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What is slow fashion and why do you need to know about it?

Slow fashion has been a hot topic amongst those in the industry for some time now, with some emphasising the need for people to adopt a lower rate of consumption and to strive for better working conditions. Whilst others are sat trying to pump out as many new designs, as cheaply and as quickly as possible to meet consumer demand. At this point, it seems quite hopeless that we will ever find a happy medium between the two, but the more people are educated on the topic, the more people that can make informed decisions on what they buy and who they choose to buy from. If you’ve never heard of slow fashion before or want to know more about why this is such a controversial issue in the industry then read on!

a page from SLOW FASHION with a cactus graphic

What is slow fashion?

We’ll start at the polar opposite of slow fashion, fast fashion. Fast fashion is mainly made up of the mass markets of clothing that you see on the high street from retailers such as Primark, New Look and Zara. These are the companies that churn out new designs at an incredible rate, faster than ever seen before and at a very low price. However, to do this, they must have low overhead costs, from the farmers growing the natural fibres, to the factory workers who sew the garments together. This often means that they are sub-contracted out to third-world countries where the working conditions are almost unbearable and very unsafe.

Slow fashion is the opposite; it is an ethics focused movement that encourages people to think before they buy, to invest in higher quality garments rather than trying to purchase as many pieces for as little money as possible. It is a much less ‘trend’ focused, and more of a timeless style, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be fashionable and on board. With a slow fashion focused company, there will be a transparent supply chain, where all workers are paid a fair wage and efforts have been made to make the clothes with as little harm to the environment as possible. This is just one of the main elements that make up the movement as a whole.

What is wrong with fast fashion?

There are many issues with fast fashion, ranging from an unfair wage being paid to those growing and sewing the materials, to major environmental concerns. The rate at which we consume fashion and throw it away is almost incomprehensible. Did you know that to produce one cotton t-shirt it takes around 3,000L of water? Or that the average wage for someone who sews your garments outside of the UK can be as low as just £30 a MONTH!?

How many of you could open your wardrobe and find a garment with the tag still on? Or how many of you have bought a t-shirt, dress or pair of trousers, worn them once and thrown them away because it turns out you don’t really like them? I’ll put my hands up to doing both of these things, and I’m not proud of it.

Again, this is just the beginning of the problems. Health and safety standards in the places in which these garments are being sewn fall well below what would be seen as acceptable in the UK. You may have heard about the 2013 disaster in Bangladesh where over 1,000 were killed when a building collapsed, and this is just one in a chain of disasters. Should people really have to risk their lives so that you can have a cheap t-shirt?

One of the biggest overriding issues, however, is that the people working in these factories have no other means of making a living. They accept the ridiculously low income because they simply have no choice, and if we were to take those jobs away from them, they would end up in an almost equally as bad situation as they were in before. This is why the solution is still so far away, as we need to find a way to better the supply chain without ruining the lives of anyone currently working as a part of it.

A quote page from SLOW FASHION

How can I make a difference?

There is still SO much to be done for this movement to gain the momentum it needs to make a lasting difference. However, you can be a part of the revolution. You just simply need to think more about what you buy and where your clothes go when you are finished with them. If they are in good condition, take them to your local charity shop, or even a recycling centre that deals with clothes. If they’re valuable, sell them on and keep their story alive rather than simply throwing them away.

I have a rule where I will only invest in an item of clothing if I will wear it for as many times as the item cost in £. So for a dress that costs £40, will I wear it 40 times? If it’s a no, then I shouldn’t buy it. In an ideal world, this would be combined with choosing ethical retailers and building a core wardrobe around a list of defining factors, but that just isn’t realistic in the current climate. So all I ask is for you to educate yourselves on the worst offenders in fast fashion, and think twice before buying or throwing away any items of clothing. It’s just a small step, but it could make a big difference in the future.

Slow Fashion, a book by Safia Minney - cropped to title only

If you want to know more, there are countless numbers of news pieces, magazine articles and interesting books on the topic – my personal favourite is a book entitled Slow Fashion: Aesthetics vs. Ethic by Safia Minney, it’s incredibly informative and gives a timeline of where certain issues have surfaced and who is working for a better future. It was given to me as a gift and has certainly been very informative, eye-opening and interesting.

I hope you have enjoyed my piece and feel slightly more educated on the topic, please share it with your friends and family and get everyone involved in the slow fashion movement!

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26 Comments

  1. This was a really interesting read! I rarely purchase new clothes, i often just purchase second hand or upcycle what i have, and I always donate what I don’t use to charity shops or other donation bins. Slow fashion and conscious choices is definitely something more people should invest time in!

