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'Enough Clothing For Next 6 Generations': How We Can Slow Fashion Down

'Enough Clothing For Next 6 Generations': How We Can Slow Fashion Down

If we want to make fashion more sustainable, then we have to address the big issues of excess clothing and overproduction. Fashion designer and Sewing Bee host Patrick Grant said that we have enough clothing on this planet to dress the next six generations. This article will explore how embracing slower, more circular forms of fashion will help us to love and wear our clothes for longer and save mountains of clothes from going to landfill.

How Embracing Slow Fashion Can Help Solve Fashion Overproduction

We Have Too Many Clothes

To put it simply, we all have too many clothes. On average we have 118 items of clothing in our wardrobes in the UK. 

What makes this worse is that we are continuing to buy more new clothes and we aren't making proper use of the items that we don't wear.

This is not to mention the poor quality clothes that end up in landfill, washed up on beaches in Ghana or dumped in the Atacama Desert, Chile. Part of this issue has to do with irresponsible textile recycling and how lots of it isn't properly recycled.

Fast fashion and high street brands are also implicated in this because of the sheer quantities of clothes they produce. At the same time they are reluctant to disclose just how many garments they make.

With up to 52 'microseasons' a year, i.e. a brand new collection a week, it is easy to see how we end up with as much as 300,000 tonnes of clothing going to landfill in the UK in a year. There's always something new and tempting to buy.

That said, we still have to be better as consumers of fashion at keeping our existing clothes for longer, whether that's by repairing them, swapping them, embracing second hand or buying quality garments from slow fashion brands in the first place.

The bottom line is every brand new fast fashion garment we buy contributes to the demand for new clothes to be made.

We reached out to slow fashion expert Nula Power who points out: "These brands are producing clothes based on the demand that we are generating. If they are getting hundreds of thousands of orders that are making them £££, why would they stop producing? The brands that we shop from will continue to grow, so it’s up to us to decide which ones we want to support."

Solutions to Overproduction in the Fast Fashion Industry

A number of well loved fashion brands including H&M, Primark and Zalando are trying to explore how they can do things differently. These brands have joined the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's new scheme which seeks to help fashion brands 'make money without making new clothes.'

The scheme is called the Fashion ReModel and it supports brands in promoting circular fashion in the way of renting, repairing, reselling and recycling fashion, at the same time scaling back production of new clothes.

person mending clothes

This is a great first step towards encouraging a future where fashion can be more sustainable and circular. But...

"Academics estimate that fashion would need to curb new clothing production by 75 per cent before 2030 to bring its footprint in line with planetary boundaries" [Vogue Business].

75% is a big reduction, and starts to show that the so-called 'sustainability' efforts from fashion brands to use things like recycled materials are simply not enough.   

What is Slow Fashion and Why Does it Matter?

While the big fashion brands take baby steps towards becoming less wasteful, it is important to note that smaller, independent and slow fashion brands are already operating in a way that is more circular and sustainable. 

Let's slow things down for a minute and explore slow fashion for a bit longer, with help from Nula, who has some first-hand experience in working in the slow fashion world.

Nula said: "I’ve been working closely with slow fashion brands on the marketing side for the past 2 years. Working so closely with these brands has shown me a lot about the decisions a business makes and how those decisions impact our environment. This awareness naturally bled into my personal life and since then I’ve been making more conscious efforts to educate myself and adopt a more sustainable approach to fashion."

What Exactly is Slow Fashion?

Nula said: "Slow fashion is a modern approach to the fashion industry that takes into consideration how the impacts of production and resources impact ourselves and our environment. It focusses on intentional designs that are either timeless or long lasting, often opting for organic or natural fabrics.

"These brands produce a few collections per year (in contrast to slow fashion brands that are putting out new styles daily) and often have limited quantities to reduce the risk of overproduction." 

So when did slow fashion become meaningful to you?

Nula said: "My interest in fashion turned into an interest in slow fashion not long after I began working with ethical/sustainable clothing brands. Learning more about fabrics, production and waste within the industry brought me face to face with the realities of what it’s doing to our earth. It’s forced me to prioritise shopping second hand as much as possible and taking the time to mend or repair my wardrobe whenever I can." 

