“In fashion, one day you’re in and the next day you’re out” – any fashion-lover will recognise this quote by Heidi Klum from the Project Runway Series.
The world of fast-fashion means continuous adaptation of a season’s collection to suit the trends and desires of the buyers. This means constant change of clothing on the shopping racks, exhausting the supply chains and causing harm to the intermediate parties before that beautiful, ruffled-sleeve blouse ends up in your brightly printed plastic bag as you walk through the exit of H&M.
The concept of seasonality and short product life-cycle are the crux of ‘fast-fashion’.
The fast-fashion industry creates a number of sustainability issues due to its constant demand of natural resources, not to mention that garments are transferred from the designing board to the retailer in a matter of weeks. This short cycle creates low prices, and the low prices persuade consumers to purchase at levels far beyond their needs. Unfortunately, it is the environment and the workers throughout the supply chain that pay the high cost of cheap, fast fashion.
For those who love the creativity and art of fashion but who have an environmentally-minded conscience, feelings of guilt and shopping tend to go hand in hand. But as companies are implementing the principles of transparency and accountability, the world of fashion is (slowly) gravitating to the ‘slow-fashion’ movement.
Slow-fashion is often used as a catch-all term to include ethical fashion, eco-fashion, organic and vegan fashion and fair trade. I believe the more accurate meaning of slow-fashion is specifically rooted in the word “slow”.
Slow-fashion is not simply about fashion, it is about adopting a slow lifestyle. And the true significance of a slow lifestyle is reflecting on your choices instead of mindlessly following the crowd and, without being aware, supporting an industry that is the second (some sources say THIRD) most polluting after the oil (and agriculture) industry/ies…
For the slow-fashion movement to gain momentum and become a reliable sustainable business model, I have compiled a list of principles from various sources that should apply to the entire supply chain of fashion production:
- Seeing the big picture
This principle recognises the interconnectedness of humans and their environment and how the collective choices we make impact on the environment. We need to have a ‘big picture’ mind-set when we make choices about the products we consume.
- Slow down consumption
Slowing down consumption trickles all the way down to the basics of slowing the production of raw materials and garments to enable the earth to regenerate at its natural capacity. We need to live in rhythm with what the earth can provide. When you can, use what you already own.
Through greater diversity in die industry, from traditional methods of fabric dying, clothing rentals, vintage, upcycling, et cetera, there will be greater sustainability within the industry. This principle encourages innovation and new business models in a plea to maintain ecological, social, cultural and economic states.
- Respecting people
Acknowledge that humans made your clothing. To ensure the fair treatment of workers, especially the workers in the garment factories in 3rd world countries, policies need to be put in place to prevent slave-labour, respect basic human rights and to empower people through skills-development initiatives.
- Acknowledging human need
This principle refers to the basic core of what it means to be human. Human needs for creativity, identity, participation and worthiness can be met by inviting the various parties along the supply chain to be involved on an emotional level with the entire process i.e. telling the story behind the garment;
- Building relationships
For this movement to gain strength there needs to be consensus through the relationships built. Through the creative process the designers and producers can trust each other’s vision and strive towards a mutual sustainable goal.
Fashion brands supporting the slow movement endeavour to use local resources and to support the development of local business and skills. This principle also encourages consumers to buy vintage, rent clothing, get involved in up-cycling and trading clothes.
- Invest in quality and timeless beauty
We need to invest in better quality clothing that will last longer. This principle pertains to the timelessness of garments – The styles should be classic made with quality materials that will last for many years.
These businesses need to be profitable if the movement intends on expanding. Clothing designed under the slow-movement are often more expensive as quality materials are used to make the garments and fair wages are paid to the workers.
- Practicing consciousness and taking care of what you own
This principle reverts to what I’ve already mentioned: to slow-down and think and reflect on your choices; to realise the inter-connectedness of humans and their environment. Take care of what you own, treat it with respect and it will last longer.
Taking is slow means to care for your emotional and physical needs and to care for your inner self in spite of the world dictating what you should experience and consume. This message is spreading across the industry and a number of creative directors are taking note.
As said by Allesandro Michele, Gucci’c creative director, during the recent September – October 2017 Fashion Week: “Resist the mantra of speed that violently leads to losing oneself. Resist the illusion of something new at any cost”.
xxx Grace & Gaia
Dickson, M., Cataldi, C., Grover, C. (2016, October 24). The Slow Fashion Movement. Retrieved from: https://www.notjustalabel.com/editorial/slow-fashion-movement
Arnet, L. (2016, January 08) You’ve Tried Slow Food. How About Slow Fashion?. Retrieved from: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20160108/ISSUE03/160109884/youve-tried-slow-food-how-about-slow-fashion
Phelan, H. (2017, October 11) What is Slow Fashion? We Explain. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/11/fashion/what-is-slow-fashion.html