Slow fashion is not just about countering the speed of an inherently unsustainable fast fashion system. It is also an acknowledgement of the multiplicity of fashion ways needed to build a better fashion system. Slow fashion is a mindset.
Kate Fletcher, in her paper titled ‘Slow Fashion: An Invitation for Systems Change’, describes slow fashion as “a different worldview that names a coherent set of fashion activities that promote a variety and multiplicity of fashion production and consumption and that celebrates the pleasure and cultural significance of fashion within biophysical limits.”
What we can learn from Kate’s reflection is that: slow fashion looks different for everyone. This is something we should celebrate. Slow fashion isn’t a singular aesthetic. And it’s not just a consideration of what we are wearing, but also a reimagining of how we relate to our clothing and the world around us.
If you want to set a few slow fashion resolutions for the new season, here is a non-exhaustive list of what slow fashion can look like in practice.
Try a ‘no new clothes’ challenge
Challenge yourself to not buy anything new for a set amount of time. Some people do it for a year, but it could also be shorter. By removing yourself from the endless cycle of consumption that defines the fast fashion industry, you can take a step back and heal your relationship with fashion while redefining what “enough” means to you, getting creative with what you already have, and saving time and money!
Shop your closet
You know how the saying goes: The most sustainable garments are the ones you already own. Challenge yourself to get creative and make new outfit combinations using clothing you already own. This also helps you gain a deeper understanding of your personal style.
Wear (and love) your old fast fashion pieces
Actively working through your eco-guilt by continuing to wear – and love! – the fast fashion pieces you bought in the past is an important step in your slow fashion journey. Everybody has old fast fashion pieces in their closet. Getting rid of them creates unnecessary waste and perpetuates the idea that slow fashion has to look a specific way. The best thing you can do is keep them, find ways to love them, wear them, mend them, and make them last as long as you possibly can.
Be a proud outfit repeater
Despite what social media will have us believe, there is so much joy in outfit repeating! Normalising outfit repeating is so important for changing the mentality that we always need to be wearing something new. So, repeat the outfits that make you feel good and wear them with pride. This doesn’t mean that you have to wear the same outfit every day, but maybe you can play around with different ways of styling your garments and accessories. If you want to find some inspiration, follow the hashtags #proudoutfitrepeater, #rewearthat, and #reweardontcare.
Borrow clothing from friends and family
If you are going to an event or have been eyeing that dress in your friend’s closet every time they wear it, why not ask if you can borrow it for a little bit? You can even offer to return the favour and ask them if there is anything in your wardrobe that they have been eyeing. You’re saving money, keeping impulse buys at bay, and it really does give you the same rush as trying on a brand-new garment.
Swap before you shop
Clothing swaps are a form of circular fashion because they allow us to extend the lifespans of clothing that is already in circulation while satisfying our desire for novelty. Swapping allows you to switch up your wardrobe, without buying anything new, and it’s usually very cost-effective. If you are based in Cape Town, join Twyg’s monthly Swap&Mend at NUDE FOODS.
If you are looking to add some new-to-you pieces to your wardrobe, consider shopping secondhand. Buying secondhand clothing, instead of new pieces, extends the lifespan of that garment and saves it from going to waste, which is an important aspect of circular fashion. Have a browse through your local secondhand markets, thrift stores, or online secondhand marketplaces.
Give rental a go
Special occasions often lead to impulse buys that are worn once or twice and then end up collecting dust in the back of the closet or going to waste. If you are looking for an outfit for a special occasion or event, and nothing in your wardrobe is inspiring you, you can give clothing rental a try. Check out this list of places to rent clothing in South Africa.
Learn to mend and repair
Whether you are into visible or invisible mending, learning to mend and repair are slow fashion skills that allow us to define ourselves as more than just consumers and help us wear our loved clothes for longer. If you want to learn to mend, there are some insightful channels on YouTube with tutorials that go right back to the basics, such as The Essentials Club and Repair What You Wear. Another useful resource is The Fixing Fashion Academy by Fixing Fashion, which is a free, open-source platform with tutorials on how to repair and upcycle clothes. Or, if you don’t have the time to learn, you can consider making use of a local, small mending or tailoring business that can repair your clothes for you.
Start a DIY project
This could be anything from beading a necklace or learning how to use natural dyes, to figuring out how to crochet or making a scrunchie. Working with your hands is not only a great way to practice mindfulness, but it also brings you closer to the process of making and fosters a greater sense of appreciation for the effort and energy that goes into making the clothes and accessories that we wear. When you pour love and care into making something of your own, it starts to undo the culture of disposability that we have all been encouraged to take on.
Take care of your clothing, sustainably
Caring for your clothes properly will make them last longer, which is such a win! Firstly, take the time to read the care labels on your clothing to make sure that you are properly taking care of them. But also, learn how to adjust your clothing care routine so that it is as sustainable as possible. This includes washing your clothes less, at lower temperatures, and trying to use eco-friendly detergents. If you are feeling a little bit lost about where to start, check out this guide on how to make your loved clothes last.
Unsubscribe from fast fashion newsletters and unfollowing accounts
Shifting out of a “fast fashion mindset” is key to any slow fashion practice. This is such an important step on your journey of hopping off the hamster wheel of fast fashion and overconsumption. We are constantly being bombarded with adverts and marketing campaigns that are trying their very best to convince us to buy more and more, at every turn – even in our email inboxes and social media. So, take some time to reassess the accounts you follow and go through your email inbox, and click unsubscribe on all those newsletters and promotional content that does not align with your values.
Follow the ethos of ‘fewer better things’
If you are shopping less, by prioritising practices like swapping, borrowing, mending, and getting creative with what you already have, it means that you can choose to save up and invest in conscious fashion brands that are leading by example and showing us what a more just future of fashion could look like.
We have so many incredible small fashion brands and businesses actively changing the fashion narratives by prioritising ethics and eco-conscious practices. Local businesses are often more transparent about their supply chains and they are helping to buoy our local textile economy.
Become a fashion activist
Learning about ways to extend your slow fashion advocacy beyond just the clothes you wear is a powerful step, because it allows you to participate in collective action and larger reform in the fashion industry. Signing a petition, emailing a brand, posting on social media, or getting involved in a support advocacy group are a few great ways to extend your impact and become a fashion activist.
Continue to educate yourself
Life is one continuous learning journey, and this applies to the slow fashion space too. The issues – and solutions – in the fashion industry are complex and nuanced, so there is always something to learn or something we can dive deeper into. Continuing to educate yourself will make you feel more committed to your slow fashion journey and allow you to share your learnings with others too. Check out the Twyg School.