While I don’t usually like to give disclaimers to my trains of thought, I have found that with this specific subject, it would be clarifying to state that my words might be tainted with hypocrisy or self-contradictions. Hypocrisy, in this case, arises from the polarizing natures of the two subjects at hand: fashion and environmentalism.
As my studies on fashion and its impact on environmental issues have grown over the past few months, changes have occurred to my own personal thoughts on fashion and style as I am under the influence of a new mentality. This mentality, by some fashion experts, might be deemed destructible and irrelevant to the art of fashion. For other environmentalists, it might be viewed as a small, almost too small, step in the right direction.
Anyhow, what is this controversial mentality? I have recently grappled with the idea of slow fashion, a movement that supports local hand-made clothes purchased at less frequent rates than commercial clothing. Being in the fashion industry, slow fashion comes as a bit of an obstacle. Fashion, in essence, is entirely based on its malleability. It relies on the ability to change from season to season, designer to designer. It is not stagnant, and it is not long-term, bouncing off the two fashion weeks that occur each year. So slow fashion, in a way, contradicts the very art of fashion. Despite its slower pace, slow fashion still embraces fashion as art. Trends can be created annually, changes can be made, but those changes can be more detailed, more careful, and made by hand rather than machine. On a more worldly perspective, slow fashion helps stop the downward spiral of environmental problems the Earth has embarked on.
The fashion industry is the largest pollutant in the world. The raw materials, factories and shipping involved in fashion consume our Earth’s valuable resources at an unsustainable rate. Your favorite Levi’s Jeans probably took 1,800 gallons of water to make. The cute graphic tee guzzled another 400. The fashion industry produces around 1 million tons of waste annually and is growing. The statistics are appalling and real.The biggest contributors are the fast fashion giants we’ve grown to love: Zara, H&M, Topshop are all based on the fast-pased manufacturing of clothes. These brands have revolutionized the fashion world, making trends accessible to the masses. Yet, this new fashion democracy comes with a cost, a cost the planet has to pay.
People have also been altered by fast-fashion. Advertisements, and the constant circulation of new clothes has created a new buyer mentality. The desire for new merchandise is never quenched. A shirt purchased one month is no longer “in-style” the next month, and thus a new one is purchased.
That’s where slow fashion comes into play. Slow fashion doesn’t mandate that people turn to thrifting or vintage clothing (because that’s not everyone’s cup of tea). Slow fashion instead aims to reverse the consumption-crazed society we’ve created. It’s about buying with purpose, buying smartly, and created a personal style.
Slow fashion makes you think about your choices more responsibly and in that way you not only save money, but create your own style – not the style Zara or Topshop told you to have.
I’m not advocating for radical change, and I’m not advocating for a boycott of the fast-fashion giants. I am instead offering up a new idea – one that can be rejected or accepted. Think about it. Think about your fashion choices. Think about the world you live in. Think about your values. And think about if you really need that new shirt.