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Slow Fashion 101: What is ‘slow fashion’ and why does it matter?

Slow Fashion 101: What is 'slow fashion' and why does it matter?
All photos taken by Lapthawan Leerapongkul
NFGL Local Network Malmö member Lapthawan Leerapongkul shares her reflections on the two-day Slow Fashion event in Stockholm.

Starting a conversation with someone by telling them the story of one of the garments you are wearing was a unique start to the ‘Slow Fashion’ event which took place March 7th-8th in Stockholm. (It was that same moment I felt ashamed after realizing almost all clothes I was wearing were ‘fast fashion’!)

What is ‘Slow Fashion’ and why does it matter?

Here’s one fact: the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world due to the heavy consumption of water, chemicals and CO2 emission in the production process.

And within the industry, ‘Fast Fashion’ dominates today’s market because of its affordability.

The term refers to selling at a much lower price which triggers consumers to buy more than they need, and that causes a wide range of problems from environmental issues to human rights issues. To stop those consequences, ‘Slow Fashion’ takes the opposite approach.  

Slow Fashion is a sustainable alternative of consumption that encourages people to think before buying, using all garments wisely, and giving them new lives when we no longer want them. Because everything we consume has an effect on the world.

This event has absolutely changed the way I think about fashion. It’s no longer there exclusively for stylish people, but it’s about everyone. Throughout the two-day event of study visits and workshops, I have learned from three different perspectives: as an individual, as a small fashion brand, and as a big fashion company.

1. As an individual: In Sweden, 13 kg of garments are disposed per person every year (or about 1 garment per week.) Johanna Nilsson and Jennie Johansson, our speakers and workshop facilitators, shared with us about how to enjoy fashion in more sustainable ways.

Here are some tips how to embrace the Slow Fashion lifestyle:

  • Slow down: the easiest way is to slow down the process; “Buy less, choose well, make it last.”

  • Do research on where your clothes are from: read, ask, search where they’re produced to make sure you are supporting sustainable brands

  • Appreciate good quality: value better quality over cheaper price. By doing that, we could calculate cost per use per garment to show that the good quality garments are worth paying for and will last longer in terms of usage

  • Celebrate your own style: style is personal, therefore, we don’t have to always follow the trends or change the new clothes that much often. Just find or even innovate your own style and make it uniquely timeless

  • Choose sustainable alternatives when shopping: such as selecting organic, fair-trade, sustainable brands, shopping at second-hand stores, attending clothes swap events, or being a member of fashion libraries, etc.

  • Take care of your clothes: each material should be taken care of in different ways; some of them aren’t necessary meant to be washed. We should learn how to treat the garments properly to make them last

2. As a fashion brand: REMAKE Stockholms Stadsmission is a professional and sustainable brand which is empirical evidence of ‘creativity’ to me. The power of creativity here is unlimited. Not just by creating value, but by creating a story, and also a new life for each garment they craft by hand. The amazing part of REMAKE is that, even though they have to collect unpredictable second-hand garments to be their materials of production process, they still generate two collections per year which are aligned by design and color. Patchwork and simple patterns of sewing are intelligently used to create these trendy, seemingly new pieces.

Furthermore, as my work experience has centred around social initiatives, I’m also really into its interesting social business model that collaborated with the municipality in terms of input resources from stadsmission second-hand shops and recruit the working force by conducting the municipality’s coaching and training program.

3. As a big fashion company: Filippa K is a good example that shows us how a fashion brand is profitable while taking the ‘sustainability goals’ into account. As a step towards the circular economy, they have their own principles called the ‘Circular Fashion’ to make all of Filippa K’s garments and materials circulate in the loop of production and consumption without waste. This includes four circles:

  • Reduce: In terms of marketing, they’re figuring out the way to breakout from seasonal collections and all-year sales. In terms of production process, they’re following the materials restriction to create more sustainable clothes, conduct research to find the substitute for cotton, and be part of various associations, such as Sweden’s textile water initiative to safe water, chemicals, and electricity in garment production

  • Repair: to make sure that customers will take care of their garments and make them last long, Filippa K has a free repair service as well as providing suggestions and care products for customers

  • Reuse: to make sure that the garment will have second or third life, Filippa K Collect’ is set up as a second-hand shop selling its own brand with a big discount from the new items’ regular price. Further, there is also the Filippa K rental service for clothes that you rarely wear, evening dresses, for example.

  • Recycle: simply as it is. To make sure that they can get cloth back to the loop as much as possible. 

This opportunity allowed me to learn from many great perspectives. Above all, it’s the passion and the intuition of these people who are socially and environmentally conscious that inspired all participants, including me, to change their view of the term ‘fashion’.

Fashion should be no longer associated with the trends, commercially and seasonally-driven notions of exclusivity and extravaganza, but instead how we redefine and innovate new meanings for ourselves and create new possibilities for our society through the creativity of garment uses, conservation, and recreation. In this way, I see the practicality that we can all contribute to a better environment and livelihood.

Thank you to the Swedish Institute and the dedicated staff for giving me this great opportunity to meet these incredible speakers and awesome NFGL companions.