Since 2016, Smokey’s Closet has been an important and helpful resource to UT’s students.
The store, which functions as an on-campus retail store, provides professional clothing — from tops to pants to ties — completely free to students in need.
While in the past it has been located at Dunford Hall, the store recently moved to the bottom floor of Greve Hall, next to the post office. The store is now open every Friday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
“I think it moved here because a lot of students come in here for different reasons and know what Greve (Hall) is, so it’s a more convenient location,” Taylor Jefferson, freshman in communications and employee at Smokey's Closet, said.
It's very simple for students to get clothes from Smokey’s Closet; all a student has to do is fill out a form and pick out what they like. The employees in the shop are ready and willing to walk students through every step of the process.
The organization receives donations of clothing mostly from professors and teaching assistants at the university, Jefferson said. Many campus organizations also organize their own drives to donate clothing.
“We’d like to branch out into private companies,” Noah Dunlap, director of Smokey’s Closet, said. “However, we have not explored this option yet because we are very full on inventory at the moment and need to give clothes away before we start collecting more.”
All the extra clothes are housed in a separate room where they are sorted through before being brought out for students to choose from.
Smokey’s Closet is a collaboration between Student Government, which oversees weekly operations, and the Center for Career Development, which manages the larger events like pop-up shops.
The Center for Career Development also helps connect Smokey's Closet with corporate retailers like Men's Warehouse and JCPenney, which then bring employees to the pop-ups to help with sizing and dress options.
While much of the work for the larger pop-ups and events is done by a small committee through Student Services, students who do not need professional clothes can still volunteer their time for Smokey’s Closet. They can help behind the scenes to keep the organization running.
“Our committee isn’t large enough to manage all of it by ourselves, so most of the heavy lifting comes from other groups looking to get service hours,” Dunlap said.
Volunteers also sort through clothing to help decide what their fellow students will and will not want to wear. Any clothing left over is donated to Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries, otherwise known as KARM, a Christian non-profit organization dedicated to providing daily to those in need.
Both Dunlap and Jefferson recalled positive experiences working with Smokey’s Closet, especially with helping students.
“All of my work goes toward helping a student save money on something they will need to wear maybe twice, while also repurposing someone’s old clothing that they would never wear again is a great feeling,” Dunlap said.
As for the future, Dunlap has hopeful prospects for what is in store for the organization.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how we can transform our new space to become what we envision long term, including a changing room and a drop box for donations at all hours of the day,” Dunlap said.