There’s a corollary to my post on why I make my own clothes, which I think is an important point on which to end the month (aka Slow Fashion October). That is: I don’t make all of my own clothes, nor will I. Not only do I think it’s not necessary to make 100%, and not only do I not want to restrict myself in that way, I believe it’s critically important to support the companies that are trying to make a difference in our messed-up clothing industry. In other words, opting out of fast fashion is a good step, but so is opting in to better alternatives.
If there’s one thing that’s become crystal clear to me in these past four years owning a small business, it’s that it really does matter where you spend your money. For one thing, every dollar you spend is a vote. When you give money to a business, you’re encouraging them to do more of whatever they’re doing, whether those practices are harmful or beneficial. More so, money is fluid — handing it to a company isn’t the end of it. I’ve come to see myself as a caretaker of people’s money. When you buy something from me, you’re supporting me and my business and my two part-timers, of course. (And thank you!). But more important, you’re entrusting money to me, and I consider it my duty to re-spend it responsibly. I spend it on product that creates jobs in Nashville and New Hampshire, where our Field Bags and totes are sewn. I place orders that support the businesses of small producers like Ambatalia and Bookhou and Little Seed Farm who do quality, conscientious, beautiful work. And I give a percentage of it to charity — specifically to Heifer, who in turn provide fiber animals to impoverished families, where those animals represent milk and fiber and income. My point being not to pat myself on the back at all, but simply to say that I know first-hand, feel it daily, and understand quite deeply that how you spend your money matters — whether that’s a farm or a small business or a corporation. And that informs my view of all of this.
As for me and my closet, I love pulling on handmade garments, and yes feel quite humming on those rare occasions when I’m dressed entirely in handmade (apart from my underwear and shoes). But what actually feels best to me is any outfit that’s a blend of all the things we’ve talked about this month — long-worn/mended, second-hand, handmade and small-batch/known-origins. Say, a handknit vest and homemade top with local jeans. Or a locally made tunic with my ancient mended camo pants. Or even a ten-year-old t-shirt (from who knows where) with a handmade sweater and jeans from J.Crew’s made-in-L.A. line, Point Sur. I like knowing that I’m not just opting out of the ready-to-wear industry altogether and hoping the situation will improve without me, but that I’m using what purchases I do make as a way to support sustainable small-batch makers and even big companies that have done something I want to encourage, like J.Crew making jeans in L.A.
On those occasions when I’m able to buy a piece from Elizabeth Suzann or Lauren Winter or Han Starnes (because I’ve shopped less, saved by making, and then waited for a sale!) I feel like the purchase is the message — I’ve supported their business and cast a vote for them to do more of what they’re doing. But when deciding to buy from a mega-company like J.Crew because they did a thing I support, I feel like I need to go beyond just making the purchase and actually tell them that I bought those jeans as a result of that choice they made, that it’s not incidental. And to add that it would be even better if they’d use North Carolina denim.
And what about those overseas factory workers? I’ve heard so many people say that we’re doing them a favor — that the jobs created by our spending are better than what they had available to them before. Maybe that’s true — I have no way of knowing. I agree that people in other countries need jobs, too, but I also see that our corporations don’t have to insist on impossibly cheap price tags on our behalf. They don’t have to pocket enormous profits after telling the factory they won’t pay enough for the goods that the factory can afford to pay the workers a decent wage. We’re keeping people in poverty with our insistence on $6 t-shirts and $15 button-downs. So I’m raising again that I want to find a way to communicate to these companies that there are a lot of us who want another option — to pay a fair price and know the workers were fairly paid as well. If you have any specific ideas about that, please share them!
The conversation we’ve been having this month has been amazing and meaningful and I know for real that it impacts people’s thinking and choices. But we have to make ourselves heard in the marketplace. Consumer demand is the only way change happens, and financial support is the only way new things are possible.
. . . . .
As I’m always saying, there’s no such thing as a pure closet. Everything we make and buy will have some element of trade-off; the point is to maximize the good and minimize the problematic as much as we can, to be thoughtful about our choices, and to do whatever is possible and affordable within our own circumstances. Even the smallest steps add up when enough people take them.
