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 2020 survey by 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 Sophie Calderbank, founder of conscious fashion and homeware website The Slowlist, 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
The Slowlist founder Sophie Calderbank. Credit: The Slowlist

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.

Migs Migs fashion range
Credit: Migs Migs/The Slowlist

Buy 001 Dress by Migs Migs £220

Migs Migs is a slow living brand offering limited edition womenswear. All items are handmade to order using solely off-cut fabrics.

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.

slow fashion Kind Studio dress
Credit: Kind Studio/The slowlist

Buy Edie Dress by Kind Studio £170

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.

What is The Slowlist and the story behind it?

Learning to sew my own clothes, a skill I learned from my mother, was a real eye opener.

The reality is that making clothes is a slow process. When you do it the right way, taking extra time to do the proper finishes, the result is a long-lasting garment you’ll keep for years to come. It was understanding this process that set the foundation for The Slowlist.

Then, when I first moved to London from Australia five years ago, I was struck by how difficult it was to find independent brands.

Without knowing where to look, all I could find were designer stores that were completely out of my price range, or fast fashion chain stores. The first time I stumbled across Oliver Bonas, I thought it was an independent boutique, only to realise that it was another high street store!

So I decided to create an online marketplace to make it easier to find conscious makers and brands. The Slowlist recognises and celebrates the clothing production process, and hopefully gives people a new appreciation for their clothes.

Indoi independent fashion brand
Credit: Indoi/The Slowlist

Buy Zof Silk Organza Wrap Top by Indoi £280

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.

What kind of brands are on The Slowlist?

All the brands on The Slowlist are independent, and some are relatively undiscovered, but all create amazing garments and homewares which are mindfully made.

We’ve got ethical jewellery designers like Carolina de Barros and Kassandra Lauren Gordon, to conscious clothing brands like Migs Migs and Sabinna, whose items are handmade to order and in some cases solely made using off-cut fabrics.

Fanfare, a finalist for the 2020 Drapers Sustainable Fashion Awards, also feature on The Slowlist. While a recent addition is Billi London, who make tights that biodegrade in record time.

When I’m selecting brands, I always do my research so my customers can be assured they’re making sound decisions when they make a purchase.

Our brands ‘make’, they don’t ‘manufacture’, and they are constantly looking at ways to lessen their impact on the environment.

Aside from seeking brands that match The Slowlist aesthetic (I only select pieces I would wear myself), it’s paramount they share the same values and know their supply chain inside out.

Carolina de Barros Gaia Necklace
Credit: Carolina de Barros/The Slowlist

Buy Gaia Necklace by Carolina de Barros £95

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.

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.

Sabinna fashion brand
Credit: Sabinna/The Slowlist

Buy Hazel Orange Check Jacket by Sabinna £265

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.

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.

Kassandra Lauren Gordon jewellery gold necklace
Credit: Kassandra Lauren Gordon/The Slowlist

Buy Jupiter Petite Necklace by Kassandra Lauren Gordon £269

Kassandra Lauren Gordon is an ethical jewellery designer based in East London. Her jewellery style is minimalistic with organic, textured elements.

What timeless pieces should every woman have in her wardrobe?

I would say a go-to winter 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.

The Slowlist is an online marketplace showcasing independent brands which have the greatest respect for the environment and the people they work with. Find out more at theslowlist.com. Follow them on Instagram @theslowlist

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