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What’s Old is New: Slow Fashion to Fast Fashion and Back Again.

Bell bottoms, jelly shoes, shoulder pads…neon.  Blue shadow, androgyny, bold patterns…lace?  Forget the question of boot cut or straight leg.  Looking through today’s fashion sites left me wondering if I was crazy….or just 40.  Wasn’t some of this stuff fashionable just a few years ago?

It’s common knowledge that fashion is cyclical in nature.  In fact James Laver, a renowned 20th century fashion expert, developed Laver’s Law to highlight the cycles of fashion trends. His chart explains how past trends can be considered ridiculous, but given enough time, they always seem to find their way back onto the runway.

The concept of “newness” in fashion doesn’t refer to the premiere of a new trend as much as it does the revival of an old one.  After a decade of “fast fashion” and disposable clothing, the apparel industry is starting to see yet another revival. Out of the fabric scraps of polyester and non-organic cotton a new trend is taking hold.

Slow Fashion

Unlike fast fashion – where production processes are expedited to get new trends to the market as quickly and cheaply as possible – slow fashion encourages more reasonable production schedules, fair wages, lower carbon footprints, and (ideally) zero waste. Slow fashion encourages closing the loopsupply chain transparency, and remaining relevant to the Etsy generation, for whom sewing is once again, well, hip.

This edgy revival is being led by emerging designers like The Reformation, Zady, and Outerknown, as well as established brands like Patagonia and Nike.  The concept that unites them is that they promote the values of superior quality over speedy production and are committed to ethical working practices.

However, putting the brakes on fast fashion won’t be accomplished by designers alone.  In the words of Hazel Clark, research chair of fashion at Parsons, slow fashion is also “about the consumer becoming aware of the whole process – from design through production through use and through the potential to reuse.”

So, how do we slow down?

Many companies are experiencing pressure from shareholders to produce sustainability reports and are fielding questions from customers about where and how your products are made.  So the question is, once you’ve sped up, how do you slow down?

On an individual level, there are several things you can do.  You can:

  • Educate:  Understand where your materials are coming from, what it takes to make them, and how far they travel to market.  Then you can see the larger picture of a garment’s lifecycle and environmental impact.
  • Promote Conscious Consumption:  Conscious consumption means making thoughtful and purposeful purchasing decisions. This might mean buying less, but buying better.
  • Value Quality:  In a world where quantity has replaced quality, slow fashion reminds us that garments that last have substantial value.
  • Slow Down:  By slowing down the use of raw materials and rate of garment production and consumption, we can slow the rate at which we are racing through our limited resources and lessen the negative impacts of the fashion industry on the environment.
  • Support Trailblazers:  You can look to companies like Patagonia and Nike, who have been taking on these issues for years, as well as newcomers like The Reformation, Zady, and Outerknown. Sustainability and responsible innovation are embedded in the way companies like these think and work.  The result?  Increased customer loyalty and brand awareness.

At a company level you can utilize resources like the NRDC’s program called Clean by Design, which uses the buying power of multinational corporations as a lever to reduce the environmental impacts of their suppliers abroad.

Or if you don’t know where to begin, you can call us!  We demystify sustainability.  Sustrana helps companies – and we particularly love helping apparel companies – get buy-in for sustainability, understand why it is important, and figure out how to create a roadmap for a better future.

The good news is that sustainability, unlike jelly shoes and bell bottoms, looks good on everyone.  In a country where more than 50% of our population is under 25 and where every third Google search is fashion related, we have a responsibility to help the fashion industry come full circle.

It’s time for a positive revival.  It’s time to slow down.  Together we can take back fashion. Need some help?  Click here.