Here are just some of the possible steps to consider:
– Wear the things you already own for as long as possible. Using what you have (rather than discarding it and/or acquiring anything new) is the most environmentally responsible act there is. (And don’t forget: No one wants your old clothes)
– Additionally on the long-worn front, acquire things second-hand — either via thrift stores, online consignment or clothing swaps. Thrift stores can also be a great source for fabric, as well as sweaters for unraveling into yarn.
– Make as many of your own clothes as makes sense for you. For every garment you make, you can be sure no factory worker was exploited in its making. If you can also use traceable yarn or fabric, and avoid materials that may have been produced in damaging ways, so much the better.
– If you have a fabric outlet in your area that sells remnants and overstocks, support them. Even if the fabrics weren’t sustainably produced, you’ll be putting them to use and keeping them out of the landfill. (And saving money!)
– Buy directly from small, sustainable brands if that’s within your reach. Help them survive, thrive and multiply.
– If you shop in small boutiques in your area, ask them what they have that’s from sustainable brands. Let them know you want that. The same with your local yarn and fabric store — make a point of asking what’s local/sustainable/traceable, and support what you can afford to.
– If you see “import” on a product page in lieu of where something was actually made, ask them to be more specific. If they aren’t willing to say “Made in Bangladesh” or “Made in Cambodia” they shouldn’t be manufacturing there in the first place, and we (the consumer public) shouldn’t let them get away with not disclosing that.
– And the hundred things I’ve overlooked that I hope you’ll make up for in the comments. ;)
. . . . .
I can’t thank you all enough for the amazing conversation this month. I always think I’m hyper-aware that I don’t have all the answers — far from it — and you still always challenge me in ways I didn’t see coming. The discussion on #slowfashionoctober this month has been smart and introspective and inspiring on so many levels. I know everyone will carry it forward throughout the year, but today I’d love to hear from you what your most important takeaway is, how your thinking has changed, or what you plan to do differently.
And if you missed anything here on the blog, the full batch of posts from this year can be scrolled through here.
top left: 10-y-o J.Crew cardigan, even older and very mended J.Crew jeans, homemade plaid top
top right: homemade wool gauze pullover, J.Crew striped top, Point Sur jeans (made in US)
middle left: handknit vest, Fischer wool button-down (made in US), old J.Crew ponte pants
middle right: homemade linen dress and handknit vest
bottom left: very old and mended Gap camo pants, homemade top
bottom right: Elizabeth Suzann sample-sale tunic, same ancient J.Crew mended jeans
[Gap boots from a few years ago (China), very old tan J.Crew sandals (Italy), Salt Water sandals (China)]
PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: Slow Fashion resources
The past 2 years of Slow October musings have sharpened my plan for a slow, adjustment to my closet that was already moving in this direction. I want to revive my dormant sewing skills and this October realized I need to focus during my long cold weather season on my summer wardrobe. My summers are too short to get much done if I wait til Spring. Summer sewing is also simpler in my wardrobe, less expensive fabric, fasteners, etc. I have beautiful fabric and buttons and am rank ordering my sewing queue that will have a small number of knitted items that go with. You have clearly laid out the rationale for being particular about where we spend our money. I think my choices about where I vote with my dollars are meaningful. Thanks for the effort you put into this. I think I may explore some made in the USA jeans. Makes me remember my astonishment about neighborhood tailors in Africa making custom sized jeans for $13.00 on a foot pedal powered machine, with a hot coal heated iron for pressing. Yet they were not valued since they were not an international brand. There is lots of room for improvement in this arena. Thanks for your leadership.
How do I support those African tailors? That sounds so amazing and extinct.
Thank you for keeping this conversation going and keeping it so open. I know I’m one of those people who likes to push back and challenge, not because I don’t agree with your principles (I actually do agree 100%), but because I’m trying to be practical and see things from the perspective of someone who doesn’t have all the options in front of her/him as she/he would like. I truly appreciate that you welcome many points of view here. I’m conflicted because I want to make a difference and believe that voting with my dollars (I actually kind of hate that phrase because it feels so…libertarian somehow) but at the same time the enormity of the problems in global manufacturing is completely overwhelming.
