With growing consumer awareness and demand for higher sustainability and ethical standards, slow fashion movement has seen increasing support over the last few years.
A 2019 study conducted by the Global Fashion Agenda, Boston Consulting Group, and Sustainable Apparel Coalition showed that 75% of consumers surveyed viewed sustainability in fashion as very or extremely important to them.
Similarly, a July 2020 ‘Sustainable Fashion’ survey conducted by McKinsey & Company shows that the shock and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 crisis have shifted even further consumers’ sentiment towards slow fashion:
- Two-thirds of surveyed consumers stated that it is critical to eliminate any kind of impact (fashion-including) on climate change.
- 88% of respondents insisted that reducing pollution should become a priority.
In this article I detail on what is slow fashion; it’s origin, concept, movement, and philosophy.
I explain why slow fashion is critical, for the world (climate change wise) and for the fashion industry.
Also, if you’re looking for inspiration, I have put together a list of leading celebrities supporting the slow fashion movement.
Finally, I’ve listed some of my favourite slow fashion brands, if you intend to become a slow fashion supporter as well.
What Is Slow Fashion?
Slow fashion is a ‘global movement’ which advocates for slow fashion production and consumption, with respect for people, animals and the environment.
Slow fashion is part of the higher concept of sustainable fashion.
Slow fashion opposes the fast fashion business model and industrial manufacturing – will detail on this below.
As a process, slow fashion relies on local craftsmen and eco-friendly materials.
The aim of slow fashion is to preserve local crafts and the environment while, in the process, it provides value to both producers and consumers.
Nevertheless, it is essential to recognise that new ideas and innovations are continually redefining and improving the concept and definition of SLOW FASHION.
Therefore, the slow fashion concept has an evolving nature with several definitions, dependent on the lens that tackles the subject.
Slow Fashion Origin
The concept of ‘slow fashion’ is credited to Kate Fletcher, professor of Sustainability, Design, and Fashion at the UAL, London.
After the slow food movement grew popular, Fletcher began to compare the eco/sustainable/ethical fashion with the slow food ethical movement.
Inspired by the slow food movement, Fletcher observed a need to slow down the fashion industry as well.
“Slow fashion is about choice, information, cultural diversity, identity, as well as balance, durability and long-term quality products. Slow fashion is about designing, producing, consuming and living better. Slow 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 fashion impact on workers, communities, and ecosystem.” — Kate Fletcher, coining the term “slow fashion” in 2007.
Before Fletcher, several authors attempted to describe the need to slow fashion, from a ‘Cult of Speed’ perspective.
Angela Murrills’ 2004 article in Georgia Straight – a Vancouver-based online magazine – explored ways of challenging the emerging ‘Cult of Speed.’
One of the proposed ideas was the ‘slow clothes concept‘.
However, the ‘slow fashion’ movement reached global recognition thanks to one of the earliest critics of fast fashion, Elizabeth L. Cline.
Her 2012 book, ‘Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Clothing,’ assesses the costs of making low-priced garments.
In the process, Elizabeth introduces the readers to her personal journey of changing from a wasteful to a more conscious buyer.
In the end, she learns how to mend clothes and falls in love with locally made slow fashion.
Slow Fashion Philosophy
As a movement that’s gaining ground fast, slow fashion encapsulates different aspects:
However, from all aspects of slow fashion, manufacturing and consumption are the most debated ones.
Borrowing from the luxury business model, slow fashion manufacturing approach emphasises on product longevity and quality instead of quantity and mass-production.
As such, slow manufacturing:
- Supports (implicitly) local artisans and their crafts.
- Promotes fair wages.
- Fights climate change with lower carbon emissions.
- Protects the environment.
The second critical element part of the slow fashion philosophy is consumption.
In slow fashion, the consumption stage can be broken down is several small stages or types:
- The purchase of vintage clothes.
- Redesigning/repurposing old clothes.
- Buying from smaller producers.
- Making your own apparel at home.
- Buying lesser but high-quality couture that lasts longer.
As Fletcher put it:
“The slow fashion approach encourages designers to ensure product quality and provide further value by developing the product in connection to people and the environment”.
Slow Fashion vs Sustainable Fashion
Slow fashion and sustainable fashion are different concepts, and yet, closely related to each other.
The slow fashion movement is part of the higher goal of sustainable fashion, and thus, a cleaner, safer, happier world.
In its construct, sustainable fashion incorporates the whole range of ‘eco,’ ‘green,’ ‘slow,’ and ‘ethical’ movements of fashion.
Since slow fashion doesn’t view products as disposable, it is sustainable in its nature.
Slow fashion also has an intrinsic ethical construct, by looking at the constituting parts of fashion and the links between them.
Slow fashion cares about raw materials, human labour, the environment, and the maintenance of these connections.
In this respect, slow fashion is seen as a ‘workable solution’ to the existing wasteful fashion ecosystem.
Finally, a slow fashion approach could initiate the creation of new strategies of design, production, consumption, use, and reuse of fashion.
Slow Fashion vs Fast Fashion
As the opposite side of slow fashion is fast fashion.
