“They said, ‘It's against guidelines.’”

LACC acting dean Juan Alvarez stands next to Elizabeth Yamasaki in front of clothing rack.jpg
LACC acting dean of student life Juan Alvarez (left) stands with student president Elizabeth Yamasaki in Cubby's Closet.
(Jackie Orchard

Getting donations going

Frustrated by the waste in the fashion industry, Yamasaki started asking her friends around campus if they had clothes they don’t wear anymore.

“I have a lot of friends who work at Nike, Dover Street, Adidas — they said they always have to throw clothes away because they’re returned but still wearable. So I told them, ‘Hey let’s get donations started.’”

The service is simple: Any student can come in, browse the supply, and put together one outfit for free.

A room with two large windows, white walls and white ceiling with two roung clothing racks and a wall of hanging clothes.
In first two weeks, Cubby's Closet served over 100 shoppers.
(Jackie Orchard
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Yamasaki says Liz Pepper from Closet World helped her design Cubby’s Closet and make it look like a store instead of a donation site.

“Everything against the wall, that’s her design, along with the idea of keeping single-colored hangers,” she said. “Rather than when you go to Goodwill, or go to a thrift store, it's always kind of different. I want people to come in here and feel like they're shopping.”

A close-up of wooden hangers at Cubby's Closet.jpg
Yamasaki says Liz Pepper from Closet World helped her design Cubby’s Closet and make it look like a store instead of a donation site, including her idea for one-color, matching hangers.
(Jackie Orchard

Cubby’s Closet used to be a storage closet, but the space has come a long way, boasting built-in shelves, dress racks, and a small mural of Cubby himself — the school’s grumpy bear mascot.

A new outfit is confidence. You look good, you feel good.
— Elizabeth Yamasaki, president, LACC student government

How to help

Cubby's Closet
  • Hours: Cubby’s Closet is open each week from 12 to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

  • To Donate: If you have new or lightly used clothes that don’t fit but you’d hate to throw them away, you can drop them off at LACC Associate Student Government Office in the Student Services Building, Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The closet also accepts new (in the package) socks and underwear of all sizes, children's clothes, and toys. The closet says the greatest need right now is shoes.

  • Location: Here's a map. Parking at Los Angeles City College is located at 4133 Marathon St. From there, the Student Services Building is a quick walk west along Monroe St. You can also call (323) 953-4000 for more information.

Students made it happen

Juan Alvarez is the acting dean of student life and has worked at LACC for over 14 years. He says in all his time at the campus, he has never seen a student government work so seamlessly to accomplish a monumental task. He says he is proud of them.

“They had an idea and they're making it happen,” he said. “This is funded by the students for the students. They are looking at the needs of the students and they're advocating for those needs.”

Alvarez says the closet is only one week old, but ever improving.

What's next

While the center is only open two hours a day, four days a week, he promised additional work-study students to make sure that is accessible to students that “maybe are not coming during the day, or figure out a way to also open it on Saturdays, because we also have a large population of students that come on Saturday.”

Kaya Landingin, 29, is a student at LACC and was shopping in the Closet for a graduation dress. She says she used to work at Marshall’s and says Cubby’s Closet feels like a real store.

“The students are gonna love it here,” she said.

A child's play rug with roads and trucks lays underneath a bin full of donated toys, including a Darth Vader plushie.
Cubby's Closet accepts lightly used toys for children and kids clothes as well.
(Jackie Orchard

Fast fashion under fire

In recent years, more studies have shown that fast fashion is contributing to pollution and filling landfills, leaving people wondering what they can do to help.

In its first two weeks, more than 100 students have come through for their free outfit and some shelves are already empty. Yamasaki says the clothes are what you’d find in any other store.

“It's not that someone didn't want it. It's just that a lot of them didn't fit.”

She encourages classmates to stop by and see that what doesn’t fit someone else anymore might fit you perfectly.

“Everything in this room is free,” she said. “From the clothing items, to the shoes, to the toys, to the books to the accessories, purses, jewelry, every single item is free, except for the furniture. You can’t take that.”

What questions do you have about local community colleges?
Community colleges act as a gateway for first-generation students and adults seeking a second start. LAist reporter Jackie Orchard wants students — and those who support them — to have the information they need to thrive in the California Community College system.

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