December is an important month for the fashion and retail industry–and not just because of the ka-ching of the cash register duing holiday sales. You may not know it, but December is also ‘Made in America’ month.
Started in 1985 under Ronald Reagan, Made in America month aims to encourage consumers to purchase items produced locally in the United States. Outsourcing production overseas, where labor is by and large cheaper, not only contributes to our country’s unemployment rate and shrinking garment industry, but also helps keep overseas sweatshops and factories with unfair working conditions in business. Needless to say the ‘made in America’ movement is more important than ever–not least because it’s helped give way to a bigger, broader-minded movement: Slow fashion.
The term ‘slow fashion,’ coined in 2008 by sustainable design consultant Kate Fletcher, describes an approach to clothing and fashion that is decidedly at odds with the fast (and even faster) fashion cycle.
“Slow fashion encompasses sustainable fashion, but it takes a broader view than just supporting organic T-Shirts,” said Elizabeth Cline, author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion.
“It’s about the consumer becoming aware of the whole process–from design through production through use and through the potential to reuse,” Hazel Clark, research chair of fashion at Parsons said.
“The problem with something like green fashion [or other movements],” Clark continued, “Is that it’s still very much focused on the item’s consumption, whereas slow fashion addresses the whole cycle.”
And that’s the thing: Past consumer awareness movements have still encouraged our country’s crazy consumption rate (see: H&M’s new recycling program/genius marketing campaign)–a rate that is simply not sustainable for our planet. That’s where slow fashion comes in: Much like the slow food movement, slow fashion encourages consumers to be more mindful about the products they consume and ultimately, to consume less altogether.
“Slow fashion also means buying less, caring for what you own so that it doesn’t end up in a landfill, and upcycling or swapping/trading used clothing,” Cline said.
To fashion lovers, the slow movement may sound like kind of a party pooper (I mean who doesn’t like to buy lots and lots of new stuff?) but actually it’s quite the opposite. It’s not about shunning fashion or clothing, it’s about valuing them on a deeper level.
“Slow fashion addresses the relationship human beings have with clothes which can actually be really positive–the right garment on a cold day, for instance, or the way we do hold onto certain things in our wardrobe, certain items we want to stay with us,” Clark said.
“It’s about reconnecting with our clothes, rather than viewing them as quick trends or throwaway items,” Cline said. “It’s about tapping into the pleasure of buying a well-made garment with a timeless design, being able to recognize quality, repairing and properly caring for your wardrobe.”
Getting consumers to buy less doesn’t exactly seem to go hand-in-hand with designing a fashion line–but actually there is a burgeoning group of designers who are doing just that.
“Some designers are doing some very interesting things…making clothes not tied to a season, using very lovely fabrics and thinking beyond the three-week fashion cycle of Forever 21,” Clark said.
Read on to learn about ten brands who we feel have embraced slow fashion, and done it well.