In an era where everything must be ‘fast’ in order to appease consumer demand for immediate gratification and convenience — fast technology, fast food, fast dating and fast fashion, it would seem at first glance, that ‘slow fashion’ would be counter productive. In fact, ‘slow fashion’ is a new term for the way fashion used to be produced.
The traditional process fashion designers take is time consuming – especially from a bespoke perspective – from coming up with the initial design, to the fabric chosen, to the creation of the pattern, then cutting and sewing the garment and any final embellishments required. Attention to detail, quality workmanship, and uniqueness of design were paramount to being a successful designer.
A little history: With the development of designers being bought by corporations where they received a much needed infusion of cash, trading on the stock exchange and having to answer to stock holders, the game changed and the amount of profit needed became the driving factor behind a designer’s label. Hence the move of production from design ateliers and fashion houses in North America and Europe to offshore factories in China and India where the cost to manufacture was minimal and there were little to no regulations relating to environmental practices and working conditions for employees. We’ve all heard horror stories about dismal working conditions, child labour, etc.
Fast forward to today where after two decades of mass-made, cheaply-made clothing on a global scale, we are faced with a crisis of epic proportions. Fashion is now listed as the 2nd largest polluter in the world and clothing takes up a huge percentage of landfill mass.
Some examples of the negative effects include the processes used in manufacturing denim where a substantial amount of fresh water is used and mixed with chemical dyes that are ultimately dumped into rivers. The micro plastics in many cheaper fabrics (faux fur is one of them) are showing up in our water systems, which are ingested by fish and now ourselves. The other fallout is the elimination of thriving manufacturing sectors in local economies which used to produce garments for designers and apparel companies.
As fast fashion took over mainstream, ready-to-wear markets around the world made it extremely difficult for smaller companies to compete leading to the near demise of the independent designer.
Fortunately, the pendulum always swings back around when consumers become tired of the products being offered to them and creates the need for uniqueness, individuality, and all the things missing such as quality materials and workmanship. A desire for hand crafted garments made locally creates new opportunities for local maker economies which then need to scale their production (in a sustainable way).
These new makers are a different breed — they are very aware of the materials they use and are making efforts to create a very small footprint and reduce waste wherever possible. The new mantra is actually an old one: Buy less, buy better and make it last.
Designers who practice ‘slow fashion’ are the cornerstone of this philosophy which brings a return to the ‘art’ of fashion, where creativity, innovation, and culture meet. It’s a return to quality over quantity — spending more money on a few, well made pieces that will last as opposed to buying a closet full of ‘disposable’ items that will quickly end up in a landfill or in a shipping container headed to a third world country. These are major benefits of ‘slow fashion’; designers and small scale producers create jobs and contribute to their local economy and communities in a big way.
We are at a tipping point where the environment is concerned. People need to really think about what and how much they purchase before our voracious appetite for cheap, disposable clothing and products literally destroys our planet.
So, please think twice before you spend your money on an impulse buy of a ‘few’ trendy garments that seem to be a great deal. Find out where they were made, what the material is made from and the care/washing instructions. It could be a much better investment if you save your money and buy a more expensive piece with great style and quality that you’re going to wear all the time, fits well, and will last. Support your local small businesses — everyone benefits including our precious environment.