Going forward, I think education is going to be a big factor in spurring change in the industry. Most children have no idea where anything comes from. Maybe the few lucky ones whose parents make things or have gardens have an inkling about the work that goes into what we eat and wear and use on a daily basis, but the vast majority do not have this privilege of knowledge. (I have spent hundreds of hours volunteering for the outdoor and garden program at my kids’ school, so I have first-hand experience with what it’s like for kids to experience growing their own food. It can be totally transforming for some of them. Almost like magic, only it’s just nature.) So maybe this is where we go next, educating young people (I don’t know how, but maybe a revival of home ec programs in schools? Which I totally didn’t do when I was growing up…) about where stuff comes from: food, clothes, furniture, everything.
I agree that education is key, Susan. In seventh grade (thirty years ago) I had a half-year home ec class. We learned to cook basic things that I can’t even eat–allergies–though I hope that the skills were useful to some classmates. Bring back practical, hands-on training! It’s useful whether it becomes your main job or a sideline.
I watched my mother sew a little when I was young, but before I was ten she didn’t have time anymore. Thus I’m self-taught for knit, crochet, and rudimentary sewing. Though I still struggle with knitting, I’m glad to be able to make sweaters for my child. Maybe even for myself someday. ;) Karen’s raglan suggestions are inspiring, but my shoulders must be even broader (disproportionately) than hers….
Yeah, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I know there is a real movement of people lobbying for more/better/the return of music education in schools, and I think it would be really good to do the same for all the lost skills classes — cooking, sewing, wood shop. If anyone has ideas about where to start …
I just want to leave a comment and say thank you! Thank you for Slow Fashion October, you have infinitely inspired me in the decisions I make when I buy yarn, when I buy fabric and when I buy clothes. This discussion is so important and I’ve learnt so much, and I am now going to continue to learn and find out and make more informed choices.
I’m so glad you’ve found it worthwhile!
I think, as you’ve mentioned, that communicating with companies is important, telling them why (or why not) you’re supporting them. It’s a bit like the letter-writing campaigns of Amnesty International. If enough people make some noise, companies (or governments) are going to notice. However, we also have to make sure they don’t get away with green-washing by having some little capsule collection that is really just a marketing ploy to get us back in their shops.
Also, making conscious choices at each junction is key. I will never make all my own clothes because there are some fantastic designers out there whose work I can’t replicate (and sometimes, I just don’t have the time!). If we thought about our purchases (or decisions in general), we’d both make better choices and spend less. Feels like a win-win to me.
The one that really gets me worked up is H&M and their “sustainable” line. They appear to be one of the worst global offenders, now trying to have it both ways. It’s hard to even believe they’re being straight about it, much less to pat them on the back or give them money.
My takeaway was enhanced from last years discussions-further introspection into the clothes I own and not needing “new” all the time just because it’s there. Also the value of my $$ and how it is spent. Perhaps $100 of yarn for one awesome knitted sweater and not $100 worth of cheaper yarn for 4 not-so-pleasing projects. How best to keep this in mind after October??
It’ll stay with you. ;)
You’ve nailed it here. We have to let companies know WHY we decide to buy from them. Be it H&M or a Ace & Jig, they need to know why. I have worked as a sustainability consultant and am now within a large NGO related to fabric origins and sourcing and I can tell you – the brands we work with depend on YOU, the consumer, to help them push through ethical agendas. I have felt uncomfortable pitching into the Slow Fashion October Dialogue all month as I am now way deep in the corporate end of the sustainability debate, which is pretty far removed from the handmade movement. I love, love making my own garments, sourcing the most beautiful single-source yarn, finding tiny businesses that make cool things in a responsible way…BUT. I’m a disgruntled, 26 year old that taps away at a desk all day, helping major businesses make better choices because the scale of impact that they can achieve is enormous, and should not be overlooked. I feel uncomfortable with having come to this deeply Realistic conclusion, but it’s the paradigm we live in. We are in the minority here, and we have to find and pursue solutions for the majority.
