Perhaps to fully understand the slow fashion movement we must first understand the concept of fast fashion. Fast fashion should already be a familiar concept, even if we do not recognize it by name, and at least more familiar than slow fashion. Basically, fast fashion is the instantaneous reaction to changing trends in a way that makes clothes more available to consumers at an affordable cost. Models strut the runway outfitted in the latest styles and these styles quickly become the current fashion trends and are suddenly in all the stores. Since the majority of shoppers cannot afford designer prices, these same styles are sold at a lower price, and of course quality, to the rest of us.
The mass production methods used with fast fashion is a threat to natural resources, water reservoirs, forests, and workforce safety, to name just a few. It encourages the frequent buying of shoddy workmanship only to discard it soon after when it starts to wear thin. Fast fashion has been criticized for its contribution to poor working conditions in developing countries. The collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh in 2013, the deadliest garment-related accident in history, and the role that fast fashion played in it has inspired a greater awareness of safety and the slow fashion movement.
Slow fashion can be thought of as the more conscientious offspring of fast fashion. Slow fashion cleanses us of that dirty feeling that we get when we learn about the negative impacts of fast fashion. Slow fashion has been around for longer than we would think but has recently gained more popularity with the wan of popularity of fast fashion. In accordance with current times, the slow fashion movement focuses more on the whole process from design to production to use. Just like we are now more conscientious of the food we ingest into our bodies, we are becoming more concerned with where our clothes are coming from and what manufacturing impacts there are along the way. There is a whole new transparency concerning the production process and the manner in which customers are now educated.
Slow fashion encourages slower production schedules and fair wages. It also is about buying a well-made article of clothing and keeping it in the closet as opposed to purchasing a cheap article of clothing that barely makes it through the season only to be replaced with a similar item shortly after. There is a whole new emphasis on buying clothes for quality and longevity instead of just getting through the season. The mass production inherent of fast fashion is slowly being replaced by more ethical production methods.
Too much clothes?
Let’s face it-we are surrounded by stuff. We have too many clothes and many of the clothes we have purchased were cheap so we figure nothing is lost in buying a few more. So we add it to our pile of clothes even though we do not necessarily need it, and may not even like it that much, but because it was cheap all of that does not matter. Slow fashion is different because it is about buying quality over quantity and being conscious of the purchasing choices that we make.
And we should feel good about slow fashion because it is not only about the fashion. It is about reducing our carbon footprint and coddling our environment in the way that it deserves to be coddled. Slow fashion reduces the waste that floods our landfills when we buy something because it is cheap only to throw it away not long after. It holds retailers accountable for pollution and how the workers are treated in overseas warehouses where retailors try to make up money by undercutting the manufacturing process, which in turn lowers the wages of employers who already were not making much.
Part of slow fashion is about recycling items such as purses, hats, and dresses. This is beneficial to the environment but it also provides consumers with the sense that the item they are purchasing has history and that they are giving it a second or third life. Slow fashion is all about the conscious buying of classy well-made clothes and stands for everything that fast fashion does not. It is a stand against fast fashion and the wastefulness that we have become accustomed to where we buy just to buy and then discard. Now is the time for slow fashion to lead the way and we can support this by resisting those impulse buys. Mentioned below are a few brands that are doing what they can to reform the industry.
Referred to as the father of the slow fashion movement, environmentalist Yvon Chouinard, co-founder of Patagonia, transformed his environmentally conscious ideals into a successful clothing company. Patagonia is known for its quality clothing made with recycled and organic fibers and for the way it pampers it employees.
Eileen Fisher has made quite the name for herself in the slow fashion movement. Her high-quality working clothes for women are made with cotton from organic farms that do not use pesticides and try not to use dyes that are not toxic. They have worked to reduce both their water use and carbon emissions. Along with their generosity to their workers, the company assists workers in the Chinese factories where most of the clothes are manufactured. They employ a director of sustainability who is in charge of environmental issues.
Pendleton is one of the few American manufacturers that has remained loyal to producing locally and responsibly. With over one hundred mills in the northwest, they use recycled materials, sustainable wool, and improved technology to reduce the use of water and energy.
The San Francisco based company designs t-shirts, ties, and bags and promotes the idea of transparency by sharing the cost of their clothing, including material, transport, and labor, with customers. They also share videos and photos of their factories worldwide where their clothing is made.