Is “slow fashion” a viable movement, or is fashion innately “un-green”?
“Slow Fashion” is a concept developed by Kate Fletcher in 2007 and modeled on the “Slow Food” movement pioneered by Carlo Petrini in 1986. Both ideals involve the substitution of low-quality and frequently-consumed “Fast Goods” with the alternative concept of consuming goods that take longer to create and represent greater intrinsic value and quality.
In the case of “Slowly-Made” clothes, the idea is that such clothes can be made more carefully, thoughtfully and hence to be generally “better-made” than clothes designed solely for “Fast” consumption and disposal. By being “Slowly Made and Better Made” such “Slowly-Made” clothes might be priced at a higher point than “Fast Clothes” and also to be considered by their owners to be more valuable than “Fast Clothes” and hence worth retaining for longer periods of time. Such clothes would last longer (conserving resources right along the entire supply chain) and by being more expensive they would also constrain customers from buying as many other items as if they were purchasing solely cheaply-produced “Fast Clothes”. Hence, consumption of clothing materials and transportation energy used for distribution of the clothes, plus sales packaging materials and advertising media could all be conserved. In these senses, the “Slow Fashion” concept of conservation of resources can be seen to be perfectly functional, as a concept.
The question that needs to be answered is whether the “Slow Fashion” movement is indeed a viable one. Being viable means more than just being plausible or conceptually functional. In order to be successful, the “Slow Fashion” movement will need to convince broad swathes of the fashion-buying public (most especially embodied by young women) to change their concepts about what’s “fashionable” to a sufficient degree to persuade them to change their long-engrained, almost “reflexive” “Fast” buying habits. In other words, it will somehow have to become “cool” and “high fashion” to still be seen in older clothes than the styles currently appearing in all the “inherently Fast” media such as web sites and TV programs and also in consumer-to-consumer chatter.
In support of the “Slow Fashion” movement, one can state that there are some “compassionate” consumer trends already in existence and able to persist and survive for years. Fashion examples are the “faux fur” trend, the “No animals hurt in the development of” certain brands of cosmetics, the “I Love New York” tee shirts sold following the events of 9/11 and the Tory Birch feed handbags which aimed to raise $100,000 to provide meals for starving children and families in developing nations.
There is a foundation of “better behavior” behind such social trends and it is quite feasible to turn the concept of better behavior into “superior” behavior. Superior anything is inherently fashionable. If enough leading personalities were to support the concepts and ideals of “Slow Fashion” most importantly by their own (highly visible) personal behaviors and buying habits it is likely that a “following” of personality-conscious buyers could be created. Also, more mundane means of communication such as newspaper articles could be used to educate fastidious members of society into slowly changing buying habits into slower, more careful (and conservative) patterns which they would deem to be for the “general good” of society. It is quite likely that, with sufficient impetus given to educating the public about the conservation of resources benefits of practicing “Slow Fashion” buying habits, a sustainable movement could develop and be sustained, at least among the higher echelons of society and intelligencia.
On the downside for “Slow Fashion”, one honestly has to acknowledge the magnitude of changing the mass buying habits of the consuming public at large. Such change is especially difficult to accomplish given the near-constant, daily, bombardment of clothes advertising, fashion media articles and fashion shows and other “trend-setting” appearances by popular personalities, many of which are designed to drive the pursuit of fashion trends (that is, buying more new stuff) by members of the general public.
There are many positives for this slow fashion movement and how it can affect and benefit the everyday fashion consumer. For example, consumers are encouraged to buy less frequently, as the clothing garments made using the slow fashion technique are built to be quality and last long, therefore do not need to be replaced as often. They will cost slightly more, as cost of quality materials, better working environments, and higher hourly wages (or not outsourcing to countries with extremely low hourly wages) are all contributors to a superior and slightly more expensive product. Consumers can feel good about what they are buying, as they are supporting more than a movement, it is a positive lifestyle change for the earth, and many employees in the apparel manufacturing job market. This is a movement that is promotes consciousness to the buyer, diversity as it is different from much of what is currently on the market, slowing down mass consumption, and using local resources. This all gives consumers the power to vote with their dollar, do they want to vote for positive change of today's environment? Or continue to spend recklessly and irresponsibly not realizing the potential damage?
It can be stated that that while the “Slow Fashion” movement can and likely will sustain itself at a certain level of vibrancy and relevance, it is only reasonable to express some doubts about it soon (if ever) becoming the predominant “mass” behavioral trend and thus really making a large-scale difference in consumption and sustainability trends in the whole world. But one can hope!