SI Slow Fashion event preview: ‘The fashion industry relies on insecurity’

SI Slow Fashion event preview: 'The fashion industry relies on insecurity'
Johanna at her shop in Stockholm. Photo: The Local
Next week NFGL members will be attending a workshop on Slow Fashion, with authors Johanna Nilsson and Jennie Johansson. But what is Slow Fashion? We spoke with Johanna Nilsson to find out.

Johanna Nilsson comes from Umeå in northern Sweden and is a jewelry designer as well as now an author. Read more about her background and her designs here.

How and when did your interest in sustainability, and slow fashion, start?

Well, I’m 30 now, and since I was about 15 or 16 years I have been interested in sustainability. So that’s about half my life.

I have more or less always been interested in issues such as fairness, fair trade, human rights and things like that. As a kid, you know, you think the world should be fair, and it isn’t. So this is something for me to make it better, something that still drives me.

I have always been interested in clothes too, just a general fashion interest. So to combine those things was natural for me. Questions about globalization and fair trade and fashion… it makes sense together.

Alright, so what exactly is slow fashion?

Slow Fashion is something I have been taking about for about three years now. I found it through a UK website. The phrase captured everything I believe in about sustainable fashion, and how I want to think about and talk about sustainable fashion.

I’ve been doing that – sustainable fashion –  for many years. But I didn’t have a word for explaining my sustainable fashion. Slow fashion captures it perfectly.

So, it’s originally a concept from the UK, and now it is spreading more and more. The way we define it in our book is when quality comes before quantity in fashion. We prioritize fewer and better clothes, thus making less of an environmental impact. It’s about being more conscious of your choices.

So basically it’s the opposite of shopping lots at H&M?

Basically, yes!

When and why did you decide to write a book about Slow Fashion?

I met Jennie Johansson, the other author of the book, and we started talking about it. Actually she asked me, “Have you ever thought about writing a book?” And it’s actually a dream of mine!

But we realized we couldn’t do it alone. It’s so much work. So we decided to do it together. And it took us two years – it was slow writing as well!

But the main reason we wrote it was that we thought there was a gap in the Swedish book market. There wasn’t any book about this topic, so we wanted to do it. We wanted to write the book we would have wanted to read ourselves five years ago.

The book is only in Swedish right now. So can you tell us what it’s about – in English?

We would love to write it in English sometime if we have the resources!

Basically we want to make sustainable fashion easy and inspiring. It’s a complex subject. Lots of people know about the issues in the fashion industry but don’t really know what to do about it. You know the problem, but not the solution. We wanted to make a book with lots of solutions and ideas on how to solve it. So the book is one part of a manifest; we have a manual as well. It can be used as a shopping guide.

We also hope that it will be inspiring and that you will start to like the subject as much we do!

What about the actual content? What can we learn about in the book?

We have one chapter about materials, such as what is viscose, polyester, etc. Then there is a care section on how to take care of your clothes so they last longer.

Another chapter is about how to mend your clothes if something breaks, how to fix it so you don’t throw out your old jeans, for example. It’s a very practical part.

But there is also a chapter about personal style. The fashion industry relies on insecurity. That’s how the media works and trend setting starts. But we want to show that you can have your own personal style, and that if you buy things you really like and you know your own personal style, your clothes last far longer than one season. If you become more secure about your personal style, that is a step to being more sustainable, because you don’t have to follow all the trends.

Why should students in particular thing about slow fashion and being sustainable?

Well for one thing it’s actually cheaper to be sustainable! Many people think sustainable fashion isn’t for them, they think you have to buy new clothes that are expensive and made from fancy amterials.

But really, being sustainable can be a cheap way of living. You can mend your clothes instead of buying new ones. You can shop second-hand. You can buy less. Even if you buy fast fashion, like a cheap t-shirt, just buy one. Don’t buy ten simply because you can afford to.

Where can people go to learn more about slow fashion?

Our book has also now become a study group through the Sensus organization. We started this autumn with a pilot course to try it out, and now we have groups in Borås and Gothenburg, so hopefully that will spread as well.

I have a blog about it too, though it’s in Swedish. You can also just read lots about Slow Fashion on the internet.