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now x slow fashion

what would a better fashion culture look like?

a SHORT by. Emma Askew
Country. UK
RUN time. 6:24 Min

“A short film that will make you contemplate your own relationship to clothes and fashion” ALLY LANTZ, head curator at CCH

WORDS by
JAKE COLEMAN
x
in collab with
earthminutes

stories from
the ground

Our featured film, by our friends at Earth Minutes, explores the slow fashion movement as an exciting alternative to the current fast fashion model.

The movement encourages slower production schedules, small-batch collections, and zero waste designs to reduce textile waste in landfills. Rather than chasing trends, brands utilise enduring styles and high quality, durable materials to create classic and versatile pieces. Slow fashion production is local and sustainable, ensuring supply chains uphold workers rights and reduce transportation emissions. The movement unifies sustainability with ethics, and ultimately invites consumers to invest in well-made and lasting clothes.

what’s so wrong with fast fashion?

Fast fashion is a uniquely capitalist phenomenon — a damaging consumption craze facilitated by workers rights abuses and transfers of wealth from the Global South to the Global North. And these processes are obscured so effectively that the only thing we can see when we look through high-street shop windows or browse online shops is some trendy and innocuous, delivered to us in seconds — and broken beyond repair in almost the same amount of time. But an alternative is gaining momentum and we are getting better at seeing past the surface.

In an industry that is so defined by aesthetics, it is crucial to look beyond the distractingly chic appearances and shine a light on the processes and mechanisms that keep us in the dark about the true cost of extremely cheap and convenient clothes. For those of us looking for the hard facts behind all the drama about fast fashion, here’s a very quick overview:

•The textile industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the shipping and aviation industries combined
• 93% of brands surveyed by the Fashion Checker aren’t paying garment workers a living wage
• Of the 74 million textile workers in the world, 80% are women of colour.
• Clothes washing in the UK is estimated to generate around 4,000 tonnes of plastic microfibre pollution every year
• Textile dyeing is the world’s second-largest polluter of water
• The volume of clothing Americans throw away each year has doubled in the last 20 years, from 7 million to 14 million tons

“Minimalism means that all of my items contribute significant value to my life. At the core of my lifestyle is the desire to live deliberately. To me, this includes living a life that’s aligned with my values, one being to cause the least amount of harm in the world.”
DIANA LIM

minimalism
sparks joy

In the fight against fast fashion’s systemic issues, solutions must come both from the top down and the bottom up. Ethical consumption — the idea that consumer choices can shift the market and solve the climate crisis — can sometimes act as a shield protecting the system by shifting the burden of the climate crisis onto individual actions rather than focusing on systemic issues.

Despite this, meaningful action can come on the consumer side if it is supported by a wider movement. One such movement that has been gaining popularity is minimalism, a philosophy centred of intentionally living with only the things you really need, allowing you to focus more on the things that matter most and bring you real joy. Minimalism offers a great opportunity for us to look at consumption through a different lens, and perhaps start re-evaluating the relationships between fashion and happiness, self-care, or body image.

Diana Lim is trying to spread the joy of minimalism and combat the culture of consumption. find her at minimalistteen.com

Diana Lim, best known by her online alias The Minimalist Teen, writes articles and essays on her website to relate her journey into slow fashion and inspire others to adopt more eco-friendly habits. She recently produced The Minimalist Teen’s Guide to Shopping Sustainably, an excellent knowledge hub where you can learn more about sustainable shopping principles, discover her favourite sustainable brands, and even put your shopping cart to the test with her “Should I Buy This?” quiz.

Before embracing a more sustainable lifestyle, Diana recalls how she ‘had everything a person could ever need’ but she still wasn’t happy because she ‘wanted more’. Her comments highlight a problematic element of fashion culture — namely, its ability to weaponise our addictive tendencies through socially constructed pressure and the easy gratification of ‘one-click-away’ consumerism.

For women in particular, there is extra social pressure to adhere to male ideals of femininity. Fast fashion is an easy recourse to achieve the constant rotation of new, trendy outfits needed to meet the unfair expectations of aesthetic variance that are placed upon women. In this context, it’s so important to recognise the radical power of minimalism and anti-fashion stances for women. Now that these inequalities are more widely understood in society, we have the chance to adopt an intersectional approach to fashion activism where sexism, environmental degradation and racism are the key areas to change.

After initially becoming an aesthetic minimalist — at one time her closet was made up of just ‘seven white t-shirts, two pairs of blue jeans and three pairs of sneakers’ — she has changed her approach, realising that ‘minimalism and style are not mutually exclusive.’ A minimalist approach to consumption does not mean you cannot be fashionable and it certainly doesn’t mean you have to wear the same outfit every day. Aja Barber, Becky Hughes and many others celebrate slow fashion styles by modelling clothes bought from charity shops and ethical brands.

Aja is a leading advocate of slow fashion and environmental justice in the fashion industry. FOLLOW @AJABARBER on instagram

Diana’s school of thought is that each piece of clothing she buys must embody her values in order for it to contribute significant value to her life. One of her main values is ‘to cause the least amount of harm in the world’, which helps her focus on avoiding harmful fast fashion supply chains, but without forgetting the sentimental and symbolic value held in special items of clothing. Diana gently reminds us of the importance of forming our own fashion values, asking us to reflect on whether what we are about to buy is truly meaningful to us.

