It's taken me a little while to finally get my thoughts down about what Slow Fashion October means to me. I've got some catching up to do, so please excuse my ramblings. So, a little bit about me and where I’m coming from in my fast fashion vs. slow fashion beliefs…
I started working in fashion the month after I turned 18. After a short stint at Express, I started working at Anthropologie during college. I spent nearly seven years with the company, in all roles from merchandising intern to part of the visual team, sales associate to (most recently) store manager of Anthropologie and BHLDN. In February, I decided to switch career paths and started as an assistant buyer in women’s apparel at Zulily (probably the fastest fashion you can find).
I taught myself how to sew back in college. I started with elastic waist skirts and then graduated to the Grainline Scout Tee. For a long time, everything I knew came from sewing blogs and a couple of classes at Fancy Tiger Crafts. Around the same time, I taught myself how to knit from the book “Stitch and Bitch”. And so began my love of the handmade. I found a whole new community in the handmade world that really filled an area of my life that had been missing previously.
Clearly, I believe in the value of the handmade. I will always try to make something before I buy it. There is very rarely a time that I don’t say “I could probably make that” when I’m out shopping. However, I tend to struggle when to topic of "fast fashion" comes up. I believe that there is a place for ready-to-wear consumerism in our culture. It's unrealistic to think that it will ever go away entirely. But I think that what was once fast fashion has now turned into disposable fashion, which is where I feel most conflicted. I'll admit - there are times when I want something cheap that might only last a season or two (although I am personally trying to move away from that mentality). And I can completely understand why people purchase these single-use products - I'm sure that if I were a single mom trying to make enough so support my kids, I would want some cheap clothes, instead of investing in something more expensive that they could grow out of in a couple of months. I'm not saying that this is right or wrong, but it is where our culture has come to with the influx of cheap goods and a country in which the minimum wage is not a living wage (although that is a much larger topic for another time).
I think this is where challenge arises - with just how fast and cheap this ready-made world has become. Fast fashion has a tendency to exploit those in need in the countries in which this product is produced. In many cases (H&M, Forever 21, etc.) there are no ethical guidelines directing these companies. In all honesty, I sometimes struggle with feeling hypocritical in my position at Zulily, knowing that I am supporting the fast-fashion industry. But again, there is a place for it. Our culture has clearly shown that they want fast and cheap. I just want to do my part to make sure it is ethical as well, in whatever way I can. It takes small steps to make a big difference.On the other side of the spectrum, many areas of the fashion industry have started charging exorbitant amounts for simple items (and yes, I know Anthropologie is the main culprit…). $68 for a t-shirt, $128 for a button up shirt, $98 for a pair of yoga pants, $300 for a wool coat. These are the items that I want to spend my time and money making myself. I don’t want to throw my money away so that a company can have a better margin.
In discussing Slow Fashion October, a lot of people have brought up Me-Made-May and how it has become more about producing new pieces during the month than celebrating a handmade wardrobe, which can be another type of consumerism. I will admit, I made a lot of new pieces during them month of May this year and they weren’t all thoughtful, planned additions to my wardrobe. That said, until this May, I didn’t think I would ever be able to achieve a handmade wardrobe – Me-Made-May really showed me that I was capable of making things that were outside of my comfort zone and could reach a place where I have more handmade clothes than store bought. It was a realization that altered the way I’ve thought about handmade clothes the rest of the year. Because I now know that I can make true staple pieces for my closet, I am much more mindful of the pieces that I chose to make. However, I don't know if I would have reached this place in my creative journey if I hadn't produced as much as I could during May. Or maybe it would have just taken me longer to get there.
But that really is the word that sums up Slow Fashion October for me - mindful. I am now trying to be much more aware of the fabric that I’m buying and adding to my stash. I want it to have purpose and reason. I no longer want to buy fabric just to buy it...I want to know what it will someday become. Although I’m not necessarily more knowledgeable about where my fabric is coming from, like many people participating in Slow Fashion October, I am starting to be more aware about the level of consumption in my pastimes. I am taking small steps towards a new level of mindfulness in my making.
My Slow Fashion October goals are going to extend past October, as I’m sure they will take much longer than a month. So maybe this is Slow Fashion Fall for me? Or maybe, Mindful Making Winter? For the next few months, my goals are:
- make a Waver Jacket and finally cut into some amazing Pendleton wool I have.
- after really assessing my closet, I need more button-ups and tee shirts. There will need to be an Archer shirt assembly line at some point this fall. Probably a Lark Tee assembly line as well.
- mend the stack of clothes with small rips, missing buttons, or uneven necklines. These pieces are just sitting, unused-it’s time to reinvigorate some life into them.
- finish the multiple WIP knitting projects that I have on my needles (and maybe start another?)
- teach my boyfriend, Nate, how to sew. I made him an Negroni shirt a couple of months ago and have bought him some fabric along the way. He’s decided that he wants to make his own clothes so that he doesn’t have the same thing as everyone else and doesn’t spend unnecessary money on pieces that he can make.
I’ve got lofty goals. Goals that will likely take months to finish. But it’s nice to have a path to travel along the way instead of stumbling through blindly like I usually do. And I just have to remember - be mindful.