How Slow is Slow Fashion?

Average dispatch times by slow fashion brands:

  • Pangaia - three to five business days
  • ECOALF - one to three days
  • Fanfare - 24 to 48 hours  
  • Rapanui - two to three days
  • Aya - five to seven days
  • Lora Gene - two to four weeks

You could expect to wait up to 4-6 weeks for your next brand new slow fashion garment. And if you're thinking about getting something made-to-measure, this may take longer. 

Why is this? It's because items are usually made in smaller runs by smaller teams (with fair pay), prioritising quality over quantity. There often isn't any ready-made stock sitting in a warehouse, it is made to order.

So we will need to be able to adapt to how we might buy our clothes. Instead of being influenced to buy something from an Instagram ad, expecting it to arrive in days, we may need to plan ahead, like you would for occasionwear. 

But this is all part of the slow fashion movement, redefining how we consume clothing.

Is Slow Fashion More Expensive?

Buying brand new slow fashion can be more expensive for various reasons, whether it's the better quality materials or fair pay for staff.

If you are looking for the cheapest T-Shirt, dress or pair of shoes, you probably won't find it from a slow fashion brand. But depending on the item, some of these prices are not too far removed from what you'd pay for the fast fashion version.

At the lower end, you can pick up a multipack of 3 organic cotton T-Shirts for about £35 from Rapanui. This is still much more expensive than buying from Primark (£7, not organic cotton) or H&M (£14.99, not organic cotton), for example, but this is still an affordable price for those who enjoy buying fashion with a disposable income.

Slow fashion brand Thought sell their sustainable dresses for as much as £99. But you can pick them up on sale for much less (~£15). 

Community Clothing offer trendy trainers, handmade in the UK for £98.50.

The other thing you have to consider when comparing prices is how long each item will last. The more expensive slow fashion dress may be much more durable and long lasting than the fast fashion version. So that old adage, buy cheap buy twice comes into effect.

But as we explore next, you can still embrace slow fashion on a budget. 

How to Buy Fewer Clothes and Still Enjoy Fashion

 

One of the first steps towards making your wardrobe more sustainable is to ask yourself why exactly you're tempted to hit 'purchase' on that basket you built on Shein.

Nula said: "The internet can often make it seem like if we don’t have the latest hand bag that everyone has, we’re not as cool, fashionable or fun as everyone else. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. I love this article from Vogue Business that talks about what drives us to overconsume.

"If you’re in a place where multiple packages are arriving to yours every week, one of the first steps might be to consider if all your purchases are necessary. Making intentional purchases that you are confident you’ll love and keep for many years will likely rule out trending pieces that are made poorly -  the kind you’ll want to retire after only a few wears.

Buying second hand fashion is another key way of embracing the slow fashion movement. It is a great way to keep shopping from the brands you love. And it means you can make sustainable additions to your wardrobe at the fraction of the price of buying a new garment (slow fashion or otherwise).

Read More: Ten Great Reasons to Buy Preloved

Nula said: "If you’re already buying more consciously, making the swap from fast fashion brands to supporting charity shops and buying second hand (try using apps like Vinted or Depop) makes the world of a difference. These pieces are already in circulation and make a significantly lower impact on the environment."

11 Ways We Can Slow Fashion Down Right Now

  • Try searching for your favourite brands on eBay, Vinted or Depop 
  • If wanting to buy brand new, shop from a slow fashion brand instead of buying fast fashion (here are 37 UK based slow fashion brands)
  • Get a group of friends together and swap your clothes
  • Sleep on it before committing to buying any new fashion
  • Ask yourself, is this purchase necessary?
  • Invest in quality, timeless garments that will last you for years to come
  • Learn to repair and alter your clothes so they stay with you for longer
  • Upcycle any worn out garments 
  • Plan ahead and think about how your wardrobe serves you in the long term
  • Resell or donate clothes you don't wear and keep them in circulation
  • Talk to your friends, family and colleagues about fast fashion and how we really need to slow it down. 

Do you have any top tips for keeping a sustainable wardrobe and curbing fast fashion production? Leave a comment below!

     

     

     

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