Many do not appreciate or even know that essentially every major corporation around the world (due to government reporting mandates, stakeholder pressures, risk aversion, and a myriad other reasons, sometimes as simple as “we want to do the right thing) have dedicated internal sustainability teams who conduct factory visits, set emissions targets, push child labour onto management agendas, develop sustainability strategies, and on and on. They need your help to both keep their jobs and keep their work moving.
I strongly recommend using social media to wield your chosen carrot or stick when sending your message.
Thank you for sharing this perspective! It’s interesting and important to know what goes on from the big corporations’ perspective. And when we have companies the size of small countries, I think you and Karen are exactly right that one of the best ways to make an impact is to use your money where you want it to count, and let the companies know.
I understand why you may have felt uncomfortable joining in, since the dialogue has tended to be fairly handmade- and handmaker-focused (I do appreciate Karen’s efforts to broaden the scope, as with this post). But I really wish you, and other people doing similar work, will join more in future Slow Fashion October discussions.
I think it’s really easy for us to objectify groups of people that get too large for our intuitive understanding — hence “corporations” and “the fashion industry” can take on a sort of mythic scope, as though they are vast, callous, single-minded entities that move with one will. Don’t get me wrong, there absolutely are larger-than-any-single-human emergent structural forces that come out of how we’ve chosen to arrange our affairs. But all those corporations and industries are just people, and they don’t all think they way an outsider might imagine they do (neither do the workers, who can just as easily become monolithic objects of our pity…).
Tending your own garden — starting with our personal spheres — can be a great way to begin aligning action with belief. But I agree that if change is something you really care about, it’s important to look at all the channels and see what you can do to support the work of others who may have even more leverage than you do (this might even involve… politics!). I don’t think grassroots, external action has to pitted against working from the “inside”, and I am most interested in ways that people doing both kinds of work can help each other. I don’t think anybody’s a traitor to their beliefs by taking the “Realist” approach you describe — most things that matter don’t get done in any one way, but with a glorious hodge-podge of efforts.
Mostly, I’m just fascinated to know more about what it’s like to be someone working on these issues inside the fashion industry — even the most enormous, mass-market sectors. Because I *don’t* know, and I shouldn’t assume that I do. Maybe one of these years?
Hi Julia – thank you so much for the response. I did rather drop the ball…I feel I have so much to say but I do need to spend quite a lot of time crafting a detailed piece. Just because it’s now November doesn’t mean I can’t still do this :)
I am plotting a website or podcast to explore these topics further, and will be sure to keep the Slow Fashion October crew in the loop. Really excited about this prospect and hopefully I can get it off the ground. Encouragement from people like you means so much to me so again, thank you for responding to my post so positively.
Hayley-slow fashion is not about a month of the year, it is about a life choice. Creating handmade clothing happens year round for most people, not just in one month-November awaits you!
Thank you for an articulate response with this perspective. I have had very mixed feelings about what has seemed like a limited perspective on a very very complex issue. Many of the “new found” principles of the susatainable, locavore lifestyle have been a part of my life forever (and I am much older than your average reader here). I shop local, recycle and compost, have made a large part of my own wardrobe most of my life, etc. But I have also had a chance to visit China , Cambodia, and Vietnam, and while I can not profess to under the complexities of their societies, I do know that the Western market is crucial to the improved standard of living that they are just beginning to experience; that the income of two working parents is what allows children to stay out of the work market and attend school, and for governments to improve sanitation, provide clean water, health care, etc.
Certainly we should all shop more wisely, plan better, reduce impulse shopping, and find new homes for what we discard. Shopping independent retailers , shopping local, makes our community more interesting and more vibrant, and while many small retailers make real efforts to contibute to their communities, (I have worked in independent retail) the scale of this can not compare to the efforts a large corporation can make should it choose to. Both are important, neither should be excluded from the mix. So while I wholly agree about speaking out, we need to speak out to across a large board, because every player in this game has an important role to play.
