Recently I took part in an Instagram challenge; 30 days and 30 posts about Slow Fashion. What’s that, you ask? Clothes that take a long time to put on? A tortoise suit? Something with way more awkwardly placed buttons than strictly necessary? Well, I’m glad you asked…
The high street fashion industry is all about mass production; garments go from concept to design to retail in a matter of weeks, sold at almost ludicrously low prices to tempt us to purchase pieces we don’t really need and may only wear a handful of times. Trends come and go so quickly that these clothes were never made to last longer than a season, to be discarded or sent to landfill when the next big item du jour in disposable fashion comes along. This is fast fashion. In our consumerist culture, we’ve been conditioned to always look for the next new thing; clothes are no longer worn and repaired, with the vast majority of clothing sales in the UK coming from fast fashion.
So what is Slow Fashion, and why is this movement so important? Well first of all, it’s not a trend. It has nothing to do with the Next New Thing, unless that thing is an antidote to the throwaway culture we’ve cultivated through our desire for instant retail gratification. It’s eco friendly, conscious, and sustainable. It isn’t slouching around in a shapeless hemp sack, unless you like that aesthetic. In essence, slow fashion is about making choices. It’s knowing where your clothes came from, confident that the person who produced your favourite jeans has been treated and paid fairly. It’s being conscious of supply chains, and saying NO to sweatshop labour.
Slow fashion doesn’t have to be expensive. I’m going to tread quite carefully here, because I know I come from a privileged position as someone who can usually afford to buy clothes not from the high street. Telling someone that they’ll get x amount of wears out a shirt they still can’t afford without sacrificing food or rent is classist, not to mention a total dick move.
Slow fashion doesn’t have to be boring or beige.
Total transparency is essential in a slow fashion wardrobe
Most of us have heard the term “greenwashing” thrown around a lot, but what does it actually mean? The environment is a hot topic, and consumers have been putting pressure on companies to be more sustainable in the way they run their business, as well as the products they sell. The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world. In order to maximise profits, many fast fashion brands will put out campaigns alluding to their sustainable practices, or produce capsule collections from recycled or sustainable textiles (ie. H&M’s Conscious collection) in order to distract us from the bigger picture.
One of my absolute favourite slow fashion brands is PHANNATIQ, a London-based label with a policy of total transparency, from where their textiles are sourced to manufacture and packaging. Their organic cotton and bamboo jersey dress in their signature ‘London’ print is inspired by the industrial landscapes of the city.
Always ask: Who made my clothes?
During #FashionRevolutionWeek, we asked ourselves ‘Who Made My Clothes?’ In essence, this is what I love about Slow Fashion; I’m proud to say that not only do I know ‘where’ my clothes came from, and ‘who’ made them, but more often than not I’ve actually met the person who designed, cut, and sewed my favourite pieces.
One of my all-time favourite fashion brands is local Edinburgh legend Totty Rocks, and I’ve been shopping there since they first opened over a decade ago on Victoria Street. The fact their shop relocated to within a cat’s whisker of my flat is dangerous.
I started asking Lynsey and Holly to make my outfits for my trips down to LFW, so earlier this year I had them to create my dream coat – a buttery fuchsia velvet with tangerine trim bespoke number that is basically everything I have ever wanted in outerwear. Owning a coat like this is exactly why I will always choose independent, conscious, and ethical brands of throwaway fashion; I still have every single item of clothing I’ve ever purchased from them, I remember when I bought each piece, and they’ve all stood the test of time. How many of us can say the same about fleeting fast fashion faves?
Get to know your local charity and thrift shops
I love a charity shop rummage, and I’m lucky enough to live close to the thrifting meccas of Newington, Tollcross, and Morningside in Edinburgh. Just like with any other type of shop, different charity and thrift stores can lean towards certain stock; I remember when I first moved to the city and a rumour was going about that branches in affluent neighbourhoods have more high end and designer items. Whether this is actually true, or maybe it’s just the way stock is distributed, it’s always best to familiarise yourself with your favourite local charity shops. Oh, and follow them on social media! I once sent my friend across town to pick me up a gorgeous vintage typewriter a certain charity shop posted a photo of on their Instagram! Some of my best finds? A black lace Galliano cocktail dress, a pair of cornflower blue pyjama-style trousers from See by Chloe, a grecian-inspired Lanvin dress from a couple seasons ago with tags intact, and a vintage St Michael corduroy-lined trench coat.
Charity and thrift shops are your best friend here. I’m so lucky to live in a city with every charity shop you could think of, but get to know your favourite haunts.
Express your own style
I love clothes. I love colour, statement shapes, and contrasts. My favourite slow fashion brands use unexpected prints, repurposd textiles, and unusual materials to create wildly unique pieces. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when shopping; sometimes we eye up yet another wardrobe basic and convince ourselves that it’s impossible to have too many plain black vests. Well, it is. My wardrobe staples include a Tanique Coburn denim jacket with fabulous statement sleeves big enough to hide a litter of kittens, Phannatiq’s industrial landscape prints on organic cotton and bamboo jersey, Atika’s candy coloured kimonos in repurposed textiles, my favourite mesh and plastic Thrifty Little ‘Ghostbusters’ top, and of course my trusty handbag made of woven recycled seatbelts from Kuráž. Slow fashion means having something unique, carefully chosen to last because something about a certain piece makes you fall in love with it. It means a connection with the person who made your clothes. It doesn’t need to be boring or beige. I never want to have a wardrobe full of sensible basic clothes.
We all have certain pieces in our wardrobes that just seem to go with every outfit and every occasion. I bought my favourite TWISTXTURN striped neoprene skirt during a fashion emergency a few years ago, after my zip broke en route to a show during LFW. That whole damned outfit was so cute, and I’ve worn it at least once a week since that fateful day I handed over my credit card almost 2 years ago. I even added pockets. This skirt has been photographed more times than my dog.