Sustainability. Recycling. Climate change. Current fashion buzz words that feature prominently throughout the media.
Our world is consumed by media projections of what next to buy. Fashion trends that don’t necessarily suit us or our body types but we somehow feel obligated to rush out and purchase.
The increase of influencers who play out their career opportunities by seducing our insecurities into thinking that we too need what they are currently displaying on their social media accounts. Whether they have been sponsored, gifted or affiliated to a particular brand or product, I too have purchased items without much thought as to where it was made, how long it will last and where it will end up when we discard it for the next new thing. Fast fashion is inexpensive clothing that is produced rapidly by mass market retailers and suppliers in response to the latest trends. The quality of fast fashion is not meant to last forever. It’s not meant to help save the planet or reduce waste. It is produced solely to make money.
In a world of fast fashion, fast paced living, online and in store, it is all too easy to make poor buying choices. Last year my new year’s resolution was to stop buying new clothes. I wanted to make a conscious effort to reduce my carbon footprint in the fashion world and reuse, recycle and refashion my existing wardrobe. For a self-confessed shopaholic four months was all I managed, to not buy anything new for. I shopped very rarely during this time and made a conscious decision to only buy secondhand quality clothing. I researched brands that focus on sustainability and longevity, quality made products that will last for many years to come. After the first four months I refocused my direction to include being able to buy some new products in my slow fashion challenge as long as I felt they met this direction.
Slow fashion has become a side interest that is extremely important to share with others. Slow fashion isn’t only the recycling of garments that already exist, but the movement of designing, creating, and buying clothing specifically for quality and longevity. It encourages slower production schedules, fair wages, lower carbon footprints, and in an ideal world – zero waste. (Study-NY.com) I have new favourite clothing brands, some of which, that don’t even make their own clothes. Welcome Back Slow Fashion, In Search of Glory and Nine Lives are three of my current slow fashion passion brands as well as new comer Kaleidoscope Wearables. They exist only to recycle and resell quality second hand clothing that someone else has passed on or ‘Marie Kondoed’ from their own wardrobes. Other fashion labels such as Kowtow “Ethical from seed to garment” and Okewa Rainwear, with a line made from recycled plastic bottles, are slow fashion leaders in the industry. Florence and Fortitude is another new leader in sustainable ethical fashion.
Slow fashion doesn’t only confine itself to fashionable trends, it can relate to a lot of purchases in our lives. How much stuff do we actually really need? We can place too much emphasis on our happiness dependent on what we purchase and how it makes us feel when we do. Does fast fashion give us that fix of spending money in return for instant happiness, regardless, of how long our shiny new item will last for before we discard it? We regularly cleanse our wardrobes and feel instantly better when we gift clothing to charities, second hand stores or pass it on to someone else. But where does all this fast fashion end up, if not clogging up more corners of our earth? What if we made better slow fashion choices to reduce the amount of fast fashion we methodically dump season after fashionable season?
Being slow fashion conscious doesn’t mean you have to love fashion any less. It’s about finding ways to be creatively outstanding, while reducing the mass production of products only meant to last a short wear life before being discarded. Fast fashion without a doubt has huge environmental and social impacts on the fashion industry and our planet. We often find ways to express or communicate who we are through our clothing choices and style. Let’s express ourselves in ways that also help educate our children about sustainable, eco or slow fashion in order to move forward reducing our waste. There used to be between two-four seasons a year in the Fashion world and now there are as many as 52, essentially devised just to shift more continuous product.
In third world countries with clothing factories, the risk is carried by those most vulnerable and worst paid. Price pressure drives these conditions, allowing garment factory workers to be in danger themselves because of poor safety and sanitary conditions. This is an exploitation of basic human safety.
By justifying the cost for the economical profit and benefits that these countries gain by mass production, even though wages are low, factory disasters are high and some of the world’s most unsafe working conditions. This all becomes excused because these human beings have no other alternatives.
Fair trade and slow fashion look to address important issues such as women’s development, social development and environmental development and to enlighten the buyer into understanding that their choices do matter, that they can make a difference. Get to know where your favourite clothing brands come from. Are they just as desirable when you know the truth?
“Buy less, wear it more. Care for it. ‘Cos our love of fashion shouldn’t cost the planet”. Dianne Ludwig, Owner of Welcome Back Slow Fashion.
I interviewed Dianne Ludwig the owner of Welcome Back Slow Fashion which is one of my favourite 2019 clothing finds. She markets largely on social media site Instagram and sells through Trade Me allowing her sales reach to target a larger range of buyers. Her interest and focus has always been in fashion and so she has seen a lot of what has happened in the industry over the past 30 years. She sources quality second hand designer and vintage clothing and sells it online. Her main driving force is to get people to value and look after their garments. She also provides her expertise on an industry advisory panel at Whitecliffe in the fashion faculty which is a huge leader in sustainable fashion education.
“I am 56 and I’ve loved fashion my entire life, but I’ve also come to see how the industry has become unsustainable. Prior to the late 90’s we didn’t talk about fashion sustainability. We didn’t need to. People weren’t buying piles of clothing and treating it as a disposable item. The current fast fashion industry has been built on the unsustainable premise of generating demand for cheap clothing and producing more clothing than the world needs, and doing so in an exploitative labour model, using increasingly scarce resources and fabrics and dyes which pollute. It’s second only to the oil industry in terms of pollution. It’s wrecking havoc on the earth for the sake of producing profits making clothes people won’t wear more than the few times. And getting people hooked on buying more and more things they don’t need that don’t make them happy” Dianne Ludwig.
Dianne provides her most important values when it comes to slow fashion:
- Only buy what you actually need. If we can slow consumption we can break the industry cycle.
- Avoid fast-fashion labels – they are not necessarily always poor quality but if we don’t buy them it sends a clear message we want clothes made sustainably and ethically.
- Buy recycled
- Learn how to mend clothes
- If you can afford to buy new – buy labels which are sustainably and ethically made.
- Try to buy local labels to help rebuild our New Zealand fashion industry, which fast fashion and globalisation have destroyed.
- Avoid synthetic fabrics
- Take good care of your clothes.
“Live a simple, less polluting life and be part of changing the fashion model. Fashion tells so many stories about what is happening in society at a given time. I’d like to think my current and future wardrobe tells a story of taking better care of the planet.” Dianne Ludwig.
So before you make your next fashion purchase, run it through the check list above and really make the effort to think about where it has come from and how long it will last.
I challenge you to make a change with how you view clothing and fashion.
Our world needs us to.