Chiming in that I would really love to hear more about all of that.
I think keeping at it is the biggest takeaway for me. Like you say, there’s no such thing as perfect, and for me, I struggle with mending long-worn clothes. Last year I tried mending holes in a pair of long worn jeans, and my mending job only prolonged their life for a couple of wears, which is still something, I know, but not really enough to satisfy me. Last week I got an opportunity to try mending again – with a hole ripped in a favorite shirt. It may or may not work, but the point is I keep trying to mend, seeing what works, and wearing my clothes for as long as possible.
Also, this month I made a commitment not to make/buy any new clothes, whether they were “Slow Fashion” or not. The exercise gave me a real feel for what I have in my closet, and where the “holes” in my closet really are. Too often, I get obsessed by a new knitting pattern or feel like I’m tired of my closet, which leads to impulsive buying/making. By slowing down more, I was really able to access some mindfulness around my own wardrobe.
As always, the topics discussed this year have been fascinating. Thanks so much for hosting SFO!
Stopping and figuring out those holes has been super important for me. Even though my closet has filled back in over the last couple of years, I’m trying to still think really hard about what I want to make and how it will actually be worn versus what I genuinely need. I still have a serious pullover shortage but want to knit so many cardigans … (which then need the right things to go under them …)
The thing I thought about the most this month was inclusivity, and how slow fashion to me means buying less, taking care of what you have, and making more thoughtful purchases whenever you can. I realized that so many of these steps are available to everyone, whether you make any of your own clothes or not, and that they would make such a huge impact if more people did them, so I posted my own list of ideas for slower fashion, wherever you’re at in your journey: https://tashamillergriffith.com/2016/10/06/slower-fashion-is-for-everyone/
Then I decided I don’t even want to call it fashion—let’s reject the whole notion of trendiness and call it something like Slow Clothing instead?
I tend to be focused on things that make a material impact—I bought that or I didn’t, I used that or I didn’t—but after reading this post I think I should add communication with the companies you support (and don’t) as a way to make a difference!
This is the part of the discussion that I can’t quite ever address in just the right way — the notion (I hear all the time in various ways) that Slow Fashion for people with money. It’s a first-world problem, for sure, to be worrying about. Poor people make do and always have — that IS slow fashion, at its root. The problem is, in our current world “making do” can mean fast food and fast fashion due to lack of alternatives. I agree with you that anyone can choose to be more careful about what they buy (at any price point), wear it longer, etc. But finding “the good stuff” — the rare item that will last — at low end retailers is getting harder all the time.
Yesterday I cast off / sewed in the ends on my very first pair of handmade socks. They feel very symbolic of Slow Fashion October for me, since for years I always thought I would never bother, that I could just go buy socks. I will surely still buy socks, but these took time. I used a pricey beautifully-dyed skein and can’t stop admiring them on my feet today. And so I will cherish them. And I think it’s that cherishing, that awareness of time/energy – whatever the origins of your things, whether the time and investment was yours or someone else’s – that leads to taking care of them.
I also have renewed my commitment to work through my fabric and yarn stash – to honor those materials that have already been produced, and work through them mindfully (and surely slowly!). Thanks for leading the discussion this month!
[praise hands emoji]
Yesterday I made my husband a pair of trackpants. Sadly not from fabric with a traceable source, however to replace the last pair I made him which I harvested the elastic from to re-use in this pair, the previous pair are to be washed and then cut up for rags as they are now so thin and the fabric so worn that there is no other use for them. I like that in this process, while I can’t control all of the elements, I am making a garment that I 100% know will be worn, mended, laundered, worn, mended, laundered until it falls apart.
