Words Louise Søderberg
Illustrations Alicja Biala
Today’s imbalance between the fashion industry and the environment is one of the reasons why terms like Sustainable Fashion and Slow Fashion can seem like oxymorons. Fast fashion is after all still working as the main driver of the industry. But maybe the concept of Slow Fashion is actually not so contradicting at all.
Oscar Wilde once said that “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months”. A statement that today has become more relevant than ever, because of a fashion industry highly driven by a fast-paced income generated by trend followers. The fast shifting trends in today’s society cause consumers to update their wardrobe every quarter, and as a result, the overconsumption is starting to put the health and comfort of consumers at risk. This means that the fashion industry is not only polluting the environment and the planet for future generations. It is also – perhaps unconsciously – polluting the well-being of its current consumers.
The Ph.D. study of Maria Mackinney-Valentin examines whether “trends are going out of fashion”, and it describes how the lifespan of fashion trends are becoming shorter and shorter. A continuing development like this makes you wonder whether a potential result could be that fashion trends cease to exist altogether. Could Slow Fashion then be a natural reaction thereof?
Slow Fashion is a more complex and demanding way of creating sustainable fashion since it considers a more holistic design process. Jung & Jin describes Slow Fashion as being related to, but not limited to, environmental sustainability. Slow Fashion is, therefore, a very substantial concept and according to Jung and Jin it involves five main aspects: equity, functionality, localism, exclusivity and authenticity, which are all factors ensuring the durability of the design. Each of them embodies quality over quantity, and some would say that a design has to include all five factors in order for it to be genuinely “Slow”.
The unsustainability in over consuming organic clothes is a fine example of the difference between Sustainable Fashion and Slow Fashion. If you are going to throw clothes out after wearing it one or two times, it doesn’t matter how organic the cotton is, or how great the working conditions were during production. It will still be a waste of resources, and the workers will still be put to extra work because they have to produce twice or three times the organic garments. This problem can occur if the designer does not consider a concept like Aesthetic Sustainability. A concept that was described by Kristine Harper in last month’s article about The Pleasure of the Familiar and The Pleasure of the Unfamiliar. Through the deep and underlying values in these specific design processes, Slow Fashion moves beyond short trends in the fashion industry, because it holds a certain sustainable durability. Not only in the tangible sense but also durability in the subjective and emotional sense for the individual consumer.
“I experience fast shifting trends as ripples on the surface“
I interviewed Slow Fashion designer Rigetta Klint about her view on Slow as a growing trend within society, and she especially sees young people developing a holistic awareness: “I experience fast shifting trends as ripples on the surface and as an endless insignificance to most people“. The changing mindset is about showing that overconsumption is no longer a status symbol the same way it was earlier, where it was impressive to show a large collection of bags. Now consumers impress by showing how they are able to choose the right bag instead. This shift among consumers seem more fundamental than that of a trend: “Good quality fills you up more than bad quality, and this does not only apply to food – also when referring to clothes and things. Good quality is, therefore, more sustainable on all levels – environmentally as well as long-term economically”. Rigetta Klint hereby points out how experiencing the value of products of good quality and sustainable design will work as a Point Of No Return for the consumer, and they will not be able to go back to the cheap bargain of the month again.
Instead of focusing on current trends, Rigetta Klint focuses on shape and form in her design, and she sees these components as having much more potential to become fashionable than any trend: “A shape very clearly roots in its current time, and, therefore, it contains a certain amount of contemporary modernism, while fast fashion as the fascination of a certain detail of the moment, does not interest me at all as a designer. Style interests me.” Her idea of being modern and following the latest trends is not necessarily about buying new all the time, but more so by being able to style modernly and in that way capture the tendency of the current time with the same garment over and over again. If a design is functional and of good quality it will keep renewing itself from within, and in that way, it will feel and look new every time it is put into a new context. Last time Rigetta Klint remembers it being trendy to buy nothing, it almost became an anti-trend, which went against the fashion industry. However, today’s shift towards conscious consumption is rather focused on aesthetics and quality.
Having said this, Slow Fashion does not indicate a specific style or color of the design. What it does indicate, however, is a thoroughly thought through design process, which ensures a definite quality in the design. Therefore, Slow Fashion rises above certain details, colors, and tendencies and instead signifies the development and existence of a sustainable and aesthetically pleasing garment. According to Rigetta Klint, the characteristics of Slow Fashion are good, fair and clean garments. This means that Slow Fashion works more like a paradigm shift within society as a part of the Slow Living movement, because of a changing mindset deeply rooted in the holistic life. Rigetta Klint thinks that this paradigm shift is driven by a necessity, which started alongside the financial crisis in 2007-2010 and it was a direct product of a society that had been moving further and further down an unhealthy path of overconsumption. The depth of Slow Fashion, therefore, rises above short fads and fascinations in fashion, because the Slow mindset establishes in the minds of consumers. This puts up demands for the fashion industry and in order for the consumers to take back the power and responsibility of consumption, the industry should start meeting these needs in a much higher degree.
Trends seem to be moving in new directions, and Slow Fashion is rising in conjunction with the growing awareness and recognition of Less is More in the minds of the consumers. Being complete and groundbreaking in its design, Slow Fashion seizes an important opportunity within the fashion industry as well as the society of future generations. As a paradigm shift, the Slow mindset is important to the well-being and happiness of consumers as well as the sustainability and quality of fashion companies, and it, therefore, seems safe to say that Slow Fashion is moving way beyond trends today.