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What is Slow Fashion?

Today is Earth Day, and this week is Fashion Revolution Week. What better time could there be to talk about one of my favorite subjects? Before changing my college major to Zoology, I was a student in the fashion program at Kent State University. I completed half of the 4-year program before I was lured into the seductive world of science. I have always loved the idea of clothing as a form of art, self-expression, and a statement about one's personality and values. I was fascinated by the many techniques of weaving, knitting, dyeing, printing, and natural fiber production. Unfortunately, today's world is addicted to cheap, crappy clothes. Our one-season, throw-away mentality toward clothing is causing harm to people and the planet.

What is slow fashion?

Slow Fashion is a movement toward designing, creating, and buying garments while considering the processes and resources required to make them. There is a distinct focus on sustainability. It involves buying better-quality garments that will last longer and values fair treatment of people, animals, and the planet. We have the opportunity to look deeply into the truth that the way we are living on the planet right now directly affects the way our brothers and sisters around the world are living. These current events have illuminated a giant spotlight on the human species as one global population. With the recent slow-down due to the global coronavirus pandemic, we have an opportunity to look at global business models and build a more fair and more sustainable future for everyone

Slow Fashion opposes the fast fashion model that emerged about 20 years ago.  And it’s fair to say Slow Fashion is 100% necessary, with brands like Zara and H&M burning 12 tons of unsold garments per year in spite of ongoing sustainability efforts. Other retailers like Walmart, Target, and Macy's to name a few, have followed suit in order to compete, leaving consumers with fewer and fewer choices for well-made, sustainably produced clothes.

How to “do” slow fashion

At its core, the movement is about passing up trendy, of-the-moment items that you’ll be sick of next season in favor of ethically, sustainably-made items you’ll keep for years to come. Understanding the importance of slow fashion is one thing, but actually implementing it is another. If you have a closet full of fast fashion items that you haven’t worn for a year, making this change might seem intimidating at first. 

Elizabeth Cline, fast fashion expert and author of The Conscious Closet, suggests starting with a big closet cleanout. “Go through everything you’ve got, and figure out what you’re happy to continue wearing. A lot of our clothes are beautiful and we’re excited to keep wearing them, and it doesn’t matter if they’re fast fashion or cost $5. If you want to keep wearing those items, that’s the most sustainable thing you can do.”

Once your clean-out is complete, get your clothes ready to donate. And this doesn’t just mean throwing them in garbage bags and bringing them your local thrift store. If you donate items that are in bad shape, they won’t get a second life—they’ll likely go straight into a landfill. Carefully look through your donations and make sure they are ready to be used again. Take a moment to repair that torn seam, sew on a button, or remove a stain in the name of slow fashion! Be considerate. If you wouldn't give it to a friend, why donate it to a thrift store?

No matter how much you love the items you already own, eventually and inevitably, you will want (and need!) new ones. When this happens, you don’t have to spend tons of money in the name of slow fashion. There are many new and innovative companies leading the way toward a more sustainable fashion industry. Check the article link at the end of this post for some suggestions!

Consider looking for higher quality brands on websites like Thread Up and the Real Real. If you love designer fashion, the prices are better, and you can even re-sell your gently worn clothes at the end of the season or when you tire of them.

In April 2013, over 1100 garment-industry workers in Bangladesh were killed and another 2200 wounded in the Rana Plaza factory collapse, the deadliest industrial disaster in modern history. The incident left consumers all over the world questioning who makes the clothes we wear every day and in what kind of conditions? Documentaries like The True Cost shine a light on how the fast fashion industry depletes the earth’s resources and leverages slave labor to pass on a "cheap" cost to the end consumer. Purchasing products that are fair trade certified supports environmentally friendly production methods and safeguards fair working conditions. 

This photograph of Indian revolutionary Mahatma K. Gandhi dressed only in a loincloth and working at his spinning wheel was taken in 1931 as Gandhi traveled to London to attend a high-level roundtable conference with British officials. Gandhi was the major force in India's drive for independence. Gandhi explained to Charlie Chaplin in 1931, the return to spinning did not mean a rejection of all modern technology but of the exploitive and controlling economic and political system in which textile manufacture had become entangled. Gandhi said, “Machinery in the past has made us dependent on England, and the only way we can rid ourselves of the dependence is to boycott all goods made by machinery. This is why we have made it the patriotic duty of every Indian to spin his own cotton and weave his own cloth.”

The image of the emaciated, almost naked, and obviously nonviolent Gandhi hard at work at his spinning wheel had an electric effect on millions in India and across the world. He was hailed as the father of Indian independence and starting in 1931, his traditional spinning wheel became the primary symbol on the flag of the Provisional Government of Free India.

The slow fashion movement is about changing the entire industry so that eventually fast fashion will not be an option. “Shift your purchases away from companies that aren’t doing anything for the environment or their workers and toward brands that are at least on the road to doing better,” suggests Cline. While it's true that there are fewer choices when it comes to slow fashion, making better choices in favor of high quality, longer-lasting and less "trendy" items is finally getting easier as more companies get on board with the movement. Check out this Complete Guide to Buying Ethical Clothes on a Budget.

Out of love and support for the slow movement, we have added some new product categories at Tree of India. You might say our tree has grown a few new branches! Check out our choices to support slow fashion, and remember, trends don't last. Who says we have to conform to another person's idea of what is stylish? We shouldn't lose our identity whenever a new trend hits the market (or the runway, if you're that wealthy). Cheap, crappy clothes pale in comparison to the beauty of hand-made, fair trade clothing made by true craftswomen and men. In the words of Gandhiji, "Be the change that you wish to see in the world." It's a revolutionary act of kindness.

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