This is my first post for Slow Fashion October this year, a bit late because the issue that keeps popping up for me somehow seems a little sensitive. I am not at all sure that it is, but I’ve been worried that it could be construed as negative. However I feel like Slotober is about open and honest discussions even of the more sensitive aspects of this pretty complex subject. So I decided to put these thoughts out there in the spirit of constructive debate. Bear with me, it is a bit on the long side.
I want to talk about what I sometimes feel is the elephant in the room when it comes to Slow Fashion. Not the longevity of the garments but the longevity of Slow Fashion as a movement. Right now there is a massive amount of momentum for talks on sustainability and ethical production in our maker community and the Fashion world as a whole. All of which is inspiring and important. Still part of me can’t help but worry about saturation points and general loss of interest. Or simply the constant action – reaction of trends. I think Slow Fashion deserves to be more than that.
Wether or not there actually is anything to worry about I can’t say, but if we look to history and the last big wave of environmental awareness back in the 70’s it lasted a while and was then promptly taken over by lux brand consumerism, neon and a shit-ton of plastic. It didn’t resurface in a big way until now some 40 years later.
The 2016 world is of course different. There are undeniable issues with the way we treat earth and each other that are clearer than they have ever been before. All of which creates a backdrop of immediacy (the irony!) to the Slow Fashion discussion as a whole. There are problems that are bigger than us in need of fixing and there are people working towards that. On the other hand I am quite sure that the hippies, crafters and makers of the 70’s believed that they were doing exactly the same.
So my question to our community is basically this; How do we make sure that this positive trend turns into a positive change?
I recently came across an amazing article written by my new favorite person Dr. Mathilda Tham, a professor of Design and author of “the Routhledge handbook of Sustainability and Fashion”. In it she talks about shame and how it stands in the way of progress in regards to sustainable practices. She says:
“… Our first instinct when faced with the environmental challenge is often to say “it can’t be true, the scientists got it wrong, and even if it were true, it’s got nothing to do with me”. The news simply implies too big an adjustment to be digestible, and puts into question too much of what we have previously come to depend on and regard as truths. The second part of the process, when we have had a chance to make sense of and accept the facts, and readjust our previous understanding of the world to accommodate them, often involves feelings of guilt and shame. This again is an entirely normal reaction. The integration of new facts with our old worldview also sheds new light on our own practices, showing perhaps ignorance, inadequacy and neglect where there was before skill and knowledge, satisfaction and pride. While this moment of shame appears normal, it constitutes an important watershed, where at best shame turns into action (…), or at worst prolonged inertia or even reversal to stage one – denial.”
Her words made clear to me that how we feel when faced with the issue of unethical fashion and in our case unethical making is important. Simply because it determines how long we want to stay with it. If we can navigate our guilty feelings and maybe even deal with the longing for fashion as an ethical free-zone, which I feel like most of us have (who doesn’t want to buy a pair of panties without worrying how it was made?). Then maybe we can get to a point where Slow Fashion is just the new standard. Not a thing we perform on instagram, not a complicated road we have to manoeuvre or a place of shame and guilty conscience. Just a habit, a matter of fact. And then maybe new trends can react on top of that instead of rebelling against it.
In my opinion that is one puzzle piece, but most likely not the only one. Please let me know what you think!
The image up top is from Fillipa K circle a new initiative discussing sustainable fashion.