Slow fashion: What it means and where can you buy it?

kim-pearce-slow fashion

What is slow fashion?

Slow fashion is an emerging segment within the fashion industry that provides an alternative to fast fashion’s social and environmental costs.
As a whole, slow fashion is about making better quality clothes that last longer and using design and production methods that minimize the impact on people and our planet.

What clothes are not fast fashion?

Embracing slow fashion is about buying less and buying better.

The characteristics of slow fashion are a direct opposite of fast fashion:
  • Quality clothes made with sustainable materials
  • Small-batch collections
  • Re-purposing and upcycling of fabrics
  • Transparent supply chains
  • Production methods that reduce textile waste
  • Ethical working conditions

Why we need to slow down the fashion industry

The fashion industry used to revolve around natures four seasons.
That’s no longer the case.
The biggest fast fashion companies in the world pump out new clothing products far in excess of the natural change in seasons.

For example, H&M brings out 16 new collections a year while Zara puts out 24 collections per year – two per month.

As consumers, we are being led to think in shorter and shorter timeframes and treat clothing as a cheap disposal item.

Most of the clothes that end up in landfill were bought cheaply, worn only a handful of times, and then thrown away. 

On average, Australian women wear an item of clothing only 7 times before it is relegated to the bin.

But it’s not just landfill that’s a problem.
A huge amount of natural resources are used in the making of clothes.
By outsourcing their supply chain, big companies can transfer responsibility to unknown and distant third parties. But cheap clothing for us comes at a high price somewhere else.

Away from the glamorous front-row of fashion shows is the hidden back-row exploitation of people and our planet.

Today, the fashion industry has become one of the largest polluters in the world.

According to a report from the United Nations, the fashion industry consumes more energy than the aviation and shipping industry combined.

In total, the fashion industry is responsible for around 20% of global wastewater.

To put that into context, it takes 10,000 litres of water to make a pair of jeans. A person would take 10 years to drink 10,000 litres of water.

And the water consumed by the fashion industry is often in countries where clean water isn’t readily accessible to the people who live there, which deepens the exploitation hidden in the global supply chain.

Change is needed if we are to walk a more sustainable path.

What are the benefits of slow fashion?

Here are reasons why embracing the slow fashion movement will benefit both you and the planet:
  • Better quality clothes will last longer
  • You save money by buying less
  • Buying from small-batch collections gives you a unique style
  • You help support local suppliers rather than big corporations
  • It will reduce pollution and human exploitation

How can you support the slow fashion movement?

Slow fashion is not about dismissing the role of clothes or fashion.

Throughout human history, clothing and fashion have played an important part in culture and individual expression.

Slow fashion is about acknowledging the true cost of cheap clothes and offering people an alternative.

We can’t just depend on the big companies or governments to solve the problem; we also have to play our part as individuals.

Everybody can do something.

We are reminded of that great quote “Clothes aren’t going to change the world, the women who wear them will" (Anne Klein).

We accept that breaking our addiction to cheap, fast fashion will take time.
There’s no denying that fast fashion is a temptation – it’s made to be cheap and convenient.

So how do we say no?

In his TedTalk, Johan Hari states, “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connection”.

Avoiding fast fashion becomes easier if people can deepen the connection to the clothing they buy.

If we understand where our clothing is from, how it was made, and who it benefits, hopefully, it will bring a greater appreciation for the clothes we own.

We are more likely to care for things when we have a personal attachment to them.
One way to do this is to look for smaller retailers or local markets. In my experience, they are often the ones who stock handmade, quality clothing and smaller batch collections. 
You will also find that most have a far greater understanding and connection to their supply chain, resulting in far less environmental waste.

How to join the Fashion Revolution

If you are happy to be part of fashion activism, the Fashion Revolution movement is worth checking out.

Fashion Revolution has become the world’s largest fashion activism movement.

It campaigns for a clean, safe, fair, transparent and accountable fashion industry and has a growing presence in Australia. 

In essence, it encourages all of us to ask one vital question: ‘Who made my clothes?’

When we know where and how our products are made, we become better equipped to make responsible choices.

It is about seeking out slow clothing fashion labels and brands taking a more sustainable approach to their design and manufacturing process.

Just like the slow food movement, this is about encouraging clothing companies to be more open, so we can decide whether we resonate with a fashion label or not.

Our slow clothing brand

Our slow fashion brand, slumwear108, is part of a model that values purpose along with profit.

After travelling to India for many years, we came up with the idea of launching a clothing brand that embraced the entrepreneurial slum communities we had visited.

We included 108 as it is considered a sacred number in many different religions – including Hinduism and Buddhism.

Ultimately, we wanted to create a brand that united people.

Our primary purpose is to demonstrate that there are other ways of treating people and planet to sustain livelihoods.

We use recycled and naturally dyed fabrics and have designed and co-created our slow clothing range with former street youths and impoverished people in Jaipur, India.

Each piece of clothing is lovingly made with fabrics sourced in India, sometimes new, sometimes preloved.
All are stitched with pride and dignity at either I-India’s vocational training centre or through a small manufacturer we have a personal connection with. 

The slumwear108 slow clothing brand encapsulates:
  • A simple, transparent supply chain
  • No mass production
  • No exploited labour
  • No harmful materials
  • Minimal waste
We use the journey of a slumwear108 product to gently flip mindsets.
We hope our garments will spark thoughtful conversations on the power of individuals to change the fashion industry.

Over time, we have also added consciously made products from Australian designers.

We like to support local artisans and creatives in the fashion and homewares industry whose contributions need to be valued. Our revolution is to unite everybody in helping to show what is great in our world.

You can find all our slow clothing products and accessories at our shop in Sydney, or you can visit us online.

Shop our slow clothing collection here