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!
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.
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.
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!