The global fibre production reached an all-time high in 2018, at 107 million metric tons.
Around 80 billion new garments are produced, globally, each year.
Sadly, 80% of all garments produced end up either in incinerators or landfill sites.
Fast fashion model [manufacturing, returns, and waste] is one of the most significant global heating contributors, known to generate over 1.7 billion tonnes of CO2 each year.
Thankfully, the slow fashion model opposes the 25 years old fast-fashion system.
“The first thing to do when you’re looking at a piece of clothing is to turn it inside out and pull at any piece of string you find. If the garments are cheaply made, the seams start to unravel. Don’t buy it“, advises Orsola de Castro of Fashion Revolution.”
Slow fashion is also about creating garments that carry cultural and emotional connections, relevant to the places and people that made them.
Moreover, slow fashion advocates claim that consumers retain their garments for more than one season if they feel emotionally or culturally connected to them.
Indeed, research shows that slow fashion inspires consumers to buy fewer garments of higher quality, made by local artisans, from sustainable materials.
As such, slow fashion movement proposes a thoughtful, intentional, and holistic approach to fashion making.
Slow fashion has the potential of stopping unnecessary production and pollution of the fast fashion model.
It could put an end to wasteful supply chains and reckless consumption.
Moreover, slow fashion could resurface long lost arts of clothes making, and celebrate the skills of the artisans that create them.
Simply put, the main goal of the slow fashion movement is to preserve local crafts, people, and the environment while providing customers with higher quality, longer-lasting, and valuable fashion.
More Benefits of Slow Fashion
The adoption of slow fashion model could be of further benefit to the fashion industry by:
- Offering high-quality and timeless products, allowing customers to wear them for a lifetime.
- Slowing down mindless consumerism.
- Reducing pollution and textile waste clogging landfills.
- Having lower carbon emission and thus, protecting the environment.
- Supporting local artisans and their crafts, and thus giving them fair wages.
Moreover, the slow fashion model will force brands to take a circular, long-term approach as well.
Slow fashion brands will be transparent, revealing their manufacturing processes.
Transparency is a vital aspect of the slow fashion model and a way of helping buyers make more informed purchasing decisions.
Slow fashion garments won’t be ‘seasonal bound’ but meant to last a lifetime.
There won’t be discarded, unused, and wasted materials as most products will be made to order.
“Slow fashion is about creating and consuming with integrity. It is about connecting environmental awareness and social responsibility, with the pleasure of wearing beautiful, well-made, and lasting clothing“, said the Editor in Chief at ‘Who What Wear’, Kat Collings.
Biggest Slow Fashion Supporters
In some ways, slow fashion is countercultural right now.
It goes against the current societal norms which state that:
“more, faster, and cheaper are better.”
However, there are many celebrities and influential names supporting the slow fashion movement.
“I am often asked not what I am wearing but who because in fashion, the idea behind the clothes – the label, the designer, the collection – have more meaning than the garment itself. However, there’s a bigger story to be told about the conditions in which our clothes are made. It’s also about the resources used and the impact it has on communities.”
“I was brought up to understand that we are all here on planet earth together. The idea of taking responsibility for what we take out of the earth…it’s not something we sat down and had lessons in; as a way of thinking it came quite naturally.”
“These businesses [fast fashion companies] have created an evil system that works so well for them, and they’re not accountable.“
“We’re in a really remarkable time right now. There is a consciousness that is happening in every fabric of everything we do.“
“I just want to wear things that are ME, in different ways.“
“Waste isn’t waste until we waste it.“
Sir Richard Branson
“In the modern world, there can be no profit without a well-defined purpose.“
“There’s nothing wrong with the fashion industry. What’s wrong is changing yourself for something you don’t really care about just to get somewhere faster.“
“Fashion has to reflect who you are, what you feel at the moment, and where you’re going.”
“I am really honored, and very inspired to continue living the vegan lifestyle that has been so good to my body, my animal friends, and the world we live in.“
How Can I Support Slow Fashion?
Here are a few simple ways to get you involved as well:
- Take care of your clothes, wash only when necessary and on low impact washing. This way your garments will last longer.
- Start by repairing the garments you have. Sewing, replacing missing parts and buttons is quite simple.
- Engage in thoughtful purchases and think twice before buying.
- When possible, buy only from slow fashion brands. If unsure, see the slow fashion brands we’ve put together for you at the end of the article.
- Upcycle broken garments and make your own capsule wardrobe.
- Finally, recycle or donate the garments you no longer need.
Slow Fashion Brands
As more sustainable ways of making apparel advance, the number of brands rejecting the fast fashion model is on the rise.
Compared to industrial-scale fast fashion enterprises, these slow fashion brands are making high-quality couture from sustainable materials.
These products are often hand-made, in local stores, by local artisans.
The materials are sustainably sourced, produced and sold, often directly to consumers.
Slow fashion brands remove the need of middle parties and wasteful supply chains.
If you’re looking to start building your own slow fashion wardrobe, see some of my favourites brands below:
1. Mara Hoffman
Mara Hoffman’s eponymous label focuses on creating rich, textured, and understated pieces that highlight the power of the feminine form.