I agree that all choices come with some form of compromise. It really is about making the best decision we can on a case by case basis. I also share your view that we do vote with our purchases (thanks Anne Lappé). Sometimes in the face of a huge industry and relentless capitalism, the power of the individual can seem hopeless, but if we keep making the small decisions and supporting those whose values we share then that hopelessness feels less overwhelming. I’ve found sharing in Slow Fashion October to be a very affirming and challenging process. Even though this is something that has already been a primary focus, it has encouraged me to hone my thinking and narrow that focus even further. Thank you for hosting and provoking such interesting discussion and thinking.
(This article is also very encouraging and worthy of sharing: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/apr/05/environmentally-friendly-green-living-ideas)
Thanks for all your great comments all month, Naomi — and that smiling face that goes with them!
I love slow fashion October! Not only has it extended the lives of jeans that fit me just right, I have also started mending my handknit socks (heels and toes!), old sweaters that I’ve had since the 1990’s from J.Crew and the Gap and I give all my clothes in general a good once over before throwing in the discard pile. I’ve even started using handkerchiefs in lieu of tissues (though, if I have a bad head cold, those lotion tissues are a NECESSITY!) and make them from old shirts (no spandex). I am less inclined to purchase items that are cheap for cheap’s sake (they rarely last more than a season) and am more mindful of what I actually need vs what I want. I want to thank you for making me think about what I purchase and what I throw away!
Anyone who uses handkerchiefs (and non-disposable diapers) gets some kind of serious bonus points! That’s awesome.
That’s one of the simple ones. I have always used cloth handkerchiefs, cloth napkins, minimal usage of paper towels and other disposables. People my age grew up that way. When my children (now in their forties) were babies I washed the diapers. This stuff is easy. But I will admit that it never occurred to me to make my own handkerchiefs: kudos for that one. And lest you all forget:rags! Rags take the place of cellulose sponges, paper towels, many tipes of wipes, they clean floors and bathtubs, etc, etc. And when they are no longer usable, they can be composted: greasy food and all (I live in acity with curbside composting so this is a no-brainer)
Yeah, that’s a natural at my house. My husband is an artist and so we definitely have a rag bin.
Once again, Karen, I am so very grateful for this campaign. The general takeaway for me is to be more thoughtful about my behavior as a consumer, to be more thoughtful about my purchases and project choices as a maker, and to value usefulness, beauty, ethical sourcing, and craftsmanship in fashion so that my purchases and my use of what I purchase is consistent with my values. My maker goals this month have been to document my stash and knit from it, repurpose garments that would otherwise be textile waste into something useful, to finish my WIPs, and to turn a garment that would otherwise be scrapped into a great wear-often piece. I still have a long way to go to document my yarn stash, but I notice that doing so has already made me a less impulsive yarn consumer in addition to turning up yarn that I can use in different projects than they were originally intended for (before being abandoned). I also know that I do not need anymore single skeins of gorgeous indie-dyed sock yarn for a quite awhile! And I still need to have a languishing sundress turned into an awesome swing skirt that I will wear often instead of never. Maybe I will take that to a seamstress… But I have finished (and worn) a top made from yarn made of recycled denim, have finished other WIPS, am halfway through a cardigan in a size, shape, and color that I will enjoy wearing for a long time and that is from stash yarn that I have been hauling around for several years, and have crocheted a bathroom rug from misprinted t-shirts in a scrap pile. Drops in the bucket one and all, but steps in the right direction!
YES — support your local seamstress! That’s a point I failed to make this month, so thank you for mentioning it. And for all your contributions.
I’m really glad that I found your blog and discovered Slow Fashion October. I’ve always been sensitive to the fact that much of fashion (or many other things we buy) are often not made in an ethical way but at the same time feel overwhelmed by the issues as well–they seem too big to overcome! But I’m realizing that’s not true and it’s very easy to rationalize the way things are. I plan to be more active in the slow fashion movement and finally feel like my small steps can make a difference. Thanks for the inspiration.
It really can be so overwhelming as to be paralyzing, so the importance of small steps is really important to keep in mind!
Your field bags are for sale in my local yarn shop here in Melbourne, Australia. They are lovely but I am conflicted over whether to buy them or not. They are not a local product made from local materials and they have travelled many miles to get here but they are produced by a small sustainable business.
