Taking a short break from the STAY INSPIRED series to help answer one of the most frequent questions I receive from my readers and customers.
As you probably know from my blog, I own the small, slow fashion label, HUX. Over the past few years many people have questioned what slow fashion actually is, so I’m here to help clarify what slow fashion actually means and what you can do to change the way you, as a consumer, can help to change the fashion industry.
Let’s start with Fast Fashion
In order to understand slow-fashion, we first need to understand the term fast fashion (or unfortunately, known as just fashion).
Fast fashion refers to two things, the way fashion items are produced and the way in which they are consumed.
Products are mass produced, using cheap labour and usually unethical working conditions to produce ‘on-trend’ fashion pieces as speedily as possible to stay in line with the fashion dictations of the moment. Most of the designs are replicas or modified version of catwalk items. Because of the way the ‘design process’ works, there is a high turn over of designs and a result also a high volume of wastage.
My generation will not settle for anything that is not instantaneous. And how can we begin to try and live otherwise, when we live in a world of instant gratification. Technology at our finger tips, a world on tap. The same goes for the way we shop. We are so used to going online and purchasing cheap clothing and receiving it the very next day, only to wear it once and damage it. We don’t mind because it was only £9.99 and did the job of making us seem insta-perfect last Saturday night. We tend to over-consume because prices are cheap and trends change like the wind. And that right there is fast fashion.
image via @fash_rev
"According to a report by Value Village, 10.5 million tons of clothing is sent to landfill every year in North America alone." - via Fash_Rev
To recap fast fashion doesn’t only refer to the fact clothing and accessories are produced using fast-factory methods, but also the fast method in which these items are being consumed.
So what is Slow Fashion?
At the moment slow fashion is seen more as a movement, since fast fashion is the norm, but hopefully in the future it will come to be the norm.
Slow fashion is the opposite of fast fashion. It means producing fashion items using slow-methods of production, usually in workshops, rather than factories, and usually hand-crafted, rather than mass produced. The designs are usually limited only to the designer, rather than being replicas of catwalk designs and the brands who are championing slow fashion usually operate in a transparent way.
It’s worth highlighting that slow fashion actually means a slower production time too, which can often be frustrating to consumers and suppliers, who are used to seeing production churned out in just a few weeks. At HUX we work directly with the artisans to produce our one-of-a-kind designs and working in this way means heavy delays when it comes to production. If one of the artisans falls sick, for example, the entire production line is delayed. Therefore there are a lot of challenges around managing the manufacturing process not only for HUX, but for most of the slow-fashion brands we know.
And consumption is directly affected along with that since customers who shop slow also show less. Through branding, we can educate our customers into making deliberate choices to shop less and invest in higher quality products which last. Generally speaking, there is a reason why something that is mass produced and sold for cheaper than a glass of wine, won’t last you very long when it comes to durability.
How bad is the Fashion industry as it stands?
Bad. After the Oil & Gas industry, the Fashion industry is thought to rank second in the top industries which are negatively impacting the planet. Although that is just speculative since it has been misquoted many times and is very difficult to calculate the impact each industry has on the planet. What we do know is
“Fashion is one of the most resource-intensive industries in the world, both in terms of natural resources and human resources.”
- Jason Kibbey, CEO of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition
Over the last few years there has been a lot of awareness around this and a call for fashion labels to be much more transparent in the way in which they operate.
Why is the fashion industry so bad?
Not just the use of large, and polluting factories as some of you may think. Way beyond that is the heavy use of water. The facts and figures differ tremendously when confirming how much water is used to produce one t-shirt so I won't write a figure here, but it's a staggering amount. The use of water is mainly for cultivating cotton (and various other soon to be materials) and also the water involved in the dying process. Along with this textile wastage every year is huge because of the changing fashion trends, with many people discarding items after just a few wears - only to be sent to landfil.
All of these factors contribute to the negative impact the fashion industry is having on the rest of the world.
Why shop slow fashion?
Slow fashion isn’t just about saving the planet and reducing textile wastage. By shopping slow-fashion brands who operate in a transparent way, you are contributing to supporting the lives of the artisans who craft the products. By supporting these brands you will also be contributing towards a positive shift in the fashion industry as a whole by shaking up the conversation further and forcing labels to re-examine their entire production lines.
image via @fash_rev
What can you actually do to make a difference?
I’m pretty fed up of people who tell you all the bad things about the world, but don’t guide you into knowing what you can do better to avoid being a part of the problem (Leonardo DiCaprio i'm looking at you and Before The Flood (rolls eyes)). I do understand that shopping with slow fashion brands can often be more expensive. I am not suggesting that you throw all your clothes away and switch your wardrobe to a slow-fashion only brands. In fact that’s the exact OPPOSITE of what you should do. Keep what you have, adore it, up-cycle in some way to fit your new vibe. And then when you decide you need more clothes, perhaps you can try the following things:
image via @fash_rev
1. Shop in second hand stores. If, like me, you don’t like looking like everyone else, then shop second hand fashion items and reinvent them into something new or timeless. A pair of scissors can really do wonders. Change those pre-loved wears into re-loved ones!
2. Make your own clothes. Sounds nuts, right? Actually I think you’ll be surprised how easy it is to make something loose like a kaftan (minimal stitching involved). Or even change up old clothes. If you do want try and stay on trend then don't BUY those ripped jeans! Rip up some perfectly good old ones.
3. Shop with transparent, slow-fashion brands. Not all of them are crazy expensive either, sure the prices are higher than your fast fashion hughstreet chains, but HUX and other brands are trying to make slow fashion more affordable for people. Shopping this way will also encourage you to shop less and to shop in a more sustainable, meaningful way.
Try to be more patient with the smaller, slow fashion brands because, as mentioned previously, production won't happen over-night like it can with fast fashion.
You don’t have to shop fancy designers, you can head to small, local brands. Which leads me onto my next point.
4. Shop local. Yep, just like fruit and veg. I think you may be surprised to know how many brands are home-grown in homes near where you live! It may sound improbable, but look into it. It may surprise you. Needless to say it's much better for the environment.
5. Shop less. This one is a bit harder, because with the influence media has over us, it's difficult to make informed choices about our own style. I try to shop for classic items that I know I can dress up or down which will last me years. That way I can shop less. Oh and it's cheaper too!
6. Question fashion brands. Don't be afraid to ask questions about how the products you are purchasing are made and where they are made before you make a choice about whether you want to support their brand.
I hope this gives you a better understanding of slow fashion and what you can do to shop in a more mindful, impactful way.