Slow fashion, sustainable fashion and how brands can help

Being a fashion-lover I have always loved to shop! But like so many of us, when the Dhaka factory disaster occurred, my eyes were unveiled to the reality of the industry.

Fast fashion has exploded in the last decade to become the world’s second-biggest environmental problem behind the oil industry. We have been fuelled by pocket money prices for clothing causing us to shop in excess and keep up with the ever-changing trends churned out by big brands. Clothes are designed with the intention of quick deterioration to encourage future purchase. Australians are the second-biggest consumer of clothing and buy an average of 27 kilograms of new textiles each year. We then discard approximately 23 kilograms into landfill – two-thirds of those discards are manmade synthetic/plastic fibres that may never break down. To get a visual picture, think the MCG filled with garments.

A race to the bottom

The growing demand for fast fashion has led big brands to find ways of lowering prices through reducing manufacturing costs, selecting poor quality materials and using factories with low labour cost meaning garment workers have been increasingly paid below minimum wage. In Bangladesh nine out of 10 workers cannot afford to enough food for themselves and their families causing them to go without or go into debt.

Furthermore, it has lead to increased pollution, unnecessary waste, child labour, inferior products and inevitably the consumer’s decreased appreciation of quality made clothing.

Time for change

More so than ever after the global pandemic, we have experienced we need to transition into a world where we consider the community, our values and respect for all people in the supply chain of shoe and clothing manufacture.

I have always had a love of the quality and craftsmanship of Italian-made products. It is what lead me to understand what is behind the “Made In Italy” stamp that is synonymous for lasting quality. This is the mark of years of artisanal tradition and expertise being passed on through the generations. An example of sustainable and slow method of production which is used from shoemaking and accessories to clothing.

Slow fashion is an awareness and approach to fashion which considers processes and materials but also the treatment of workers. It is opposed to the fast fashion model. It is usually much smaller brands such as Cammino that embrace this movement and they are typically not found in the larger retailers. We have few collections per year and fewer styles per collection. Our focus is on lasting quality pieces and on smaller production quantities so waste is reduced.

We all have a role to play

Sustainable fashion is ultimately about values and addressing the whole system of fashion. From the perspective of brands, consumers, the environment and our future generations. From a consumer perspective, we have to decide where we spend our money and how we care for the clothing we buy. We need to buy less and buy for lasting quality. And this usually does mean buying a garment with a higher price tag. And from a brand perspective, we need to look to new ways of designing and creating fashion. From our choice of textile to method or production.

There are many ways that brands can start to contribute to playing a part in embracing the sustainable fashion movement. Even brands that have business models that have been built around the fast fashion movement can start to look at choosing factories that have had been audited. Thus ensuring lower waste and fair working conditions. They can design for recycling or upcycling and choose superior lasting materials. Whilst prices may need to go up, consumption is less and lasting.

Katrina Verso, Founder, Cammino Shoes

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