By Boutique Handbook writers

The phrase ‘slow fashion’ has been around for a while now, but what does it really mean?

Growing consumer awareness has seen demand for ethical standards and sustainability within the fashion industry soar in recent years, and even more so during lockdown.

A recent survey by global innovators McKinsey & Company revealed two thirds of consumers want items they purchase to be sustainable. While younger customers are turning to smaller, lesser-known brands who hold slow fashion values.

We spoke to TRAID fashion expert Sophie Calderbank to find out more about slow fashion, her favourite ethical brands and how we can all buy better.

What is slow fashion and why is it important?

Sophie Calderbank_The Slowlist
Fashion expert Sophie Calderbank. Credit: Supplied

How do you define slow fashion?

In simple terms, slow fashion is the antidote to fast fashion.

While fast fashion companies are focused on quantity – churning out as much as they can, as quick as they can – slow fashion brands are focused on quality garments.

These last longer, have less impact on the environment and support workers within their supply chain.

What is the slow fashion movement?

It’s an attempt to reclaim the fashion industry, and slowly but surely, awareness has been growing, which is really positive to see.

One of the things I love about slow fashion is that it creates space for more independent brands and makers. And for the customer, it creates more freedom of expression.

slow fashion Kind Studio dress
Credit: Kind Studio

Shop Kind Studio here

Kind Studio is a Paris-based womenswear brand that cares. Offering a style balanced between vintage and contemporary, each garment is a guarantee of their social and environmental commitments.

Why is awareness of slow fashion so important?

So many reasons. We all wear clothes, but have you ever wondered how your clothes are made? It’s a great question to start with when considering making the switch.

Mass produced fast fashion sadly results in a huge volume of clothing being thrown away. A study by the Clean Clothes Campaign found that three out of five fast fashion items end up in a landfill, which is terrible.

Consumers have the power to vote with their wallet. If people start doing their research and finding out more about the impact of the fast fashion industry, they will see how important it is to make the switch to slow.

What slow fashion brands are your favourites?

For ethical jewellery designers, check out Carolina de Barros and Kassandra Lauren Gordon. Clothing brands like Sabinna only sell handmade items that are made to order, and in some cases solely made using off-cut fabrics. While east London-based Fanfare is where to head for sustainable denim.

Indoi independent fashion brand
Credit: Indoi

Shop Indoi here

Indoi is made by local artisans using traditional methods in Karachi, Pakistan, and tells the story of a people, culture and craft who share the same heritage as the brand’s creator.

How can people make the switch to slow fashion?

Slow fashion takes a bit of a mindset shift. You need a bit of patience because there’s no same-day delivery, so it won’t be the impulse buy you’ll make when you’re in a rush.

That’s why I think buying slow is so special, your choices are more considered. These garments are the timeless pieces you’ll reach for time and time again.

What are your top slow fashion tips?

Take advantage of the fact your slow fashion garment is likely to be made to order.

More often than not, the brand will be able to make small customisations. For example, if you have longer legs, the maker might be able to add an inch or two. Or if you’re between sizes, you can ask the brand whether they can accommodate.

So often we wear clothes that don’t quite fit right. Buying slow can be empowering, when you finally wear something that’s designed to fit your own body.

Carolina de Barros Gaia Necklace
Credit: Carolina de Barros

Shop Carolina de Barros here

Carolina de Barros is an ethically sourced jewellery brand inspired by the natural forms of earth and stone, finding beauty in imperfections. Each piece is sustainably produced and recycled.

Should we embrace a capsule wardrobe of investment pieces?

In an ideal world, a capsule wardrobe of investment pieces would be the goal. However, I think that the reality for most people is that their wardrobes evolve over time. Therefore, the most important thing to do is to really consider the next garment choice you make.

I think the biggest mistake people make is they decide they need to create a capsule wardrobe and throw out their old fast fashion clothing to start afresh. Don’t do that.

Take an audit of what you have and figure out what you can keep, what you can repair, then what is missing from your wardrobe, and start building from there.

Sabinna fashion brand
Credit: Sabinna

Shop Sabinna here

Sabinna is a female-led conscious and sustainable lifestyle brand which focuses on small scale production using only natural fibres. They are based in London with a studio in Vienna.

What timeless pieces should every woman have in her wardrobe?

I would say a go-to coat and a dress or jumpsuit that makes you feel unstoppable. But most importantly, my favourite pieces are ones that are flexible and can be worn frequently.

For me, it’s the garments that are professional enough for work, but comfortable and practical enough to be worn at home. That’s what I reach for the most. Flexible, transitional garments, those are the best wardrobe investments you can make.

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