Her collections are inspired by personal reflections on mythology and travels.
Mara Hoffman creations are crafted from sustainable and eco-friendly materials by close-knit expert artisans in New York City.
2. Alabama Chanin
Alabama Chanin is originating from Florence, Alabama, United States.
Alabama is a city of rare heritage and extraordinary craftsmanship.
The label’s slow fashion pieces are hand-made by the city’s local artisans from natural fabrics.
Also, the brand is using upcycling to revive the stories of intricate forms and twists inspired by the artworks of local artists such as Louise Bourgeois and Egidio Costantini.
3. Stella McCartney
Stella McCartney is one of the leading fashion labels when it comes to sustainability.
The label’s timeless creations are conspiring silhouettes of pure sensuality, urban sophistication, and modern ethical motifs of conscious luxury.
4. Ovna Ovich
Ovna Ovich is founded in 2012 by Marina Davis, in Auckland, New Zealand.
The label is famous for pushing the boundaries of femininity.
In its collection, Ovna Ovich beautifully combines the masculinity drawn from its rich Russian heritage, with compassionate and earth-loving nature of New Zealand.
This combination is also portrayed in the label’s name, Ovna Ovich meaning feminine masculine.
Moreover, Ovna Ovich follows the slow fashion philosophy.
The label carefully chooses natural fabrics and blend them with the rare craft of local artisans in Auckland.
5. Eileen Fisher
Eileen Fisher started her slow fashion journey as an interior and graphic designer.
Fisher’s official website reveals that the designer has launched the brand with only $350 in her bank account.
Her label now is one of the leading slow fashion brands, upcycling old textiles and garments and turn them into luxurious and sustainable fashion.
6. Helder Antwerp
Helder Antwerp is a Belgium-based ethical fashion label of Romanian heritage.
The label is known for its excellent compositions and plays of contemporary feminine sensuality, beautifully built on one’s desire to showcase its strength and independence.
Helder Antwerp’s slow fashion ethos is portrayed through the brand’s conscious choice for responsible manufacturing techniques, sustainable materials, innovative and future-proof fabrics.
7. Gaia & Dubos
Gaia & Dubos is a modern designer label with strong ethical values.
The label blends mythological divinity tones with flavours of 20th-century environmentalist attitudes.
Gaia & Dubos’ creations are designed and hand-crafted in Quebec, Canada, by a team of highly-skilled artisans.
Her particular choice of natural, organic materials beautifully matches the stylistic approach of the brand.
8. Sanah Sharma
Sanah Sharma is a conceptual designer label of Indian origin, focused on making intelligently engineered couture with sustainability in mind,
The label has a zero-waste design approach with a great focus on upcycling.
Also, Sanah Sharma has drawn inspiration from topology, quantum physics, material behaviour, and design multi-dimensionality.
As such, the label’s creations are the epitome of perfect human kinetics and an augmentation to the human experience.
9. Catalina J
Hailing from Belgium, Catalina J is a modern designer label aiming to redefine the classic feminine silhouette.
Catalina J’s comfortable silhouettes are empowered with timeless opulence of artisanal crafts
The brand designs are inspired by a symbiotic mix of geometric cuts and pure abstract lines of the urban lifestyle.
Sanikai is a Swiss-based designer clothing label, founded in 2015 on a basis of responsibility for our only planet and the love of nature.
The label is a blend of timeless fashion design, exceptional quality, and sustainability ethos.
Sanikai is known for the use of natural fabrics and recycled materials fused with Swiss perfectionism with a positive attitude towards a conscious lifestyle that embraces life and awakes dormant senses.
The label fosters young talents and their creativity and craft, to preserve the rare art of tailoring.
From top-end to small scale designers, the values that make up the slow fashion movement suggest a complete overhaul of producing and consuming.
The ‘slow’ approach has inspired many changes in recent years.
Particularly, in the production of clothing, but also in consumer behaviour.
Thankfully, the campaign for slow fashion has started to show positive results, unexpectedly amongst the YOUNGER generation:
“Nearly half of consumers say they prefer to buy apparel from companies trying to reduce their impact on the environment. From that half, 60% are under-24s. Moreover, we see a reduction in monthly apparel purchases, from 37% to 33%, and an increase from 64% to 67%,” says Samantha Dover, a senior retail analyst at Mintel.
However, while there are positive results and the support for slow fashion is growing, there is still a long way to go.
For the slow fashion movement to succeed, we need your [consumers] help.
We have to rally and grow the slow fashion movement beyond cheap copycats of celebrity styles, FORCED UPON us by marketing tactics of scrupulous fast fashion giants.
We have to keep creating and maintaining awareness of what sustainable fashion should be.
Finally, as conscious consumers, we must simplify our wardrobes by focusing on quality rather than quantity.
Now it’s your turn…
What is the most shocking fashion waste fact you know of?
What do you think is the solution to end the fashion waste problem?
What are you doing to change your fashion consumption?
Would love to hear your thought and comments below!
WTVOX – ‘Voicing the Future of Fashion’
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