Diana is focused on growing the movement of minimalism amongst young people and has collaborated with photographer JR to start the Inside Out Project — an art installation which showcases photos of teenagers and millennials embracing minimalism from all over the world. Under each of their pictures is a short, personal passage explaining how important minimalism’s principles are to them. The project aims to build the community, expand the reach of this life philosophy, and advocate for more young people to adopt the lifestyle.

Portraits of minimalists from around the world line this street in celebration of their commitment to living within their means

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minimalist fashion sparks joy

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take part in the INSIDE OUT project

take part in the INSIDE OUT project

take part in the INSIDE OUT project

take part in the INSIDE OUT project

1. Take a photo of yourself
Capture your minimalism through a portrait. For example in the photo, you could hold up an item that reflects your minimalist journey (like clothing), or you could have something in the background! The best portraits are expressive, emotional, and captivating. They are more than pictures of smiling faces; they seem to reflect the personality and story behind the face!

Guidelines
min 1 MB in size at 100 dpi
one person per portrait!
only human faces!
no sunglasses!
the majority of the photo should be taken up by YOUR FACE

2. Write a statement
The goal of the global Inside Out Project is to transform messages of personal identity into works of art. Include a personal statement related to your minimalist journey — very succinct or quite long, up to you!

3. Sign the Form
Head to the project’s website and sign the authorisation form (otherwise your photo won’t be usable!)

4. Email everything to diana@minimalistteen.com
Once you’ve signed the form, taken your photo, and written a personal statement, please email everything over. Don’t forget to include your full name!

example for inspiration:

put My cart to the test — Should I Buy it ?

put My cart to the test — Should I Buy it ?

put My cart to the test — Should I Buy it ?

put My cart to the test — Should I Buy it ?

Diana Lim has put together an awesome guide on how to shop more sustainably! The coolest feature is an interactive quiz to dig deeper into your motivations for being something!

Don’t miss the rest of The Minimalist Teen’s Guide to Shopping Sustainably!

connecting
the dots

Fast fashion perpetuates global racist structures as its largely non-white workforce earn low wages to provide cheap clothes for wealthy white westerners
“Everything from the food we consume to the way we dress ourselves is entwined with a system of oppression off the backs of those with less — and mostly people of colour.”
AJA BARBER

racism fuels the fast fashion machine

Aside from a brief period of public outrage about Nike sweatshops in the early 90s, people seem to have been all too happy to forget about the neo-colonial human rights abuses perpetrated by fast fashion in the pursuit of consumption. But there is no way to disentangle fashion from the racist global structure of natural resource extraction and cheap labour that it is founded upon. Of the 74 million textile workers in the world, 80% are women of colour, some of whom earn as little as £20 per week. These workers are forced to work under oppressive and inhumane conditions to provide affluent majority white countries with cheaper goods whilst ensuring brands can profit heavily at the same time. Knowing this, we can see the dissonance of white people buying Black Lives Matter T-shirts produced by fast fashion companies as a perceived symbol of solidarity.

Aja Barber, writer and fashion consultant, writes about the fashion consumer’s “erasure” of people of colour “who have always been more sustainable than most.” And she is right when she says, “the face of sustainability is too often white, thin, able bodied and affluent and I find that inherently wrong.” She also asks why we look at the zero-waste lifestyle from the perspective of “the person who has the shiny new food storage containers and bought new tote bags for bagging their groceries” and not “the ethnic senior citizen who has used the same plastic butter container to store their leftovers for YEARS and still uses a backpack from the 90s?”

As Aja puts it, “When we allow white, able bodied, thin people to be the only face of our revolution, we run the risk of creating the same cycle of problems and oppression that we’re trying to escape from.”

Beyond the appropriation of the sustainability aesthetic, deeper issues of racial oppression exist in the fast fashion production cycle. Dominique Drakeford, environmental educator and founder of Melanin & Sustainable Style (MelaninASS), describes the oppression of the fashion cycle here “Inherently fashion comes from the land. Think about all the different inputs of picking cotton, and spinning fiber, and dying a garment, the production, the runoff into the waterways, and the shipping and the disposal, how many hands it’s touched, how many resources it takes to produce one garment, and then the environmental cost of that, and then the afterlife of a garment, which often goes into a landfill or gets shipped back to Africa or India, disrupting their localised fashion economy.”

Her opinion that “land justice requires land sovereignty and the cultivation of an indigenous relationship that’s not colonial,” is especially relevant in the context of the fashion industry’s destruction of land in former colonies. The reclamation of land from neo-colonial polluters, like fast fashion companies, is a principle imperative for the intersectional environmental justice movement.

Drakeford warns that the environmental movement risks becoming so preoccupied with sustainability seen from a Western lens, that it might end up obfuscating systemic racism in the fashion industry. “The mainstream sustainability movement has articulated this word ‘transparency’ so a brand can convey its production cycle, information around the brand, and what the brand stands for to the consumer. But this kind of transparency often omits the colonial framework, which is why we’re in this mess to begin with. It omits very direct articulation of black and brown indigenous mental health detriments and physical health detriments.”

So where do we go from here? How does a systemic reimagining of the fashion industry so it’s slower, sustainable and just look like? Explore the solutions below to get started.

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racism fuels the fast fashion machine

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solutions
+ actions

how do we untangle this mess?

but, practically, where do you even start?

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solutions & actions

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