One of the silver linings that has emerged from the pandemic is that it has thrown into focus the fashion industry’s environmental impact as brands and consumers have been forced to pause and reflect. Retailers cancelling millions of dollars of orders from factories and suppliers highlighted again how problematic the fast fashion industry had become.
Consumers that were once driven by an insatiable appetite for the latest trend, realised they did not need as many clothes and became more conscious of their purchasing decisions. This uncertain time has brought slow fashion back to the forefront and has sparked a new debate around Fast vs. Slow. It is time we all took a step back to really understand what these two terms mean and how we as consumers decide to respond to them.
Fast fashion is the frenemy we find hard to shake. Seemingly innocent, persuasively it wins us over again and again with instant perks often too hard to refuse. Affordability and accessibility are at the core of the fast fashion industry, making its appeal to the masses an almost impossible case to argue against in this consumer-charged environment.
However, the issues that come with fast fashion are almost invisible but could fundamentally change the way we value an item of clothing when we hit the shops.
Popular high street brands can now produce weekly collections which are vast when compared to the four seasonal collections of traditional fashion houses. The amount manufactured at an incredibly fast pace is only possible with some fairly aggressive factors at play which include unethical methods and techniques for producing materials, utilising workers far beyond the standard and ultimately safety, quality and efficiency of the garment.
The Sustainable Apparel Coalition estimates that designers control upwards of 80 per cent of a product’s environmental impact, and that it lies in the first steps of development. It is tough to work backwards when you are working towards a more sustainable product.
Instead, it has to be stitched into the garment from the very beginning- highlighting the enormous challenge ahead for the big fashion companies to make the necessary changes in their already established supply chains.
It seems most people buy in large amounts because of an attractive price point and quicker accessibility to emerging trends. Unfortunately, these items are often used only a handful of times, and in children’s wear, the turnover of clothing can be even higher. A growing child’s wardrobe is sizeable with a constant need to renew and restock for the next growth spurt.
Sadly, after a short time- whether children or adults sizing- many of these poorly made items are quickly discarded. We tend to place less value and care on cheaper imitations, as we rarely plan to preserve them due to a lack of quality making them unlikely to hold up beyond their intended wearability.
Slow fashion essentially means to slow down the process of design and production with awareness and responsibility leading to a more sustainable outcome. Sustainability is one of the most significant talking points of recent years. It’s a term that encompasses many things: environmental impacts, social justice, supporting artisanal crafts, businesses supporting developing economies and more. It is broad in definition but can be relevant to so many different industries.
For example, The Slow Food Movement, founded in 1986, Italy – an interesting parallel example of the link between pleasure and product, incorporating awareness and responsibility (food in this case). The movement defended the biodiversity in our food supply by challenging a standardisation of taste.
Supporting the need for consumer transparency and protecting cultural identities tied to food to try to preserve its unique qualities because no one wanted standardised food and no one wants standardised fashion. Faster and more is not always better.
Slow fashion comes under the umbrella of sustainability which has a lot of value in our lives today. With the media showing us more and more the effects we are having on the planet, we have the opportunity to make positive change.
Slow fashion requires that design, development and production meet today’s needs by improving manufacturing and social impact without sacrificing fashion and style (pleasure and product with awareness and responsibility).
It doesn’t have to mean because a brand is sustainable that it won’t be fashionable. In fact, sustainability in terms of slow fashion means great design: creativity, quality, longevity, craftsmanship and fair wages, all adding to a lower carbon footprint without compromise- which is something all of us can get behind.
Shopping thoughtfully, investing in items that will outlast our children’s wear-and-tear can not only be financially beneficial but makes for a more stylish wardrobe for your little one too, bonus!
The pieces we end up keeping in our children’s wardrobes’, that we mend or have our kids wear on repeat until we finally gift them to a friend (or hand them down), are the pieces that we value the most, and for the most part are unique investment pieces made to endure a few children.
The fashion resale market is exploding. According to the Thredup 2020 Resale Report, the preloved market is expected to grow five times over the next five years while traditional retail is set to shrink. Secondhand has finally come to the forefront as a chosen option amongst conscientious consumers looking to keep items in circulation.
We can have an impact on the industry by voting with our purchase and as global consumers, we would be more inspired and incentivised to do so armed with the facts.
Let’s hope this conscious awakening continues to grow throughout the whole fashion industry creating a greener, more sustainable future. Brands are finally accepting accountability for their actions and have started the process of transformation and with consumers having more say in what they consume and how it is made, this could be the key to long-lasting change.
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