October is Slow Fashion month. Did you know that? No, me neither until just today. Oh well, learn something new and all that jazz....
It does seem fitting, however, that this is the month we are *officially* allowed to yell from the rooftops about slow fashion, because it has been on my mind more than usual lately.
I have been working on producing my second collection, which should be ready by Spring 2018. I launched my first collection in March of 2016, which is a LIFETIME between collections if you ask H&M or Zara, but is totally understandable from a self-funded startup P.O.V. like mine. I've embraced the 'slow fashion' movement mostly out of ethics, but a teeny tiny bit because it makes me feel better about taking my sweet-ass time to get things done, let's be honest.
So, I guess to start, you might be wondering what exactly "Slow Fashion" means? And, truth is, it means a lot of different things to different people. It's a lifestyle, an ethos, a friendly reminder or even just a fancy shmancy term companies use when they don't agree with the regular fast-fashion led drop-cycle of the current fashion industry. (I say 'current' because this industry is changing as fast as the tech industry, it's just a little harder to see unless you are directly involved.)
Dig this: the drop cycle of fashion refers to how often new collections hit stores. Before 'fast-fashion' was a thing, design houses would drop 2 collections a year. TWO! Spring/Summer, and Fall/Winter. Mayyyybe a Holiday or Resort season (think sparkly Christmas dresses or cruise vacation wear, boat shoes and beach coverups and whatnot) if it was your target market. Now, giant companies like H&M and Zara and Forever 21 are dropping 18-24 (and counting) collections a year! That's a new collection EVERY TWO WEEKS! And we aren't talking an item of clothing every two weeks, no. These are full collections - 10-12 different garments that arrive on store shelves one week, only to be shunned to make way for a new collection less than a month later. If you are one of those that follows fashion and hasn't been able to figure out why trends come and go seemingly within days and the floors of department stores, at any given time, look like the 70's, 80's, 90's AND a tasseled flapper-girl on acid were all blown out of a t-shirt cannon, THIS is why. Styles come and go so fast nowadays that most of us don't even notice them. This is the definition of disposable fashion; HUGE production runs of garments that follow trends that don't even get seen by the majority of people, and are "out of style" before even a week has passed. This is the rise of an industry that produces over 1 BILLION items of clothing per year - 14 items for every one person on Earth. And according to statistics, nearly three-fifths of all this clothing produced ends up in incinerators or landfills within ONE YEAR of it being made! Imagine that. Cotton is grown, picked, cleaned and carded, woven into fabric which is cut into pieces and sewn together as a garment. Millions of acres of land are used for growing crop, billions of gallons of water are used to dye the cloth. Hundreds of hands are involved in this process, thousands of hours of work are labored and thousands of miles are covered in transit by foot, cart, truck, boat and plane. Millions of this one garment are made, delivered to stores around the world, NOT WORN, OR EVEN SEEN, and then destroyed. Can you think of a single thing more wasteful? I dare you to try.
THIS is what we are all yelling about when we yell about the importance of slow fashion. Simply stated, an end to THIS.
Slow fashion is a revolution in the standards and expectations this industry has set. Designers and consumers alike have realized that 1. We simply can NOT continue wasting our resources this way - it's not sustainable for the economy, humanity, or our planet. 2. Emerging and small designers simply have no chance in a market such as this. There is no "if you can't beat them join them" option in this race. Nor an "eat or be eaten" option. The only option is to reject the status-quo completely. To produce small runs of garments instead of millions at a time, maybe even one-of-a-kind items. To produce what you can, when you can, no matter if you miss the so-called 'seasonal' drop. To create as little waste as possible, and find a way to be responsible for the items you are putting out into the world. To educate your clientele on what fast-fashion actually means and why it hurts us all when we continue to support it.
The Slow Fashion movement isn't about doing everything at a snails pace. It's about investing the right about of time and attention into a problem so you can solve it properly. It's about awareness, and a deliberate choice to purchase better quality items less often. It's a conscious effort to take a step back from the insanity that is the consumer market, take a deep breath, set some intentions, and dive back in with your eyes wide open this time. It's a mindful effort to break a deadly cycle.
Fashion is about individual style, about standing up for your cause, and sharing your ideals. It can be a frivolous, silly and ego-centric industry, yes. But this is where you come in. Listen, you are never NOT going to wear clothes (unless you are part of a nudist community, then you do you, you always do, man) You are most likely going to wear clothing, MULTIPLE items of clothing, in fact, every single day of your life. You will dress your kids in them and you will covet them and share them with your siblings and you will feel like a Rockstar in them and sure, sometimes like a Troll in them, but you will always, ALWAYS wear them. So what better way to share your cause, than by doing something you are already doing?
I'm not asking you to change your entire lifestyle. Not all of us have thousands of dollars to spend on locally sourced, handmade clothing. I get this. I too am a struggling startup owner. We all shop fast-fashion once in a while because it's cheap or convenient or whatever the reason. All I'm asking is that you stop and think before you buy; think about how long you plan on owning this item of clothing, how often you think you will wear it and if it is something you will covet or if it will end up as a statistic, and in your trash within a year. Think about the time and money and effort that went into putting this item of clothing into your hands. Do your research. Shop second hand, or at the locally owned stores in your city. Remember that supply and demand is always the bottom line and you as a consumer have the power to decide where that line is drawn. Think about the price per wear; how many wears you will get out of an item vs. the cost of an item. Sometimes it's actually better on your wallet to shop less, but shop better.
There are SO MANY blogs and websites out in the ether that have tips and tricks on how to buy better, so I won't dwell, but I'll leave you with a quote from the ever incredible Vivienne Westwood: "Buy less, choose well, make it last." You got this.