Slow fashion, our conscious choice by Valeria Boi

The big chain stores have led to a change in the fashion industry and also in the consumer shopping habits. Whether it’s Oxford Street in London or Corso Buenos Aires in Milan, it’s easy to notice the streets crowded with people holding bags from fast fashion stores. Fortunately, the slow fashion movement is spreading more and more and it’s in contrast to fast fashion, encouraging sustainable production, which means respecting the environment, people and animals.

 

We have to admit that being aware of what we are buying, means knowing that we are part of the process, slow fashion or fast fashion. It’s a matter of choice, of consciousness.

How to justify the high price of slow fashion garments?

Clearly a person accustomed to fast fashion will ask this question, since with a small amount of money it’s possible to buy several garments, while in small sustainable clothing brand stores the prices are higher. The answer lies in the quality of the raw materials used and the labour force. Garments produced with local raw materials by artisans, who have their own professionalism, have a value that must be considered, recognized and adequately remunerated.

Every week the fast fashion stores replicate luxury fashion trends, distributing them all around the world. With this philosophy, the consumer will buy the garment he wants but that will be worn by many other people, loosing the chance to feel unique by wearing an exclusive garment that will not be found anywhere. The reason is simple, the mass production doesn’t give attention to detail because all this would take more time for the production. Attention that instead we find in slow fashion, because the garments are produced one by one, with the necessary time to measure, sew and embroider. It’s not exactly what the average consumer, accustomed to fast fashion stores, thinks. Too distracted by the attractive prices and the new clothes offered every week in stores, his thought is directed to the “convenience" of buying a fashionable garment at a lower price. Unfortunately this is the result of the boom that 20 years ago had the big fast fashion brands we know, and since then people started to buy more and more garments at small prices, with the result of throwing them away after one year of use, going to increase pollution. So the small brands faced the exponential growth of this new phenomenon, and because of this many of them were forced to close their stores. That’s why when we talk about slow fashion, we also talk about sustainability, which is fundamental to the world we live in.

Many brands are taking a more sustainable approach, moving away from the principles of fast fashion. At the same time, many consumers are making more conscious choices in their purchases, and it’s like brands and consumers are educating each other on this path to sustainability. Slow fashion considers the entire life cycle of the product and aims at circularity, making it useful and preventing it from being thrown into the waste after usage. New generations also share sustainable values and this is confirmed by the survey conducted by UNiDAYS (the largest network used by students), exploring Gen Z’ fashion trends and sustainability. The report revealed that 68% of them want clothes manufactured to the highest ethical standards, 39% would buy pre-loved because it is more sustainable, and 67% of them prefer fashion brands that appeal to their social conscience. This data should come as no surprise, because Gen Z is aware of the impact of fast fashion on the planet and society. Their awareness about the climate-ecological emergency and exploitation of workers come from documentaries like The True Cost, still available on YouTube, science communicators on Instagram or the young activist Greta Thunberg, just to name a few examples. There is also the realization that some of the purchases people always made were not really motivated. What we should ask to ourselves when we are about to buy something could be "Do I really need it?". We have to be honest with ourselves, most of us don’t buy a garment because we really need it, but just because we are attracted to the offer. Very often in our closet there are garments that we no longer use or that we don’t remember having purchased. It would be a good idea to make some alterations on the garments that we don’t wear anymore, to make it a bit different and newer. If we really need something we can also buy in second hand, vintage stores and online, because it’s possible to find real pearls that are opportunities not to be missed. Young people know this very well, given that according to Globaldata (English data analysis and consulting company) the second-hand market is expected to grow 11 times faster than retail clothing stores, in the period up to 2025.

Resale marketplaces represent spaces where people can sell and buy vintage and pre-loved fashion. Second hand market helps finding unique pieces like the classic Chanel handbag with its iconic quilted design, and all the product are analyzed, checked and restored if needed, assuring depending  standards of the platform. If instead we prefer something new, we can choose to buy and invest in a garment made of quality materials and handmade product that will last for more years.

What is the point of buying 5/6 plastic clothes (yes, polyester is plastic!) that will end up in waste due to poor materials? Better to choose natural fibers such as linen, cotton, silk or new fabrics such as lyocell, modal, mylo. And what a nice feeling is to wear a garment made with fine local materials and produced by real artisans! Not being an accomplice to the exploitation to which thousands of people are subjected for the production of clothing is something that we should always keep in mind. Whether it’s a new purchase, a second-hand or vintage garment, it’s good to select what we need, so that we can mix it with clothes that we already have in our wardrobe.

Deeper knowledge of fashion styles and ages can provide help when browsing vintage shops. If a customer loves particularly the 80’, he can buy the oversized Jean Paul Gaultier blazer that, with its fluorescent graphic print is perfect match with distressed jeans or a mini skirt. Knowledge of stylistic  tricks will allow to create different styles with just one item. Because if we identify our personal taste in clothing, we will be able to create our own style and consequently make purchases without waste, contributing to the preservation of the environment, the recognition of the work of people and the protection of animals.

Valeria Boi, London 08/02/2022

Illustrated by Mariam Abuladze