That’s an excellent example, and all you can do is follow your own gut!
I totally agree with you. Also in the way we buy our food, and from whom. As i live in the neteherlands the signing of CETA this sunday and TTIP in the future is a real issue here, as it concerns the same items. How we are manipulated and often misled by large corporations without any scrupules about people, livestock and environment.
The only thing we can do is vote with our feet. If we refuse to accept their products, they change!
I am buying organic for 40 years, and how things have changed in these years. I was ridiculed, and had to defend myself continually in the beginning, now every supermarket has organic products. So, keep going, it works!!
I buy my yarn from english farms, as it is often organic, the sheep are well tended and it is less far away.
Someone mentioned there’s now organic produce in Wal-Mart, which would once have been inconceivable. So yes! It works.
Thank you for this month of thought-provoking articles! I hadn’t heard of the Slow Fashion Movement until a couple of days into October this year, so it’s been a great learning experience for me. I shared your “Is it Cheaper…?” post on Facebook, and it resulted in a conversation with my friends on handmade clothing that was really interesting! My takeaway from all this is mostly inspiration to start making clothes for myself and family, which is something I’ve always wanted to do, but had many excuses to never really start. Perhaps it just feels good to feel like there is a community out there that feels this way about clothes–makes it easier to take the next step.
Once again, thank you for these posts. I’ve loved reading every one.
You’re so welcome — thank you for the nice comment. And yes to the power of there being a community to join!
Thank you, again, Karen, for leading this fascinating month of conversation and thought. I’m so impressed by how different the conversation has been this year than last year, it makes me think that slow fashion October is having a big influence on all of us in that we’re thinking about it all year and the conversations are evolving.
Last year I felt a bit left out of the conversation because it was more about handmade. It was still interesting and inspiring but I kept thinking “but wait, what about…” This year so many of those what abouts have come up more – shopping second hand, etc. and it has been interesting to see different parts of “slow fashion” be valued. I’ve also learned a lot from everyone and have much to think about. I admire how much everyone is questioning and being willing to consider new ideas, instead of just patting ourselves on the back for what we already do. That said, seeing what everyone is already doing is hugely inspiring and it’s great to have a chance to share that.
Ultimately, slow fashion October makes me feel less alone in my quest to live a less harmful life, and I love knowing I can always come back to that when I’m feeeling pressured to buy and that my choices are being under-valued. It’s a community. Thank you, Karen.
Thank you, Olivia!
LOVE this post and wish more people shopped this way. But as someone also living this way and feeling every dollar spent, I have to say it kills me a little when your mention of indie designers includes “wait for a sale.” For some reason we save up and buy fabric, yarn, supplies, services, etc but we know fashion is seasonal and the price will go down. But if you truly love a small designer, why not buy something right when they release it? It sends that strong signal of “I love this and hope you make and restock it.” Also, I feel many people still justify spending money on “expensive” clothes in this way–by saying they didn’t really spend so much. I wish more people would just admit that it’s okay to buy $200-400 clothing full price (within your own reach and ethics) and not worry about that being alienating; that’s one way we will take another step toward breaking the fast fashion low wages cycle.
Whitney, you know, I thought about that. For one thing, I really wanted to remind people that sales happen and are an option for those (like me) who maybe can’t afford the full pricetags. My Eliz Suzann pieces were bought at her sample sale, so I was taking photo shoot samples off her hands! (And I’m sure she still made some profit on them.) The two Lauren Winter and Han Starnes/Josi Faye tops I have were bought on sale at shops — so yes, the shop got a smaller cut from my purchase, but at least the designers (presumably) made the same as if I had paid full price. Which is not the same as had I bought directly from them, but I feel good to have supported both the designer and the shop, to whatever extent.
I’m obviously with you on sending that signal — just in the way that I *can*, as opposed to not being able to send it at all. Know what I mean?
