Slow Movements are picking up speed worldwide as alternative ways of living which are more environmentally and socially responsible and have positive effects on our health, wellbeing and the world around us. The ‘Slow Movement’ advocates a cultural shift towards slowing down life’s pace and recovering slowness, reflection and togetherness.
It all began in the mid 80s when protests were held against the opening of a McDonald’s in Piazza di Spagna in Rome. Uproar against the conglomerate ignited a Slow Food organisation, which aims to counter the rise of fast food and the ‘fast life’. In this context the ‘fast life’ describes modern food production and consumption methods and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. Slow Food movements strive to emphasise the pleasure of good food whilst consciously producing quality food through sustainable means with a commitment to communities and the environment. This new way of thinking has developed into subcultures which promote ‘slow philosophy’ in areas such as development, travel, design, living, education, parenting, media and fashion.
Slow fashion? I hear you ask. Yes, have you ever thought of your clothes as non-recyclable items, similar to plastic bags, which are destroying the environment? Well, think of it this way; today’s fashion industry is one of mass consumption and production. Fashion magazines are telling people to wear ‘in-season’ clothes every few months. Shops are selling cheaper clothes, made with non-biodegradable fabrics created from unsustainable materials, often produced by people working in uncompromising conditions for poor wages. In England with the likes of ‘value store’ Primark it is standard for girls and guys to come home from a Saturday shop with carrier bags busting at the seams with inexpensive new clothes, many of which will be worn once or twice and then thrown away. And it is not only in the west that such a shopping culture exists, in Thailand it is easy to go to any market or superstore and purchase cheap and plentiful amounts of new garments, bags or shoes.
Unlike our mother’s or grandmother’s generation when clothes were made to last and repaired time after time, today we are living in a disposable society, where the attitude is “don’t bother fixing it, it’s cheap, buy a new one”.
The term slow-fashion, coined in 2007, relates to a way of producing and wearing clothes which is environmentally and socially responsible because it utilises local materials, suppliers, and producers. Slow-fashion values quality over quantity. It isn’t meant to be a trend, but a sustainable fashion movement.
To be honest slow-fashion is nothing new in Thailand. In the past, people’s wardrobes were limited to what could be made with local resources, skills and budgets; they didn’t import yarns from Italy, generating vast carbon footprints.
Lamorna Cheesman, the director of Studio Naenna, a textile production studio founded in 1988 by her mother, an expert in antique Lao and Thai textiles, told me about how her company has been taking things slowly. “We used to produce textiles for the hotel interior industry, with large quantities and strict deadlines. The strain and the stress on the weavers made us realise that this was not how we wanted to run our business. After, at times, half a year of intense production, we would find ourselves with sufficient income to sustain the business, but insufficient satisfaction. We therefore made a conscious decision to slow it all down, promote quality and fair-trade ethics, and set an example for other weaving workshop. The quality of products have noticeably improved because the weavers are working at their own pace; they enjoy and take pride in what they are doing. As for the business, profit margins have not decreased and customer loyalty has noticeably increased. People like what we are doing, and recognise its importance, they therefore want to support us.”
Studio Naenna alongside the Weavers’ For the Environment women’s group, initiated by Lamorna’s mother, now produces high quality and exclusive designs which are built to last and are eco-friendly. She told me how more stringent countries in Europe ban the import of fabrics dyed with harmful chemical dyes. However in Thailand carcinogenic fabric dyes are still available and used by weavers everywhere, meaning harmful chemicals can be absorbed into the body when the fabric comes into contact with your skin.
Lamorna says we can all make small changes towards slow fashion, “buy classic designs that you know you look good in and can wear multiple times. Be creative and work with what you’ve got in your wardrobe, customise your old clothes.”
If going slow when it comes to fashion means saving up those pennies to buy something high quality and long lasting or just buying less but investing in ethical eco-friendly goods, remember how the saying goes; all good things come to those who wait.
• Get more wear out of your clothes.
• Buy less.
• When you buy something, ask yourself how many times will you really wear it.
Support smaller businesses, fair trade and locally-made clothes shops over the mass produced.
• Buy second hand and donate unwanted garments.
• Choose clothing made with sustainable, ethically-made or recycled fabrics.
• Choose quality garments that will last longer and transcend trends.
• DIY – make, mend, customise, alter, and up-cycle your own clothing.
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