  2. This was such a beautiful post! I travel with just my backpack and a small suitcase and limiting my clothes have was difficult at first but now I just feel so great about living as a minimalist and consuming less! During my travels I am continuing to buy from local companies or ones that have great sustainable methods. Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. I am very interested in this concept, as I try to keep slow food concepts in my eating & cooking practices. In the food world there are cities that consider themselves “slow food” cities, is there some sort of “slow fashion” designation that any stores have embraced?

  4. I absolutely loved this post, and agree with it a million percent. You have really made me think about how I buy. I had a business until recently, and our objective was always to operate in as “green” and environmental friendly way as possible, Im not sure why I havent applied that to my personal spending. I will consciously do this with my clothes buying now too. Very well written x

  5. Just found your blog through the Blogs in Bloom page and I love it! I love this post as it puts the fashion industry into a perspective we can understand. Similar to you, I only buy an item of clothing if I know I will wear it more than once, however, was unaware that this could help revolutionise the way we live and change towards a slow fashion society. I will be sharing this with others if you don’t mind, as I think this is a message we need to spread! X

  6. Love this post, very informative- I can tell you have done lots of research! I used to buy lots of fast fashion but I am getting better now :).

  7. I love this post! This is so informative because I’ve never heard of slow fashion! Fast fashion, yes, but not slow fashion. And you’re right! There are so many problems with fast fashion that people should start buying clothes of high ethical quality. I like the rule where you only invest in an item of clothing where you wear it for as many times as the item cost. Very cool!

    -GG
    http://www.girlingamba.com

  8. Before now, I had never heard of slow fashion but I love the idea of it. I am guilty of buying fast fashion high street clothes because how cheaply they come but the moral and ethical side of me knew I’d have to give it up someday.

  9. Truly interesting. As a Nigerian, over purchasing and throwing away clothes has never been part of our culture, however, this trend of fast fashion is steadily and rapidly become more and more common. And sadly, I am guilty of buying clothes regularly even when I haven’t worn some. But one thing I am proud of is never ever throwing away clothes (other than undergarments of course), we always pass it along to someone who could use it. Someone who needs. I love this idea of quality over quantity and its benefits. Will try and cut down on my shopping habits too. Thanks for sharing. And keep advocating for this well-deserved cause.

  10. That’s an interesting angle to fashion. Most of us stick to the definition of fashion = being trendy and in vogue. We end up buying clothes just because they look good. I like the fact that slow fashion encompasses timeless pieces and a lot of thought is put in to buy the best. Cheers!!

  11. This is really interesting! I have definitely become more conscious of the brands of clothes that I purchase from and how much I wear my clothes. I also recently went to a second-hand clothes market and bought really nice, good-condition stuff:) It made me feel good about myself:) Thanks a lot for sharing!

  12. This is fascinating- I’ve been quite guilty recently of not thinking about where some of my clothes come from though I do customise and recycle things for a ‘Mad Max’ look. It’s something I think we could all take some time to think about and work on, whatever our style and budget. <3 <3

  13. I thank God someone is finally talking about this. Its beautiful written and detailed. The Fast Fashion has not helped alot when it comes to true talents. We don’t see uniqueness in Fast Fashion, well I certainly havent since I studying at university in International Fashion Retailing. Its sad, and I hope a change happens soon.
    Keep up the great post.

  14. Thank you. I knew a bit about this but didn’t have words to describe it. Slow fashion makes sense. I think part of our (western world) problem is we want instant gratification and purchasing things we don’t really need gets us it sometimes. Great idea wearing and price as does make you step back and think.

  15. I have heard of slow fashion before, but I find it difficult to purchase ethical clothing since there are not many secondhand shops here (& they mainly sale things for kids & the home) & shopping online can be expensive with shipping & the prices tend to be higher to began with since the fabrics are ethically sourced.
    I do donate my old clothing though & I don’t throw anything away unless it’s beyond repair. I also don’t buy new clothes that often & if I do, it’s something I know I will frequently wear.

  16. I tend to be long wearing with my clothes. I’d love to begin focusing on more of a slow fashion mindset. I like keeping a smaller wardrobe with simpler pieces that I can dress up and wear with lots of other items.
    I’m not big on throwing out clothes, I’m more likely to donate them, unless I’ve worn them out, and they aren’t worth donating.

  17. I’ve briefly read about this topic before and it’s amazing how much it isn’t talked about! It’s such a controversial topic as you don’t want to take away the small earnings workers do earn, but you don’t wait to exploit them either! I do tend to make sure I will get wear out of my purchases, but you have definitely reminded me to stay on top of it! Such a well written post too!

    Sarah | http://www.sazsinclair.com xx

  18. I had never heard of Slow or Fast fashion before so it was very interesting to read! I will be first to admit that when it comes to clothes l look at affordability and never think about the behind the scenes. This post has got me thinking a little more about that so thankyou!

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