It is all over social media the phrase slow fashion but what exactly is it? Maybe you have heard of it or maybe you have not — it is one of the few social issues we can all commit to doing better with a simple lifestyle change.
Wearing thrifted Depop cropped button up top and Maison Cléo silk skirt
HOW THIS BECAME MY PANDEMIC PASSION
To truly capture my journey, I have to start at the beginning of it all.
One of my first jobs was at a gelato shop. When I first stepped off the 45 bus at Union and Buchanan at 16, little did I know how much this job would become apart of me so many years later. I was hired during their grand opening week in 2018 by Italians who spoke little English, and I had never ate gelato before being hired. After spending hours closing the shop together and many, many holidays at the gelato chef’s house, we became close.
I eventually went on to college as a politics student and continued to work at the gelato shop. I happened to take an intro to environmental science class to fulfill credits that sparked an interest in me but I quickly forgot about it once the class became pre-recorded videos during the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, the gelato chef, Patrizia Pasqualetti, taught me everything there was to know about her craft. I became the only employee trained to create bonbons — gelato in the shape of a scooper-size ball coated in a hard chocolate shell with beautiful toppings, sold in store and at the best restaurants in San Francisco. I even taught myself to curate and shoot food photography for Patrizia’s side business, Bottega Italiana. My interest in politics shifted to all the things I had learned in that intro class. I wanted to know more about sustainability and how I could pave a way to help others understand this deep connection between food and community. In 2020, I was enrolled in a food culture class that suddenly connected all the dots for me. Patrizia was more than a gelato chef; her gelato was her life passion and everyone could feel it with each spoonful of her work. That gelato shop was a classroom only few are blessed enough to understand and I was one of them. There is something about the fast pace of America’s hustle that fails to teach us genuine lessons essential to life. There is so much storytelling and life lessons in food, as well as the political element of our industrial agriculture. I fell in love with the slow food movement before I ever knew what slow fashion was.
Mindful consumerism exists in many forms across numerous industries. Slow fashion is simply one version peeling back the cover to reveal a much deeper interconnected issue. Plus, I enjoy being stylish (always the most overdressed at the dog park). I wanted to become a resource for others and to nurture a community focused on the concepts I think are a must. Without realizing it in the moment, I became a content creator focused on slow fashion.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Clothes were once made to order and customized to fit each individual person in the atelier of designers. The slow fashion movement was born after the rapid turn of the industry to meet consumers demand for constant new seasonal styles and the push for quick profit. It was not long until large brands created the negative impacts of fast fashion:
The usage of synthetic fabrics and outsourcing for cheap labor to developing countries has created lasting environmental and social issues.
THE ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL ISSUES
Some of the worst environmental issues can be found overseas in Chile and nearby to California.
(1) The US annually ships 59,000 tons of excess clothing to Chile. The Atacama Desert is now known as the fast fashion graveyard. The clothes, many synthetic based or chemically produced, is predicted to remain for the next 200 years slowly decomposing. In the meanwhile, the disregarded clothes continue to expose nearby communities to chemical leaching.
(2) The Pacific Garbage Patch exists off the coast of California and is twice the size of Texas. The main content of the trash buildup is from microplastics. Synthetic clothes shed microplastics when washed and directly leads to the build up of pollution in the ocean.
The social impact continues to go unseen daily with clothes manufactured by unknown garment workers.
One of the worst moments in the history of the fast fashion industry was the Rana Plaza disaster. Five garment factories existed within the Rana Plaza building of Dhaka, Bangladesh.
On 24 April 2013, the factory collapsed killing at least 1,132 people and injured more than 2,500. The majority of the factory workers were women paid below the minimum wage.
Unethical production of clothes by fast fashion brands often outsource to countries that do not have strict labor laws. Although such factories are commonly found overseas, America is no stranger to "sweatshops" — seamstresses or garment workers paid pennies in unsafe workplace conditions (ex: LA sweatshops).
Recently, a TikTok user discovered some of her SheIn — a massive fast fashion platform selling clothes for an alarmingly cheap price point — clothes were secretly labeled with the words ‘help me’. Watch the video here.
YOUR GUIDE TO FABRICS
Fabrics to avoid
Natural fabrics (*Not sustainably produced/ethical)
Cupro (recycled plant based, chemically processed)
Fabrics to look for
Organic or recycled cotton
Responsibly sourced animal derived fiber
Organic linen or hemp
Second hand leather
WHAT DOES A SLOW FASHION BRAND LOOK LIKE?
A slow fashion brand respects the people in the chain of production from farmers to designers, reduces textitle and production waste, prioritizes the environment as a part of their branding, dedicates time to educating their community of the better side of the fashion industry, and is always looking to improve as a brand.
Transparency Matters. A sustainable brand will be clear of the production methods and state where the materials are sourced from. The brand often reaches for natural fabrics that can naturally breakdown.
Small Batch Production. A sustainable brand will produce collections and styles that are limited to the demand in order to reduce excess clothing waste.
More Than Just A Brand. A sustainable brand must be a champion for change within the fashion industry. The brand has a strong story and continues to be committed to doing better.
A sustainable brand emphasizes a circular economy — to always give back to the community we exist in.
HOW CAN YOU TAKE THE EMPOWERING NEXT STEPS?
Build a capsule wardrobe of essentials. The first step is to create a refined closet based on your style. When you are ready, keep in mind sustainable and ethical fabrics when shopping.
▢ Are these classic pieces that can mix and match to create multiple outfits?
▢ Is the material something that will last for years to come? Is it comfortable?
▢ Have I researched the brand enough to understand their ethos and where their clothes are produced?
HOW TO SHOP SECOND HAND
So much clothes already exist, why shop new?
Take the time to discover your style without relying on trends. Save inspiration from Instagram, Pinterest, Tiktok, etc. What do you see yourself wearing for years to come? Think of outfits as apart of you versus outfits for specific occasions. Create a color scheme based on clothes you would wear. When shopping, keep the checklist in mind.
Start saving away on pre-loved sites like Depop, Vestiaire Collective, Poshmark, Etsy. Search for specific pieces you saved inspiration from. Take note of your body measurements when reading the size descriptions. What arm length do you prefer? What inseam length and rise is comfortable? Don’t be afraid to get your clothes tailored. A well fitted piece is a closet essential.
The slow fashion movement looks different for everyone. Let's acknowledge that we all come from different backgrounds and accessibility to doing better falls on a spectrum where no one is wrong.