Thanks for hosting once again, Karen! It’s been great to be reading so much online about these issues which I’ve been concerned about for the best part of the last decade. Often I’ve felt completely isolated in & by my opinions and outlook, so I’ve really drawn strength from this contribution to this renewal of a wider acknowledgement of the importance of sustainability.
We’re still very much in the minority though, and I think that it’s important to keep going so that this isn’t just a fad (since it’s harder to make against-the-grain choices) and becomes more of a movement.
I’ve recently written my two last posts on Slow Fashion October over on my blog.
And I assessed what clothing I’d acquired over the last 12 months, not ones I’d made, and discovered I’d spent only £226!
I would love to introduce you to creating wet felted garments. There is nothing like a nice hand felted vest and skirt in your closet.
Thank you for all of the effort and discussion leading you have put into each blog post this October. I agree with a lot of your views on the fashion industry and I would love to take my knitting to a higher level for a similar purpose. Many of the questions and following discussions for this month will certainly help me make more conscientious choice in the future, when it comes to what I purchase.
Each posting during Slow Fashion October has made me think a lot about my own choices. Thank you for that.
One thing has stuck in mind from this post, however. Why do we bash companies like H&M who are trying to do something different, especially with their closed loop program, as purely capitalist and profit-driven, but J. Crew, another large corporation that produces way more clothes than the consumer needs, is lauded for having one line that’s made in the US?
I used to work for a women’s clothing store that people think of as high quality. Those clothes were made in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, and all the other places with questionable practices. The tees there cost no less than 30 dollars, but were poorly made. I have a tee from there that got holes after just one washing, the first time I wore it. I would bet that those clothes were made by the same people from the same fabrics with the same methods as clothes from any fast fashion brand.
Which brings me to my final point. The mark up on clothes at stores like the above, as well as on designer clothes (that aren’t transparent or trying to be sustainable), is not an indicator of quality. To me, it’s even more despicable for these companies to have the same practices as the cheap stores but to gain a larger profit based on the faulty notion that paying more means better quality.
Oh, I’m definitely not lauding J.Crew — I’m just offering up Point Sur as one example of a non-transparent company doing a thing I’ve personally supported and would like to see them do more of.
I’m always saying a higher price tag doesn’t mean they paid the sewers any more than the cheap brands, and agree with you completely about the companies (seemingly/presumably) pressing for the same unsustainable factory costs but adding much greater markup.
Thanks for responding. I recognize that it’s hard to include all the exceptions and reminders when we’re talking about slow fashion. The movement is important, for sure, and all your posts and all the comments have given all of us so much to think about. Thank you for being diligent and responsive.
I’ve loved your Slow Fashion posts–but have had to skim through some. I’d like to hear your thoughts on Everlane and that model of transparency.
Thanks for this great series and for sharing your thoughts. I just darned my sons jeans sashiko style even though I’m sure that’s going to be broken again in a couple of months. But I made the jeans from my husbands old jeans and embroidered it with monster trucks so neither I nor my son was ready to part with it ;-). Once summer comes around we will cut them off at the knees and he can wear it even longer. I just love finding ways to prolong the life of a garment that has special meaning.
Karen, I thought you might be interested in Rachel Corry, if you don’t know of her already – she is a shoemaker from California who runs sandal making classes and sells kits through her online store. If you ever feel like trying your hand at making a pair of shoes, I think she would be a great resource for you! Here’s the link: http://www.rachelseessnailshoes.com
I’m just dropping in late to say I have appreciated this content immensely. I’ve read all the October posts over the last few days, watched The True Cost (I had not heard of it before), and explored several of the fashion and fabric brands mentioned in the posts and comments. At risk of sounding a bit melodramatic, your content these last few weeks has changed my life. I feel so convicted to pay more attention to the origins of the things I buy, and I’m genuinely excited to share this epiphany with the people around me.
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This is a long time since you posted this, but I loved it, and my short answer to whether we can affect fast fashion is YES. :) Longer answer is my blog post – and I linked your article. https://elizabethkaybooth.com/2017/04/13/slow-fashion-quality-over-quantity-and-why-its-great-to-be-a-maker/ Thank you for this!
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