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  • Debbie MacPherson

'Slow Fashion' - What is it?

Slow fashion is a buzz word that’s been rapidly gathering pace lately, but what does it mean? I often use the ‘slow fashion’ phrase when talking to customers in the workshop, although I’ve found that many have not heard the concept before.

Here’s a brief guide to explain why this growing movement is so important for us all.

To understand ‘Slow Fashion’, first we must understand it’s polar opposite which is ‘fast fashion’. This is generally cheap clothing & accessories that are produced in a short time frame so they can travel from catwalk to high street stores and e-tailers at break-neck speed. These are usually sold to the consumer at a low price. As the consumer is not paying a lot for these items they are often seen as ‘throw away’, only fit to be worn until the next fashion trend comes along or due to the low quality they will often not stand the test of time.

Sadly, there’s a high price to pay for fast fashion as it’s a major contributor to greenhouse gases, water and air pollution, whilst also creating huge levels of landfill. Fast fashion often comes from factories with poor working conditions.

To follow a ‘slow fashion’ concept is to consider before you purchase and ask yourself the following questions....

Do I need it?

We’ve all been guilty of buying many variations of the same thing. I have a penchant for coats and probably have far too many for one person; but next time I’m tempted, I’m going to ask myself do I really need another one? When I do eventually buy another coat I’ll definitely be using the mantra of ‘Buy less, choose well’, consider the quality and sustainability of the materials and how many times it’ll be worn.

Where is it made?

Considering the low cost of many clothes and accessories, an important question we should be asking ourselves is who is making our clothes? What are their working conditions like? Are they paid fairly?

A global online movement called are asking these important questions, encouraging consumers to question their favourite brands and demand full transparency regarding where their items are made and the safety of their factories.

There are a growing number of sustainable fashion brands in the UK who are using fair trade practices and sustainable materials. We have an amazing ethical fashion store right here in Devon called Sancho's who specialise in affordable sustainable fashion.

An obvious option is to buy local. You will be surprised at how many talented artisans there are around the UK, where you will often receive a truly personal service. I work with my clients to create a bespoke item that they can truly cherish for many years, where they are able to have input in the design from colour choice, to size and a range of additional details.

By buying local you are supporting the local economy and reducing the carbon footprint of the purchase.

What is it made from?

The two main concerns I have when considering what an item is made from is How strong and how sustainable is it?

As an accessories designer/maker, until recently, I have exclusively worked with leather as I believe the strength of a good quality leather is second to none and will outlive a plastic or fabric bag many times over, therefore, over time, contributing less to landfill.

However, I also recognise that there are an increasing number of people following a vegan lifestyle and environmental concerns over the leather tanning process, which has lead me to search for a vegan alternative.

I have recently started working with cork fabric. Regarded as one of the most sustainable materials available, the properties of a superior quality cork are on a par with leather as it is strong, durable and highly water-resistant.

Will I use it for a long time?

Spending a bit more on a considered item that you'll wear for many years usually works out to be far less expensive than buying fast fashion; in the long run, working out at less ‘pounds per wear’.

Sadly, budget doesn’t always allow the luxury of buying new sustainable fashion, but vintage stores and charity shops are an amazing way to shop creatively in a slow fashion way. The Real McCoy, a vintage store which has been based in Exeter since 1984 has an great range of clthes and accessories for women and men, with a hire department too.

Whilst I’m far from perfect, I’m trying to make steps towards a more sustainable approach to clothes and accessories, in both my work and personal life. I hope this blog post has been useful to you.

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