what is slow fashion and why is it worth the extra money?
Liz Alig is not just any fashion brand. It’s a community built upon amazing values, many of which are inspired by the concept of slow fashion. That’s probably why you’re here!
As a conscious consumer, you’ve heard the term slow fashion so many times. You know it’s a good thing. But what exactly is it?
Well, slow fashion was the original fashion — before the industrial revolution. It just didn’t get its name until after fast fashion took over in the early 1990s, when consumers started buying garments 3x faster than the consumers before them.
This consumer behavior inspired retail brands to compete in all the wrong ways. It became a race to the bottom: who could create the most affordable products in the least amount of time?
We’ve all been guilty of the mindless impulse buy, right? Or buying something that sits in our closet for years with the tags still on? Or grabbing the latest tie-dye sweatpants even though we have dozens of others?
This somewhat mindless buying is a large part of how fast fashion came about.
But what many people don’t realize is that the rise of fast fashion came at a major expense: ethics. Most fast fashion companies consider their bottom line and the demand of consumers for more garments at cheaper prices over what harm is being done because of the increased production of cheap garments.
- The fashion industry now makes up 10% of global carbon emissions, making it one of the top 10 most polluting industries.
- Fast fashion brands turn to non-biodegradable, synthetic fibers instead of more natural options like cotton. The average American throws away an average of 80 pounds of clothes per year (making it worse that these fibers are not biodegradable.)
- 98% of Americans’ clothes are made in foreign countries. In the 1960s, this number was only 5%.
- 80% of foreign fashion production workers are women, most of whom work under dangerous conditions and typically earn merely a fraction of a living wage (1).
The good news: the fashion industry is changing. Conscious consumers like you are starting to demand higher standards. A recent survey of 2,000 US and UK consumers revealed that sustainability and fair wages for workers are now the top two consumer demands for the fashion industry (2).
The slow fashion industry, with the help of conscious consumers like you, is directly combating the harmful practices that fast fashion perpetuates.
- 8,000+ chemicals are used to turn raw materials into clothing.
- 20% of industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and treatment.
- 190,000 tons of microplastics end up in the ocean per year from clothing. This makes up 35% of all microplastics in the ocean.
- 1.8 billion tons of CO2 is produced by the clothing and textile industry annually.
- 1.5 trillion liters of water are used by the fashion industry each year.
- Over 70 million trees are cut down annually to make clothes.
- 5.2% of landfill waste is discarded textiles (3).
So how is the slow fashion industry helping?
Repurposing and recycling remain at the core of slow fashion. Liz Alig uses recycled textiles and handwoven cotton from all over the world, making use of deadstock fabrics, upcycled denim, and literally tons of textile waste.
Liz Alig has recycled over 8 tons of discarded textiles since 2009!
Alongside recycled materials, many slow fashion brands only seek new materials in a sustainable way. This involves buying materials directly from organic farms and being super transparent about material acquisition and production.
One example is slow fashion of raw materials like organic cotton, not only is it less pollutant on the industry, but organic cotton is produced in a way that maintains the well being and livelihoods of organic cotton farmers around the world. In 2015 alone, organic cotton farming provided fair work for 193,840 farmers, maintaining the well being of 969,200 lives (5).
By choosing to support slow fashion, you’re choosing to reduce the environmental impacts of the fashion industry and promote the livelihood of workers at every stage.
Slow fashion promotes fair labor and fair trade.
We’ve touched on the way slow fashion promotes the well being of farmers with the use of organic textiles.
But slow fashion fights for fair labor and fair trade at every layer of the supply chain, combatting fast fashion at every stage.
Fast fashion is centered around doing whatever it takes to be fast, including risking the health and safety of its workers. These workers are sometimes subject to dangerous working conditions:
Fast fashion promotes a cycle of poverty. The inevitable ‘race to the bottom’ leads companies to seek out cheaper and cheaper production of their products in countries with fewer production regulations and lower minimum wages. This cycle is brought about by consumers demanding cheaper and cheaper products at a faster rate. Companies that seek out fair trade or small production facilities are helping reduce this cycle by paying a fairer wage and maintaining a relationship with producers for years even when the standard of living goes up and costs for production also go up.
But for slow fashion clothing brands like Liz Alig, the opposite is true. Workers are empowered rather than powerless: breaking the poverty cycle.
Liz Alig partners with 10+ cooperatives, entrepreneurs, and fair trade workshops worldwide.
What is fair trade? At it’s core, it is taking out the middle man and supporting small producers directly in developing countries – groups that struggle to have a voice in the global market. It’s the movement towards equitable global trade, especially for producers in developing countries. It requires keeping a transparent supply chain process and providing fair, valuable jobs that give workers in developing countries the skills and opportunity to introduce their work to the global market.
Liz Alig’s partner, Mi Esperanza in Honduras, provides skills training to women who previously earned less than $1 per day. They are empowered through their work, developing skills that allow them to compete in the global market and later find fair employment to support their families.
Instead of playing into the unethical working conditions of fast fashion, these fair trade jobs give women a chance to not only break the poverty cycle but in turn empower their entire community.
Be sure to check out the powerful stories of some of Liz Alig’s artisan partners to see exactly how fair trade fashion has positively impacted their lives.
Slow fashion values durability, longevity, and recyclability.
The longevity and durability of garments is a huge component of slow fashion — these products are designed to last.
It’s hard to break the mindset and habits that fast fashion has introduced. We have cute, affordable products at our fingertips all the time. It’s tempting to buy a $5 t-shirt, wear it a few times, and throw it out to keep up with the latest trends.
But the reality is, when you wear a garment 5 times instead of 50 times, the result is 400% more carbon emissions (7).
Slow fashion is a re-introduction of a more timeless style. Buying fewer pieces, that you know will last for seasons. When you invest in a slow fashion product, you’re investing in a timeless, classic, and versatile design that can be worn across seasons — year after year.
Slow fashion brands offer more transparency regarding your garment: where the materials came from, who crafted your garment, and where your money goes. They do this in hopes that you’ll grow a personal connection with your garment and feel inspired to hold on to it for years, passing it down throughout generations.
Slow fashion needs your support.
It’s too easy to fall victim to the spell of fast fashion. We all want to keep up with the latest trends and know how easy it is to mindlessly “add to cart”.
But we challenge you to think twice next time you decide to use your hard-earned money in the world of fashion. What are the social and environmental impacts of your consumer purchase? Who are you directly and indirectly supporting?
We hope you remember that slow fashion is not only the more ethical choice — it’s a celebration of the planet, global market and culture, and artisan craft. It’s reassurance that your consumer dollars are supporting the fair trade movement, safe working conditions, sustainability, and hope.
Hope that our world can stray away from disposable fashion and adopt a new mindset around fashion and materialism:
Less is more, and the right clothes have more to offer than what meets the eye.
Join Liz Alig and talented artisans worldwide in the fight against fast fashion. Be sure to check out the Ethical Fashion Guide to get to know more brands that share these important values, so together we can bring the fashion industry back to its roots.
By Jordan at copybyjordan.com