Why I choose slow fashion

  This was posted on  SHINE A LIGHT ON SLAVERY DAY , a campaign of the    END IT Movement .

This was posted on SHINE A LIGHT ON SLAVERY DAY, a campaign of the END IT Movement.


This whole thing started when I realized I was shopping to make myself feel better.

It's crazy to look back on it, because, like most things in my life, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. At the time, I was living on my own, and not in school or working a full-time job for the first time in several years, and I would spend long stretches of time alone in my apartment, becoming aware of some of my most bizarre habits. It wasn't long before I noticed that when I felt lonely or sad or bored, I'd find myself surfing Madewell's sale section on my phone or browsing Forever 21 online. (Shout out to my budget, hey girl.) 

Around this time, I'd also been thinking about an article I read about "fast fashion," and how compulsive buying is actually linked to the pace in which we live our lives. In particular, I kept coming back to one line in that article:

A “slow fashion” movement has emerged which emphasizes buying less clothing and sticking to garments made using sustainable, ethical practices.

the word "ethical" jolted something in me, because to be honest, i wasn't really aware that my clothing had anything to do with ethics.

I am privileged enough that I never thought about the fact that the things I buy don't just affect me. I never thought about the hands that made my seven Forever 21 t-shirts that I bought for $5 each to replace the last seven shirts that had fallen apart. And I definitely wasn't thinking about how my impulse buys were having a negative impact on the environment and, in some cases, supporting modern-day slavery.

Ethical practices. Sustainability. Those words were foreign when it came to their relationship to my clothes.

So I started reading. 

 (Sources from top left clockwise:   NPR ,  Quartz ,  Vogue ,  NPR ,  Takepart ,  The New York Times ,  Newsweek )

(Sources from top left clockwise: NPRQuartz, Vogue, NPR, Takepart, The New York Times, Newsweek)

I read this and this and this and this and this and countless other articles about fast fashion, labor rights, and what happens to cheap clothing when it gets thrown away (hint: charities and thrift stores won't always resell them, and that means they will likely end up in a landfill).

The more I read, the more convinced I became that I had to make changes in my life, but at the same time, I began feeling completely overwhelmed by everything I was learning. All my reading about poor labor practices, underpaid workers trapped in cycles of poverty, and trafficking could also apply to food, gas, and so many other purchases I was making. 

It wasn't just about clothes anymore. It was bigger than that.

It was about knowing who was profiting from my purchases. 

it was about voting for the kind of world i wanted to live in with my dollar.

One of the reasons why labor trafficking is especially prevalent in the fashion and agriculture industries is because it is economically advantageous for traffickers; it's no secret that our Western economy (and the lifestyle of the average American, including mine) is built on the philosophy of "more," and as we create the demand, some supplier somewhere is benefiting. According to the Global Estimates of Modern Slavery report developed by the International Labour Organization and Walk Free Foundation, an estimated 40.3 million people were victims of modern slavery on any given day in 2016. Of these people, 24.9 million were in forced labor.

What's more, fast fashion thrives on constantly changing trends; seasons come and go more quickly than ever, and retailers depend on us (their consumers) looking at our closets and seeing clothing that's "outdated," in order to keep us buying outfits that will again go out of style in a few short weeks.

A “slow fashion” movement has emerged which emphasizes buying less clothing and sticking to garments made using sustainable, ethical practices.


Where do we go from here?

It's true that there is a "slow fashion" movement on the rise in Western culture. It's been made increasingly popular by celebrities like Emma Watson and Olivia Wilde, and more and more people are starting to get excited about it (many with very good intentions). But only drawing attention to brands that tout themselves as Ethical/Sustainable without talking about the "buying less" side of slow fashion, promotes the idea that if we just switch to shopping with those brands without changing our purchasing frequency, we're doing our part. 

But I'm not convinced that that's the case.

Even as we learn about alternative, more ethical brands, it's easy to forget that we're still being sold something—in most cases, something we still don't need. I personally agree with blogger Hoda Katebi of JooJoo Azad, who calls this "ethical capitalism" a quick fix for a larger, cultural issue. As someone who makes her living by working in marketing, I know that the words "ethical" and "sustainable" have become hot (and relevant) marketing terms. It can take a lot of research to figure out whether their claims are actually true.

one of the reasons why i believe in slow fashion is this: slow fashion can be a form of minimalism.

Yes, currently, minimalism is another trend. But, I mean, you've read this far so...

Unfortunately, ethical fashion often has an accessibility problem. As in, the clothes can be really, really expensive and/or not come in larger sizes. But the part of "slow fashion" that I think is getting lost, is that the solution to the issues fast fashion has created is not to immediately replace everything in your closet with new things from seemingly better brands, but to really make use of everything you buy.

Here are three ways to begin to practice slow fashion—

  1. Learn to see every purchase as an investment instead of a splurge or binge. 
    Ultimately, the goal is to change how we think about clothing, taking our mindset from quick fling to longterm relationship. Also, as we begin to commit to a few pieces for years to come, clothing just might turn into a way for us to learn about our bodies, embrace them, and allow them to change naturally and in a healthy way.

  2. Make a plan to become more intentional with every piece in your wardrobe. 
    When clothes wear out, ask if it really needs replacing. I've bought clothing in the past because I was too lazy to be creative with what I already had. I've found that instead of building a wardrobe around occasions or events (i.e. I need that dress for a wedding I'm going to soon), it's helpful to build a wardrobe around the seasons (a lot of bloggers talk about spring/summer/fall/winter capsules—that's this idea). It gives me deeper intention with every piece I buy, knowing that many pieces will roll over from season to season in this L.A. weather, AND helps me avoid buying for one-time-wears. 

  3. Choose, consciously, to support clothing brands that are transparent about how they are supporting minorities, women, vulnerable populations, and the environment.
    Hopefully, we'll be making more informed decisions instead of scrolling through our inboxes, acquiescing to the next subject line that begs us to shop their 50% off sale. And when I say "we"... I mean me. Because I need this reminder every day.

One year after starting this journey, I wish I could say that I'm a completely different person with totally different habits, but I still struggle with my impulse shopping. Last spring, I got another full-time job and the second I got my first paycheck, I 100% embraced the cliché and went on an online shopping binge. Why is it so fun to buy things (if you're genuinely interested in the answer, shopping—especially sale-shopping—is addicting because it activates the pleasure center of your brain. Seriously, read this article)? 

I'm still learning. But I can tell you that like any other art, I believe fashion makes a political statement. It's an art form directly related to bodies—not just the ones that wear the clothes, but also the ones that make them. My purchasing patterns are telling a story about my values, and I can choose to try my best to make that story one of redemption and justice wherever possible. Which sometimes means not purchasing at all.

I'll do another post soon with brands I do stand behind and recommend for those interested in where to start, but first, I wanted to write this for all the friends who think they can't make the commitment to slow fashion. 

I am making that commitment, every day.

You can, too.

For those interested, some additional resources:

  • Fashion Revolution was created after April 2013, when the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed (1,138 people died and another 2,500 were injured, making it the fourth largest industrial disaster in history). They provide resources and advocate for further transparency from clothing manufacturers. //  http://fashionrevolution.org/
  • The Walk Free Foundation is an incredible organization that has partnered with the International Labour Organization to publish the Global Slavery Index, a comprehensive report on modern slavery used to help both the U.N. and governments around the world take steps to end human trafficking. // https://www.globalslaveryindex.org/
  • Good on You is a free mobile app that rates any brand based on publicly available information including independent certifications and rankings, and credible information published by brands, the media, and NGOs. //  https://goodonyou.eco/