Have you ever wondered where are your clothes and accessories coming from? Actually, it’s not something we think about on a daily basis, is it? Especially while we're shopping in big retail shops with the corridors full of clothes. But have you ever taken a moment to think about who made your clothes? What is their quality of life? Or if there is anything you can do to improve that quality?
There’s a chance that you’ve already heard the term ‘slow fashion’ and thought to yourself: what? Or even: so what? It’s okay. What’s important is that you have heard it, and probably more than once.
Yup. Slow fashion is slowly taking over 😉. More and more often terms like ‘slow fashion’ and ‘fast fashion’ are thankfully sneaking into our common vocabulary. But what do they actually mean? If you’re curious or just want to know why you should care about it, carry on reading.
WHAT IS SLOW FASHION ALL ABOUT?
By definition ‘slow fashion’ relates to the specific attitude towards shopping and the way decision making is done while purchasing. Slow fashion includes purchasing locally made and ethically sourced/traded products, choosing garments of higher quality that will last longer so there won’t be a need to purchase more, and rejecting characteristics proper of the ‘fast fashion’ industry.
SLOW FASHION VS. FAST FASHION
The terms 'slow fashion' and 'fast fashion' first appeared in an article titled 'Slow Fashion' in The Ecologist in 2007. In the article, author Kate Fletcher sets fast fashion side by side with fast food. Why? To show that with lower production costs the quality of the products also decrease. ‘Fast fashion isn’t really about speed, but greed.’ Fletcher says. ‘Time is one factor of production, along with labour, capital and natural resources that get juggled and squeezed in the pursuit of maximum profits. But fast is not free. Short lead times and cheap clothes are only made possible by exploitation of labour and natural resources.’ Slow fashion comes as a counterargument to the fast fashion industry.
In the age of consumerism ‘fast fashion’ seems like the most convenient option. Mass production has been taking over more and more sectors. Especially since the publishing of Kate Fletcher’s article. We buy a lot of items during a single shopping trip, but that’s not the most important. What actually matters to us is we get it for the cheapest price. Is it good that we tend to choose lower price over quality? Don’t we miss out on something? Doesn’t it all seem too good to be true? Well, it actually is. And it’s not only the quality of products that’s under the knife. It’s the quality of someone else’s life.
While we seem to get the best deal, there are people on the other side of the thread. Working long hours for a minimal pay in poor conditions. This doesn’t sound like a fair deal. That’s when the Fair Trade arrangement came to life to improve social and environmental standards of the producers, as well as to help the makers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions.
SLOW FASHION VS ETHICAL FASHION VS SUSTAINABLE FASHION
Those terms are often used as synonyms, but do they have the same meaning? Some sources list them as exactly the same thing. Others, as a few different aspects or even branches of conscious shopping.
They all branch out from the same category but are not the same thing. You can obviously use them in any way you want. But even though those terms do overlap in their concepts, they should not really act as synonyms. Why?
HERE TO EXPLAIN:
Slow fashion focuses on Fair Trade and locally made products. It also puts an impact on the conditions in which the product was made, the quality of life of the makers, and the quality of the product.
Ethical fashion is an umbrella term. It describes all the products created in ethical conditions. Including not only the aspect of the makers but also if we call it ethical - the aspect of animal cruelty. So this term describes all the items sourced without any kind of harm to another living creature.
Sustainable fashion describes all the items produced from eco-friendly or recycled materials. It is also part of a bigger concept of minimalism, where the decisions are based on the purpose. It is all about the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.
So as you see, a product can be placed within any or all of those categories. However, there are products that could fit into one of these categories but not into the others.
SO, WHAT CAN YOU DO?
“Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” - Anna Lappe.
READ THE LABELS
More and more of us read food labels before buying and consuming. If we care so much about what we put INTO our bodies, why don’t we pay more attention to what we put ON them, too? If we have the privilege to make a choice, why wouldn’t we use it? Doing research on fashion brands and their products would be a good follow up. If you don’t see any information about the product being ethically sourced, it is a good idea to Google it! It doesn’t take that long. You can also find an existing list of slow fashion brands online and use it while shopping. A little research never killed anybody. 😉
SHOP LOCAL OR SECONDHAND
If you want to contribute to making a change but don’t have time to fully research, try to look around your town. There are definitely a few shops in your neighborhood that sell local products. Also, go further and check social media! Many communities organize markets with local goods, including clothes and accessories.
Apply the same principles to when you’re traveling! You can pack less (how? Here is an answer), and get high-quality handmade clothing and accessories from local markets. You will know where they came from, plus they are mostly inexpensive. Obviously, there are a lot of big markets selling mass-produced items, but you can usually tell if something is handmade or not. You can also talk to the vendor about the story behind the garment. If it has a story, it’s worth it, isn’t it? Plus you would wear a conversation starter everywhere you go.
Thrift shops and vintage shops are also a great alternative. A lot of preloved clothes are actually of great quality. You would never know someone had worn it before. And honestly, you can hunt a Chanel bag for ⅓ of its original price. Isn’t that tempting?
HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT UPCYCLING?
There are many great companies that work with upcycled fashion. What does that mean? It’s a creative reuse of clothes. All of the clothes that didn’t preserve well or were treated as useless or unwanted can be reconstructed or repaired and serve for another decade, two or even longer.
You don’t have to break the bank, or compromise on quality to find super cute items! So it is a win-win and a lot more sustainable than ‘fast’ trendy items that are made in poor conditions and go to waste relatively sooner after they are purchased.
IT’S ALL ABOUT YOUR CHOICES
We know, it all sounds a bit overwhelming, and no, you don’t have to throw away half of your wardrobe and stop shopping at your favorite retail shops right now. But putting a little thought into where your garments come from is a good start. Focus on making choices based on your conscience.
Use the above tips and making a good choice might be much easier than you expect. Also, we will be here waiting for your comments on the process and would love to see you make better choices if you share them with us through Pinterest or Instagram. We've come a long way in the past few years as consumers. We've become more aware and curious. The years of social ignorance are dwindling, which is awesome.
If you’re still asking yourself ‘why do I care?’, then think about this: The fashion industry is one of the major polluting industries in the world. If not for others, do it for the planet. We will all benefit from it.
All in all, the decision on how to shop is yours to make, but wouldn’t the world be a better place if we thought of one another? However cheesy it might sound, together we can make a difference. Your perception can make a difference. And you can start by making small but smart decisions while shopping.
Shop Jenn Lee is a slow fashion-focused business. I work with local families in Eastern Bali. This is a small community of artisans, who take great pride in creating the highest-quality ata bags. They are honored to share their craft with you. It is important to show you how the bags are made and take you (virtually 😉) to visit the families. Check the video from a visit to Eastern Bali here.