Slow Fashion is the movement that takes into consideration the impact of the clothes we buy - on our fellow human beings, on the planet, and on our future. Driven by the principle that our collective choices affect the world around us, and an awareness of the way in which the fashion industry interconnects with social and environmental systems, it allies aesthetics with ethics, seeking to produce high quality, long lasting clothes, in a responsible manner.
The term was coined in 2007 by designer Kate Fletcher from the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, when she compared fashion to the ‘Slow Food’ experience. In her words, ‘Slow Food links pleasure and food with awareness and responsibility.’ In a similar way, Slow Fashion seeks to link items of beauty and durability with an awareness of their social and environmental impact. It’s about the way we consume fashion, as well as create it.
Most of us have heard of ‘mindful eating’ – Slow Fashion is mindful consumption of a different kind: both brand and consumer are conscious of the choices they make, when they manufacture and buy clothes.
So when we choose Slow Fashion, what values are we backing? Here we take a look at social, environmental and political responsibility:
A social conscience
84 men take their own lives every week in the UK.
If Slow Fashion involves a concern for the welfare of the consumer, of human beings, and of society at large, shouldn’t it be an imperative on businesses as well as the consumer to help improve society? What if this movement – which is a movement about awareness – could be ‘mindful’ in another respect: considering mental health?
It is this consideration that’s behind ALEC I-K’s choice to work with and donate 10% of its profits to men’s mental health charities, including 5% to CALM, a charity dedicated to preventing male suicide.
Ultimately, Alec believes by improving support for better men’s mental health and equality, the overall impact on society could be significant – as we can then start to change the pressures on boys and men and the subsequent disturbing stats below (just a few which are weighted negatively towards men):
- The biggest killer of men under 45 is suicide
- 95% of prison inmates in the UK are male
- 85% of victims of violent assault are men
- Nine out of ten homeless people are men
- Boys are on average three times as likely to be excluded from school
So let's have this discussion and raise awareness so that we can start to tackle some of these big issues, recognise equality's key role in bettering men's mental health and ultimately benefiting society as a whole for generations to come.
Trend-driven fashion and over production involves a huge amount of waste, not only in terms of the resources that it uses, but also in the way that it encourages a ‘throwaway culture’. Burberry’s burning of £28.6m of stock in 2018 is just one example and raises the question – why at the very least, were the fabrics not recycled? It is understandable why companies need to protect their brand and not give clothes to charities or heavily discount, but burning these clothes is so bad for the environment. And this is just one commonplace example, which is taking place across the industry.
A sea turned to desert
In her recent documentary, Fashion’s Dirty Secret, we saw Stacey Dooley being driven across the Aral Sea, what was once one of the biggest inland seas in the world – reduced now to dust, sucked dry by Fast Fashion’s manufacturing processes.
It revealed the enormity of the situation. Fast Fashion’s clothes may be cheap, but its practices are costing us the earth – literally. One of the top five most polluting industries in the world, alongside the oil industry, its effect on the environment is catastrophic:
- around 100,000 marine animals are killed each year by plastic waste
- 92 million tons of waste are dumped into landfills each year by the fashion industry
How can Slow Fashion change this narrative?
- opting for natural or circular fibres and sustainable manufacturing practices, where the recycling of waste, re-use of treatable water and use of alternative energy are enforced by law
- designing clothes for longevity
- encouraging consumers to consume less and instead invest in quality pieces that will stand the test of time (think Marie Kondo and downscaling your wardrobe)
A political voice
‘Choose Love’ – the words emblazoned on the t-shirts of the world’s first store where you can buy gifts for refugees. They encapsulate its ethos of hope and unity. Moreover, it’s a message that the project puts into practice, with 100% of profits going towards helping people caught up in the refugee crisis.
This is how brands can really be politically potent (more than simply putting words on a t-shirt) – by striving for compassion and equality in all of their practices, with the aim of creating a more united future.
And as consumers, we vote with our purchases. In the words of Stacey Dooley:
‘I recognise how powerful I am as a consumer.’
Investing in Slow Fashion is a vote for the safeguarding of the planet, and all of its inhabitants. The alternative is allowing its ongoing exploitation and destruction.
Which is why we need to press fast-forward on the Slow Fashion movement.
Fashion has always been – by definition – forward-thinking, typically in terms of being driven by trends. But it’s time that it became forward-thinking in a different sense – looking to our common future, and how we can work together to better it. We (both businesses and consumers) should choose to contribute to a clothing industry based on integrity, with care for the planet and human beings at its core. Because, in the words of David Attenborough, ‘the future of humanity, and indeed all life on earth, now depends on us.’