Slow fashion is a term that has become increasingly prevalent in modern life. It has become a buzzword in both the business and environmental spheres. Despite the recent buzzworthy status, the advocacy for sustainable fashion is not new. In 2009, Vogue traced the roots of the slow fashion movement back to 1990, with the publication of articles in the New York Times and Vogue about the environmental trends of the fashion industry. But what exactly is slow fashion?
Well, it depends on who you ask, but we have tried to distill it down to its core. Slow fashion aims to do right by focusing on three key points: people, planet, and animals. Throughout the entire supply chain, slow fashion brands better the lives of garment workers by providing ethical working conditions, hours, and pay. It also slows and closes the production loop by manufacturing solely with sustainable materials in small batches to eliminate waste, chemicals, and plastics. By implementing these ideas, slow fashion seeks to change the fashion and textile industry to no longer be one of the world's largest polluters and waste creators.
Beyond the manufacturing process, slow fashion brands also strive to slow behaviors like consumerism and promote others like recycling and upcycling. By producing high-quality items designed to last: in small batches, slow fashion companies reduce the number of products their customers need to buy, which fast fashion brands incentivize through poorly-constructed garments that you need to replace, constant promotion, releases, and discounts.
This incentivization of consumerism has led us to one of the greatest environmental crises of our generation. The average American throws away about 81 pounds of clothes each year, and the equivalent of a garbage truck full of clothes ends up in a landfill every second. If these statistics aren't stark enough in a given year, the textile/ garment industry generates about 92 million tonnes of waste. Suppose society were to continue on this path. In that case, it is projected that by 2030 we will be discarding 134 million tonnes of textile waste globally per year—a situation that would be an unfathomable environmental crisis.
Although companies have the greatest responsibility for creating sustainable business practices and clothing, let's not understate the power that individual consumers like you hold; purchasing power. As a whole, if consumers simply purchased less or found a slow-fashion alternative for their closet, the potential for difference-making is monumental. Your power has led fast fashion leaders like H&M to institute a recycling program and Zara to release an eco-friendly collection. But, these fast fashion companies still have a long way to go.
It is projected that by 2030 we will be discarding 134 million tonnes of textile waste globally per year—a situation that would be an unfathomable environmental crisis.
We understand it can be time-consuming and overwhelming to dig into a company's manufacturing policies. The good news is that the dedicated team at Good On You® has done all the work for us. A simple search for your favorite brands will outline how they perform on the people, planet, and animals scale, giving you greater decision-making power. And while we are in the spirit of shopping slow, we've also linked some sustainable brands that we admire for you to explore:
The links provided above are done out of goodwill and admiration. Livelihood was not paid to advertise the brands and does not receive a commission.
At Livelihood, we believe that with the slow fashion movement and pursuit of sustainability comes a social responsibility to leave the world a better place than we found it. We do this by planting a 5-gallon tree in an American city for every product sold, hosting community clean-up events, releasing a handful of products every year, and never throwing away unsold products. In addition to this, the items in our store are made-to-last, minimalistic, and versatile closet staples because the more a clothing item lasts and stays in style, the more sustainable it is. Thereby reducing your need to buy clothes, which benefits the environment by helping tackle consumerism that comes with a market society.
We also acknowledge that there are varying definitions of sustainability that make it harder to understand and compare, so we wanted to provide our stance by listing what activities a perfect slow fashion brand performs. An ideal slow fashion and sustainable brand to us is:
- Producing in small batches
- Making things by hand
- Manufacturing locally and regionally
- Using only natural and organic materials
- Providing ethical working conditions and hours
- Paying honest and liveable wages
- Creating only a few products and collections
- Crafting versatile, timeless, and made-to-last products
- Dying with organic colors derived from plants
- Minimizing manufacturing and packaging waste
- Optimizing logistics to reduce shipping
- Not participating in events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday
- Pricing products fairly throughout the year
- Using 100% renewable energy throughout the entire supply chain
Now, the pursuit of sustainability is an ongoing process, and by no means do we feel that we are at the point we would like to be at. As we grow, we will be able to make the upgrades and changes that we believe in to become closer to the ideal brand we envision above. In a humanist way, just like you and I, Livelihood is still working to be better and more sustainable each and every day.