Dressing Sustainably: Why We Should Embrace Slow Fashion

31 August 2018 Magazine

Dressing Sustainably: Why We Should Embrace Slow Fashion

In the face of sweatshop disasters and environmental calamity, sustainable fashion is becoming more and more important.

Last year Australians were the second biggest consumers of textiles. Sadly, too much what we buy ends up in landfill: we throw away 6,000 kilograms of clothing every 10 minutes.

And it’s not just environmental damage and squandered resources that should have us thinking more carefully about where we buy our clothes.

According to Vogue’s sustainability editor-at-large Clare Press (pictured right), some fast fashion brands are focused on “chasing the cheapest needle” in an industry that’s growing at 19.5 per cent each year.

Unfortunately, this means the real cost of fast fashion is carried by garment factory workers in the supply chain who suffer in unsafe and unfair conditions.


Fashion forward experts agree it’s time to slow things down.

Slow fashion is a movement that, at its core, values people and the environment. As the name suggests, it’s the antithesis to fast, ‘disposable’ fashion.

The idea is that we’re more likely to buy less and keep things longer if we connect with clothing; if we know where our clothes come from and who made them.

When we cherish the things we own, we take care of them, repair them and pass them on once they’ve served us.



The Big Issue’s slow fashion special reveals how to be part of the movement.

To get started, there are some great resources to help guide your choices. Fashion journalist Maggie Alderson (right) favours an Aussie app called Good On You. The five-star system rates major brands on their treatment of workers, animals and the planet.

There are online hubs for ethical labels, like Well Made Clothes, which features brands that meet environmental and labour requirements, as well as at least one of the hub’s eight values: sustainable, fair, transparent, vegan, gender equality, handcrafted, local and minimal waste.

And, as Katherine Smyrk writes, there are clothing-based initiatives that are actively making a difference. HoMie, for example, employs and trains young people experiencing homelessness, and Magpie Goose is a fashion label that uses screen-printed fabrics bought directly from Indigenous art centres in the NT.

For a more affordable option, shop second-hand and discover the joy of scouring op shops, flea markets and eBay. Then get crafty and learn to upcycle and customise your pre-loved finds.

Or try your hand at sewing like Gemma Killen, who found that making clothes fit for her (rather than fitting in with the fashion industry) was immensely empowering.

However you decide to embrace slow fashion, make sure you have fun with it, because, in the words of Clare Press: “We can still enjoy fashion… but with a more mindful approach, we can do so with a lighter conscience.”

For more tips on slow fashion, pick up a copy of the latest Big Issue from your street vendor.

Illustration: Grace Lee


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