Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Slow Fashion in Celebration of Earth Day

The “slow fashion” concept traces its roots back to the slow food movement, which began in Italy in the ‘80’s as a reaction to fast-food retailers, like McDonald’s. Since then, the movement has spread to architecture and now to clothing design, manufacturing, and consumption.

The characteristics all three share are sustainability, transparency, fair trade/living wages, and localization. That means for sustainability: the development of more sustainable products through recycling or re-purposing existing products, using organic or natural materials whenever possible, and developing lasting products that may be reused or recycled after their use.

Transparency, here, usually refers to a manufacturer being open about and communicating complete information about products—for example, how a product was made, where it was made, what materials the product is made of, who made the product and whether or not those workers were paid a living wage. Localization places value on local or regional production and the use of local products.

Nearly everyone associated the “slow” movement recognizes that no one retailer or manufacturer will successfully realize a business that is completely sustainable, transparent, or local. All efforts will involve some kind of compromise. But openness and encouraging consumers to reevaluate their attitudes toward fashion and clothing will, they believe, contribute toward greater sustainability in the fashion industry.

Although “slow fashion” might at first appear contradictory, it is possible to honor fashion while producing and consuming purposefully. In the words of Dr. Hazel Clark from the Parsons New School of Design at a conference held late last year: “Change [toward adopting slow fashion] requires more thoughtful and flexible design, which can retain the cultural significance and magic of fashion while producing clothes that are conscientious, sustainable, and attractive.”

Perhaps the best known company that embraces “slow fashion” is the British “eco-chic” department store Adili. According to CEO Adam Smith, “Slow fashion is not just about responding to trends. It is a mentality that involves thinking about provenance and buying something that won’t look unfashionable after one season.”

As an increasing number of consumers are drawn to the values-led retailers who support slow fashion, the more it would appear that the slow movement will now be on the fast track.

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