Is Slow Fashion an Answer?

Recent departure of Raf Simons at Dior’s left fashion folks around the globe wondering whether the entire system is wrong, with ever demanding schedule and less space and time left for creatives, who are considered the engine, the “heart and soul” of the industry, and who are now asked to act like CEOs of a big multinational corporation whose model of success is entirely based upon the idea of unlimited growth.

Fashion is dead, one of the world’s most influential fashion forecasters Lidewij Edelkoort has declared, describing the fashion industry as “a ridiculous and pathetic parody of what it has been.“ This is the end of fashion as we know it. Edelkoort listed a number of reasons for the crisis in fashion, starting with education, where young designers are taught to emulate the famous names. Other issues affecting the industry include a loss of competence in textile design, the failure to address sweatshop conditions at clothing factories; and the cozy relationships between fashion houses and magazines and bloggers, which ties editorial coverage to advertising budgets. Edelkoort underlines her thoughts with a simple yet complex statement “Marketing killed fashion”. “It’s governed by greed and not by vision. There’s no innovation anymore because of that.”

While her statement might be considered radical, there are signs of changes — whether positive or negative.

Fashion has undergone enormous changes in the last decade, and so has changed our perception of what fashion is supposed to be today. Zeitgeist? Culture? Identity? Fact is, fashion has become accessible and affordable for everybody, and stopped being exclusive, not necessarily only in the economic sense. We now talk about clothes — the term has very little to do with fashion but more with the consumer markets. Everyone wants to do something with fashion. Somewhere in the world every 24 hours we see a new collection of H & M or Zara. Fashion has become so easily produced and made — and thus, less appreciated in terms of crafts and time spent on each one of the garments. Mass produced mechanized world of fashion today is surely loved by mass consumer markets. The consequences of such short time found balance can be dramatic. Not only consumers lose the natural appreciation of handmade work that move subcultures including fashion forward, we lose the entire perception of time added to resources resulting in long lasting objects. The easy come- easy go philosophy of fast fashion markets not only “democratized” fashion, on the long-term it damages economic and environment. The economic model of unlimited growth, long criticized by Nobel Prize winner Sir Arthur Lewis (1979) and Amartya Sen (1983), was thoughtlessly adopted by the fashion industry whereas there seemed to be unlimited market capacities for brands to explore. The costs of which begin to become visible now. Environmental damage, shortage of creative ideas, manufacturing speed consumers has difficulties to adjust to and as a consequence, the economic crisis of the industry and loss of identity.

An alternative route a few progressive designers chose to take is SlowFashion, not only in the environmental and sustainable sense, but in the sense of heritage preservation and societal impact. Does it work? To be continued..