I read a lot of articles about how our lifestyles are becoming faster and more demanding. We are expected to do more with our days, be more efficient at work, be fitter, be constantly connected to technology and so on. Even when we go on holidays, we try and cram as much in to everyday as possible so we can check it off the ‘must-see’ list. No wonder the term ‘burnout’ is such as hot topic at the moment. People just cannot cope and it is actually a requirement for our health to take a break and re-energise, because such a lifestyle is definitely not sustainable!
This is modern lifestyle is also reflected in the fashion industry. Fast fashion has taken over the world, with many of these major retailers releasing entire new clothing lines every two weeks. That means new trends and styles, making anything you wore the week or so before outdated. Even new styles that are shown on the catwalk at fashion shows are knocked off by cheaper brands and are available the next day for regular consumers to purchase at a fraction of the cost. Producing at this speed gives a false image of the industry to the consumer. They are likely to think that the construction of clothing is actually an easy job and not really understand the amount of effort that goes into making every piece. No wonder clothing has become so disposable.
In the case of fast fashion, the environment and the exploited workers in the supply chain are the victims of the ‘burnout’ effect. They are the ones bearing the brunt of our need to be constantly supplied with an endless amount of cheap clothing and our desire to always be on the forefront of fashion trends. This has created an extremely unsustainable and unethical industry, in which there are countless damaging repercussions on the lives of millions of people around the world, ranging from serious injury to death. Our environment is also suffering a burnout. Pollution and the heavy use of the planet’s finite resources, such as water (up to 2,700 litres of water is needed to produce cotton for one t-shirt), are depleting these natural resources quicker than they can be naturally replenished.
But over the past couple of years, an antidote to this fast fashion madness has been developing. Slow fashion is the ethical response to the fast fashion trend. It is about understanding the whole process behind how our clothing is made and appreciating the time, effort and resources that go into the creation of the product. People and the environment are respected throughout the process, as opposed to the fast fashion model where it is a race to the bottom- where the lowest price is the number one priority.
These days, people are obsessed with buying more and more and who can blame them when everything is so cheap! Pretty much everyone can afford to have the newest look without having to save for ages or go into debt. Buying that new, fashionable dress is an instant form of gratification.
But slow fashion challenges this obsession and the globalisation of fashion and mass production. It encourages people to be more creative with their fashion choices and develop their own personal sense of style. Slow fashion also encourages the preservation of culture and traditional dress around the world, which are particularly threatened by mass production and globalisation. Overall, fashion shouldn’t be about trying to keep up to date. It should be about having fun and most importantly, wearing what suits you and makes you feel comfortable. We all have our own tastes and styles, and we should be true to these and resist the efforts of the fast fashion industry to try and make us all look the same.
Slow fashion is something that both consumers and fashion companies have a hand in implementing.
The role of designers and business
As mentioned above, slow fashion designers are focusing on the entire process of producing their garments. This means that, they aren’t designing in a way that reflects a season’s style or trends, but rather taking the time to produce high quality garments that are durable and versatile so the consumer can keep them for years, without the pieces becoming outdated.
These designers and businesses also look at every step in the supply chain, making sure that they are fair to the workers, respect the environment and are also completely transparent to their consumers. Some fashion designers even go as far as producing only a few small collections every year and once it is sold out, that’s it.
More designers and brands need to change their processes and business models to something that is far more sustainable and actually realistic. At the current pace of the fashion industry, I hate to think how many more factory accidents will occur and how our environment will be in another couple of decades. I already feel like we are almost at the point of no return.
The role of consumers
The best thing that consumers can do to combat the fast fashion system is simply change their mindset and realise that clothing is not a disposable item. When consumers realise that real people put a whole lot of work into what they wear, then maybe they will think twice before making an impulsive purchasing decision.
They also need to step back from the temptation of continuously buying something new just because it is cheap and start appreciating the clothing they already have. It doesn’t mean never buying anything new, but rather buying with the intention that you will hold onto it for a long time to come, either because you really love it or because it is a high quality piece that won’t need to be replaced so quickly. If people are attached to their clothing, they are less likely to throw it out or simply replace it.
And lastly, consumers need to start thinking for themselves! They need to stop being dictated by every trend that is pushed out, get creative and express their personality through their own individual style. Who wants to be a clone of the next person on the street?!