A Guide to Slow Fashion
Studies say we’ll be craving for more things ‘wholesome’ post pandemic. If you’ve spent time with a friend after months of isolation and found yourself reflecting; “that felt wholesome”, or went back to a signature activity even for a while (for me that decade long activity remains a run by the sea) after weeks of lockdown; you’ll know that feeling of returning to your whole self… wholesome.
Wholesome is that moment when your heart expands to say.. “this right here, feels good, true and full.” Likely accompaniments include mindfulness, a connection to yourself and to the environment (people/places) surrounding you at that moment.
Slow Fashion is precisely this. Unlike what fast fashion brands have conditioned us to believe, clothes needn’t be cheap & dispensable. It isn’t like 10 years ago either, where you haven’t got the tools to change habits or make choices that are actively better for you, that fortify your sense of self, communicate your independence while also positively impacting a community & the environment. Never before has there been a more opportune time for you to craftily put together a wholesome you.
“Wholesome is that moment when your heart expands to say; “this right here, this feels good, true and full.” Its usual accompaniments are mindfulness, a connection to yourself and to the environment (people/places) surrounding you at that moment. Slow Fashion is precisely this.”
Seven Steps in your Slow Fashion journey:
- Decide, You CAN make a difference! Knowledge can be overwhelming. Especially if you’ve watched The True Cost, been following campaigns like “Who Made My Clothes” or if you’re like me and convince yourself to buy a few t-shirts because you haven’t shopped in months but immediately visualize the items in your cart in a landfill for years to come then you know that facing the perilous realities of the fashion industry can feel debilitating. It’s important to remember that documentaries are made to raise the loudest alarms, don’t let them overwhelm you or make you feel responsible yet helpless. Know that if you feel strongly, you can make a difference and better yet, influence & inspire more people as well.
- List down 2 Core Beliefs: Start small, list down 2 high priority core beliefs to you.
These could be; people centric brands, environmentally safe fabrics, smaller/lesser known brands, handloom or artisan focused brands. Feel free to include more than two however a smaller number will make the beginning less daunting and more hope filled for you. I may buy a recycled nylon swimsuit that educates and supports local fishermen to upcycle their old nets… is it good for the environment, yes (discarded fishing nets don’t contribute to land/water pollution). Does it support a community and encourage recycling… yes. But is it also questionable for the environment (tiny plastic microfibers from the swimsuit polluting the seas…) yes. Any sustainability enthusiast understands & is comfortable with tradeoffs which may seem pointless to a beginner. If you have too many core beliefs to fulfil at the onset, you may be left feeling discouraged.
It’s important to remember that documentaries are made to raise the loudest alarms, don’t let that overwhelm you or make you feel responsible yet helpless. Know that if you feel strongly, you can make a difference and better yet, influence & inspire more people as well.
- Take time to research: Once you have your core beliefs, begin a mindful search. Let’s be real. This takes time; it takes effort. It requires planning. You will need to break away from the habitual, one-click-away convenient fast fashion website. It will require more of YOU. (more on this in step 4.) But consider this an important element to building a collection that reflects you. How wonderful to know more about where your clothing comes from, how its maker enables you to support a community or the environment with your purchase. How wholesome would it be for you to wear an outfit knowing everything about you in that moment exudes depth, substance and meaning. Read websites, go through social media accounts or email brands for more information. Most responsible brands invite conversation!
- Back Your Choices: Slow Fashion can be tedious. It’s hard to find, mostly won’t showcase the newest trend on the block (isn’t meant to), and definitely is more expensive. Here’s the catch. Slow fashion doesn’t come alive without YOU. As opposed to fast fashion which anyone could get away with especially if it’s from “New Arrivals”; Slow Fashion might need you to back it up. Why would you pay 4x more for a timelessly designed hemp shirt than a fast fashion alternative? Why choose a naturally dyed linen saree over a chemically dyed fabric that’s easiest to locate? Why choose to thrift & face your mother’s or grandmother’s disdainful looks? You know when you buy something at throwaway prices from the biggest fashion retailers, you may not be paying for it but someone is. Your choices will need you to back them up, with pride & awareness.
Slow fashion doesn’t come alive without YOU. As opposed to fast fashion which anyone could get away with especially if it’s from ‘New Arrivals’; Slow Fashion might need you to back it up.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously: Your first few steps into the world of slow fashion will be anything but pivotal. You may find yourself strongly attached to fast fashion brands. Start there! Practice minimalism, mindful purchases and opt for garments you see yourself wearing for longer (classic staples, denim jackets etc). Most of these brands will also have a budding (questionable in actual impact though) sustainable section for consideration. Have conversations with someone experienced in slow fashion purchases, a friend or colleague and take help/recommendations you can trust.
Have a plan for a phased-out transition. You could decide; “Slow fashion will increasingly feature and grow by 20% more in my wardrobe each year!” If this seems like a stretch too, start with other commodities; cosmetics or skincare, home furnishing, food etc. Make your way slowly into fashion.
- Self-awareness equals a passion for fashion: If you’re concerned Slow Fashion might limit you, ask; What about your guiding light in fashion draws you to them? You might say; a similar body type or aesthetic, maybe their penchant for experimenting or alternatively the consistency in their style. At some point though, you’ll find yourself saying… I look up to them because they’re true to themselves. If you were a fly on the wall while they shop, you’d watch as they skillfully, confidently make their way through a store. They just know. They’re fashion icons because they know fashion but also because they know themselves. They expend effort crafting that which reflects them in its entirety from the vast ocean of options. You can develop the same skill too, without needing excess clothes. Slow fashion forces you to wisely discern what you need, what will serve your purpose. Your purchases will leave you empowered rather than skittishly nervous if you’ve made the right choice.
- From painful self-control to a living philosophy: Repeatedly practicing intention over impulse, letting the domino of choosing slow fashion fall gracefully into the other areas of life & the accumulation of your choices will result in a living, breathing, sustainable and wholesome lifestyle that extends beyond fashion. It will grow to include communities of people, numerous brands and entire industries! To quote fashion writer, Leandra Medine Cohen: “Let your style happen to you. Let life begin to show on you, allow nature to take its course and then adjust, modify, accept what you are and make it the best. But there is an ingredient that I believe is often overlooked and seems to be at the crux of defining your style, and that is honesty. You can’t know your style until you know yourself.”
The above article on “Why a Passion for Fashion isn’t about owning more clothes & how slow fashion can be the answer to finally owning your unique aesthetic” has been contributed by Surabhi Kim Andrade, a Mumbai-based independent writer.