Fast fashion retailers, with their need to continually meet rising sales targets and investor expectations, are little aware of climate change and workers’ interests. The slow fashion movement is asking companies to curb the overproduction and unethical practices that plague the industry, inviting consumers to rethink their relationship with clothes and shopping. What is slow fashion, how does it differ from the volatile fast fashion market, and why should we be doing more to support this movement?
As fashion makes strides towards sustainability, you’ve probably heard a slew of new terms and movements like circular fashion, eco-fashion or sustainable fashion. They are overlapping terms with slight differences, but they all have the same goal: to reduce the environmental footprint of the fashion industry.
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What is slow fashion?
Slow fashion is a movement that advocates for environmental and social justice in the fashion industry. Its defining point is that it zeroes in on the problem of overproduction and overconsumption.
Slow fashion came at the end of the “slow food” movement. Fashion and sustainability journalist and researcher Kate Fletcher first used the term in a 2007 article on Ecologist.
She described fast fashion as not so much about speed, but rather about greed, about “selling more” and “making more money.” Instead, slow fashion is “about designing, making, consuming and living better.” “Slow” – she added – “is not the opposite of fast – there is no dualism – but a different approach in which designers, buyers, retailers and consumers are more aware of the impacts of products on workers, communities and ecosystems “. .
When buyers support unsustainable fast fashion production model, the problem only gets worse. Slow fashion is also about conscious consumption. We shop with awareness that the way we consume has an impact on climate change.
Some of the key philosophies of slow fashion include:
- A shift from quantity to quality, both in production and consumption. It is not prone to continuous growth or to accumulate more.
- Environmentally friendly production using low-waste processes and avoiding harmful chemicals.
- Providing workers with a living wage and healthy working conditions.
- Production of collections in small batches or by pre-order to avoid unsold inventory.
- An uncomplicated supply chain where raw materials and labor are not spread across the globe. He uses local materials and employs local workers as much as possible.
- Transparency and honesty in supply chain and practices. A great example is the ethical brand of jeans HNSTwhich has a “Hall of failure” page showing its challenges and failures.
- Using natural fibers, leftover fabrics or old textiles for recycling.
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The problem of fashion sustainability
The fashion industry likes to do things quickly and cheaply to get maximum profit. Low prices for the latest style entice shoppers to think they’re getting more bang for their buck, but those “savings” come at a high price. environmental and social costs.
Industry is a major offender when it comes to depleting natural resources and polluting ecosystems. It accounts for 20% of global clean water pollution. Various sources say that Big Fashion contributes somewhere in between 2-10% of the world’s carbon emissions.
To save on labor costs and avoid strict regulations in the US or Europe, retailers outsource production to countries like China, Bangladesh or Pakistan. A T-shirt you’re wearing may be using cotton grown in the United States, dyed and processed in a textile mill in India, and cut and designed in Europe before returning to the company’s warehouse and finally do it in the store. of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change says that the industry consumes more energy than the aviation and shipping industries combined.
How fashion picked up speed
Fashion wasn’t always like this. Before the 19th century, people took the time to make their own clothes or had them made in a tailor’s shop if they could afford it. It was a hands-on, personalized process that involved communication between the wearer and the creator. Waiting a week or so to finish a dress made people appreciate their clothes more. Rewarding yourself with new clothes and trends was something only aristocrats enjoyed; so the common people saw a royal budget invested in fabrics that were made to last.
The industrial revolution came and ready-to-wear became popular from the 1920s to the 1980s, but there were still people making their own clothes or going to the local tailors.
That all changed in the 90s when retailers like Zara and H&M disrupted the industry, compressing trend cycles and clearing thousands of new items in stores every week. If we thought that was as revolutionary as it gets, along come new challengers like Shein or Pretty Little Thing – online-only stores that toppled the fast-fashion giants in one fell swoop. ultra fast fashion model. Relying heavily on big data and a culture of worshiping influencers, these new brands have successfully conquered social media feeds and shoppers’ wallets. Bloomberg’s David Fickling calls Shein’s 2022 valuation $100 billion “Win for Fast Fashion”. This year, the company is set to do $20 billion in revenue.
