Take it Slow!

Slow. There’s calmness in the word, slowing our breath and being aware of our centre. The term, “slow fashion”, was first coined in 2008 by Kate Fletcher of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, and is about being mindful of how we design, consume, and dispose of fashion (1).

Slow fashion is much like slow food, the gentle braising of a beautiful organic cut of meat, simmering over six hours and appreciated with a lovely bottle of organic burgundy in the company of great friends. It is rich in substance and has a story to tell. 

Sustainable ecological solutions are at the core of this philosophy. It’s the thoughtful attention to the process of making a garment: using textiles that are produced with the environment in mind, in a socially conscious factory that pays its employees fairly. Choosing well-crafted items that are socially and environmentally responsible over the lure of rock bottom fast fashion pricing is a choice for quality over quantity.

Slow fashion is cool, says my 7 year old, who gets a kick out of cutting up a leather jacket from the 80’s and seeing it transform into something hip and unique. I’m grateful she has a connection with the process. Little revolutions of slow fashion are popping up more and more, but mostly in small batches. Like a great sourdough starter that can survive years and keep giving towards wonderful bread, this movement has great roots that will grow and give back. This process is all about integrity and spirit!

I am a thrifter and love a good deal; however, I have always had a great sense of unease seeing a $5 kid’s dress at fast fashion retailers. How is that possible? How can this little eyelet and embroidery number sell for so little? How was it made, and under what conditions? The retail price of clothing has dropped significantly with the rise of fast fashion, which preaches the philosophy of buying more often with several cycles of fashion trends per season. This quick response from fashion trend to retail exposure is also known as “disposable fashion” (2). Typically, these items are made to expire in trend as quickly as in quality. This breeds a hunger for more, which results in waste and damage to the environment.

Slow fashion involves the use of textiles such as bamboo jersey, made from bamboo that once planted, has roots that retain water in the watershed, thus sustaining riverbanks and reducing water pollution. In contrast, cotton farming is notoriously toxic: one-third of a pound (3) of pesticides are used to make one cotton t-shirt (4)!

Many of the large factories used to produce garments have few regulations to abide by. This contributes to environmental pollution and the use of child labour. It is said that if a child grows to adolescence in a sweatshop, he or she is more likely to end up in human trafficking rings. Heartbreaking! Slow fashion can also be found at a clothing swap, which is the ultimate social shopping party. I take part in a couple every season and always walk away fulfilled. The mum in me also subscribes to the “Make Do Mend” philosophy and I refurbish our clothes when needed. My studio is stocked with many of my husband’s old jeans and sweaters with holes, which will be put to use for linings, patches on pants, and perhaps a few pairs of mittens or slippers.  I choose to exercise my pocketbook on unique pieces that are usually made to order or made in micro runs. I try to buy local and support my community. There are several talented homegrown designers such as Nicole Bridger, Sonja den Elzen, and John Patrick, who work with sustainable textiles, and a slew of brands that work to upcycle post consumer garments, like the well known Preloved and my own Agent Reclaim. I am a huge fan of Etsy, a social commerce website focused on handmade and vintage items with mini shops around the world. It’s a great community where the slow fashion movement can be found in many shops. Here are a few of my faves:

Beautifully structured handmade knitwear from Estonia. Alisa works with high quality, locally sourced, undyed yarn from local sheep and alpacas. She has also used yarns that contain fibres made from recycled plastic bottles. Her designs are edgy and beautifully crafted, all made to order. (www.alisadesign.etsy.com)

Sustainably bespoke haute couture, designed and made in an old mill in Manchester, UK. (www.silviahoyamena.etsy.com)

Vancouver’s Katherine Soucie creates one of a kind clothing made from re-modeled nylon hosiery, which is hand dyed, cut, silk screened and sewn to create the fabric to produce her garments. (www.sanssoucie.etsy.com)

Men’s upcycled street wear from Australia. Handmade using all reclaimed materials and old military blankets. (www.urbandon.etsy.com)

Reclaimed leather clothing and accessories. Chic designs handcrafted in Finland. (www.exleather.etsy.com)

Slow fashion is the meaningful experience that happens when we have a deeper understanding of the origins of our wears and those who made it.

Take it Slow my friend!

(1) katefletcher.com
(2) slowfashionforward.org
(3) traubman.igc.com/shirt.htm
(4) ota.com

by Shannon O’Hara