Alexis Lilja

A Guide to Slow Fashion

Alexis Lilja
A Guide to Slow Fashion

In today’s materialistic society where everyone wants everything, they want it yesterday and to the cheapest possible price, it is much easier to find quantity than quality. Within fashion that often means that you can get a heap of clothes for little money but someone else must pay the price and take the consequences, since the price is often low because the shop/brand has most likely not prioritised the garments construction, sustainability, the employees work conditions or environment friendly choices of material and shipping.

Slow fashion stands for the opposite, that is, when you instead prioritise quality over quantity, and think in a more minimalist manner, sustainable and often organic. Slow fashion doesn’t mean that you give anything up or that you miss out out on something, but it means sticking to your values, know what you need and thereby is less materialistic and think carefully before you invest in something. To put it simply; you don’t buy the pig in the sack. When you want something, you make your own research, reflect and plan first, and do not make a purchase until you’re certain what it is you are purchasing. First and foremost, you think about what you have and what you really need. Is it what you’re looking at something you need or simply something that might be fun to have? Once you’ve decided on that, you ask questions such as “Who made this?”, “Where is this from?”, “Is the price realistic or a “steal”?”, “Which materials have been used?”. By doing so you are sure that you get what you want, that you get a product of good quality and function, while you are sure that the product has had the least possible environmental impact.  

Slow fashion is also a lot about what you have in your wardrobe. How do you wash your clothes? How often do you wash them? Do you hang them up and treat them gently or do you throw them in the closet and shut the door? How you treat your possessions, fashion , has  great impact on how long they’ll last and Slow fashion is therefore about thinking both how and where you shop as well as to gently care for what you have.

During the great depression, everything was rationed and you had coupons for the food and clothes you were entitled to. You made most things from scratch with your own two hands since the cost would then be much lower, be it regarding cooking or wardrobe. A quote from those days that is also very suitable for the ideas today regarding slow fashion is:” Use it up, wear it out. Make it do or do without”. That means to use what you have as long as it can be used, make sure that what you have is enough, or do without. If the clothes broke, you mended them. If there weren’t any fabric at hand, you took apart something else and used that fabric or re-designed something already in the wardrobe. It was the re-cycling and up-cycling of that time.

In old Japan, the families who needed to live most sparingly, often farmers, had garments several generations old, that had been mended over and over again with various different pieces of fabric and hand stitched with embroidery such as Sachiko embroidery. Each generation had made their mark on the garment by mending it in their way and by doing so, the garments had become a map of the family’s family tree. Such fabrics are referred to as boro and there are many boro kimonos left today where you can see how the garment has aged and how each generation has added to it. Today boro is classed as art and boro scarves and jackets are very popular among fashion lovers and are sold by designer houses as well as smaller boutiques on Etsy. Antique boro garments can sometimes be found sold at e-bay , if you’re lucky. You’ll have to pay a pretty penny for it though, and they’re not all available for wear; some are only for decoration as an homage to its history.

In India they reuse old saris and stick them together and embroider gorgeous patterns with threat, spangles and other decorations. The embroidery is referred to as kantha and the kantha fabrics are used decorate the home as blankets, duvets, pillows and table cloth as well as scarves and for baby wearing.

More and more fashion designers, students or graduates, choose to work with upcycled fashion where they reuse material from garments and accessories and create something completely new and unique from them. That way they reach a new level of creativity and nothing goes to waste. A brand created by such a designer is Luciana Soul. 

Both designers, fashion houses and consumers are becoming more and more environment conscious, learn more about sustainability and how the use of certain materials harm both nature and animals. The famous fashion boutique online named Net-a-porter, a wordplay on net (internet) and pret-a-porter (ready to wear fashion, opposite of couture) have now been celebrated all over internet and social media for finally having said no to fur.

Today there are at least ten alternatives to leather and among those, a company named Life Materials created vegan PETA friendly alternatives such as muskin, made from mushrooms, and banana-paper leather, made from bananas among other things.

Bamboo and hemp are becoming more and more common as alternatives to cotton and today most fashion boutiques sell products in organic cotton and more and more sustainable fashion collections are created, especially in children’s wear. Children’s wear is a huge market, especially baby-wear since parents are all too keen to give their children the best of the best.

It will take time before the fashion industry is completely sustainable, since there is currently more greed than awareness in it, but we are moving forward and there is a lot one can do to contribute to the process.

If you’re interested in embrace Slow fashion and sustainable fashion in your life, for your own sake and for the sake of future generations, take the time to learn more about the fashion industry, how your favourite shops/designers look at it and how they act, where change is needed and what you as a consumer can do. Make smart choices when you need to buy something. Shop second hand, get yourself a sewing machine and learn how to mend or redesign your clothes, get clothes for free by someone who want to donate theirs, choose timeless designs that you can wear for a long time instead of following the latest trend and choose garments and accessories that can be used in an infinite number of ways. Develop your own style, arrange your wardrobe in a way that makes you use everything you have and always know what it is you need.

One person can’t do everything, but everyone can do something.

Live a sustainable life and lead by example!