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With clothing being cheap and easy to buy, we often don’t even question where our clothes come from or how they are actually made. Producers and handlers are continents apart. When it comes to choosing styles and materials, it’s the companies that decide. It was only after disasters like 2013 square of the frog garment factory collapse or “Killer Jeans” silicosis exposure 2011 that the public began to pay attention to the silent workers who suffered from the deadly practices of an industry that produces seemingly harmless items.
How can you join the Slow Fashion Movement?
Awareness of the fashion industry’s problems has increased, but there is more work to be done. or 2021 survey by ThredUp found that 74% of shoppers know that their consumption habits significantly affect the planet and 50% believe that fast fashion is bad for the environment. Despite this awareness, 72% continue to buy fast fashion because of the convenience and unbeatable prices.
It can be difficult to break away from the status quo and completely change your buying habits. The good news is that supporting slow fashion movement is incredibly easy and you don’t need to buy anything new to get started!
Here’s how you can switch to slow mode:
1. Repair and care for your clothes
Extend the life of your clothes by following the care instructions. Machine wash on the lowest setting if you can and hang to dry to save energy. For jeans, Levi’s even RECOMMENDS washing once every 10 years to maintain fit and fabric.
Learning basic sewing and stain removal techniques is also a great way to get more wear out of your clothes. If you don’t have time, take them to a professional or find out if there is one repair cafe (a free pop-up event where volunteers and other visitors come together to repair various items) in your town or city.
2. Wear used clothes
We have finally given up the stigma of wearing used clothes. Today, thrift is so widespread that it even features in the pages of glossy high fashion magazines, something unthinkable even two decades ago.
There are many opportunities to get used clothes. You can borrow from your family’s or friends’ closets for back-to-back events. You can also do clothing swaps or offer your unused clothing to someone you know will love it.
Freestyle cycling groups are also a gold mine for “new” vintage clothing. These are online exchange groups where people can donate or request free items. It facilitates gift-giving and communication between members of a local community because the exchange is often done in person. It has become increasingly popular as people are looking for ways to donate their belongings without having to go to charity centres. Unfortunately, statistics show that up to 80% of donations they end up either incinerated, in landfills, or shipped overseas to be sold. Search for a free cycling Facebook group in your area or check out websites like FreeCycle.org or Trash Nothing.
Looking for the thrill of the hunt? There are always unique and stylish pieces from thrift and thrift stores. Saving online is easier today thanks to platforms like Poshmark, Depot, Etsyor Communal locker room; there is something for everyone’s tastes and prices.
3. Shop carefully
In Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States, somewhere in between 50%-80% people’s wardrobes are unused. A closet full of clothes you only half love or never wear is also a sign of constant impulse buying. The next time you feel the itch to shop, check your closet first. You really need a fifth new dress/pair of pants/top in your closet? Chances are you don’t. Your overflowing closet will thank you, and so will the planet.
If you absolutely must buy, support local creators in your country. Choose high-quality fabrics that last longer, fabrics with a composition that can be easily recycledor natural fibers that biodegrade more easily.
Shopping carefully also means being aware of companies’ greenwashing tactics. Placing an “eco-friendly” label is not proof that an item is sustainable. Do some background research on a brand by Googling or checking Good for you the application. For unbiased and educational sustainable fashion content, websites like The Fashion Revolution AND Fashion takes action are great resources.
Do not forget that expensive price tags not always guarantee quality and best practices. Brands like Versace, Prada, Nike and Adidas were implicated in one Clean clothes campaign letter who reported on the wages of workers under the law of these companies and the appalling working conditions in their Eastern European factories.
Fast fashion has industrialized the production of clothes to the point where we think of them as disposable goods. Slow fashion is more than just a way of shopping. It’s a way of life and a philosophy that acknowledges the real value of clothing and the entire process involved – from the materials, the planet and the people.
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Featured image by cottonbro from Pexels