Slow Fashion in the Digital Age

In the year of 2019 we are a time of contradiction. The slow living and slow fashion industry is no exception. Living slowly and seasonally denotes going outdoors, leaving fast-paced technology behind and harking back to past-times that, through a certain amount of rose-tinted spectacles, appeared simpler.

This, you might say, goes hand-in-hand with shopping from local, small businesses and to a certain extent it does. The more accurate way to put it would be to say that for essential purchases it is a perfect fit. For non-essentials? Why, it is there we find our contradiction.

Most slow living advocates like myself would love to buy our clothing from these little shops, able to try on all the sustainable brands we’d truly love to support, and save up for something we know we will wear time and again. But there’s the rub - slow, sustainable fashion is not something to be bought often. Investing in one or two pieces throughout the year is the way to shop these pieces, encouraged by makers and buyers alike.

At a time when clothing stores are struggling to compete with their online competitors, we are encouraged to spend more in our local shops, and yet the slow fashion industry is completely adverse to that notion.

So how to fix this? Slow fashion brands - such as myself - currently favour online platforms, which allows small businesses to flourish in their niche. Whilst this clearly does achieve some success, I fear the sustainable ethos we all promote will never capture the wider audience it needs to make a difference, if we cannot make it easier for the masses to buy.

Is a collective retail space the answer? Will my fellow makers and I all pitch in to create such a space? One day, perhaps. But would this be the most sustainable option? Unless the shop were on your doorstep the carbon footprint would surely cancel out all the hard work to be sustainable before this point. So what of business models where clothing is sent to your door to try before you buy? Could this ever be financially viable, and better for the environment to boot?

Those of you reading this hoping to find the answer to this riddle will be disappointed, I fear. I do not have the answer. Yet. But I think it it vital to always be thinking about this bigger picture. I could sell a dress today, three tomorrow and twenty-five by next Thursday - this would undoubtedly be a success, but perhaps in the grand scheme of things, just a personal one. The ethos behind these slow fashion makers does not end with them, it does not end with me. It ends when the world sees differently, and we change collectively, not individually.