What is Slow Fashion?

What is Slow Fashion?

Gyllian Rae Svensson
The Bobbin Slow Fashion & Sustainable Design

There has been a lot of recent buzz in the new millennium about slowing down, nostalgia for a simpler life; a reconnection with our families, communities and a return to local living economies. Lawyers are leaving their practices to start small scale farms; Mothers are choosing to stay home with their children, building online brands to sell their handmade products. Not to mention all of the bakers, cheese makers, artists and seamstresses starting small in-home businesses, studios and local markets. Growing out of this desire to slow down, we have seen the rise of many global movements towards Slow Food, Slow Money and Slow Fashion.  As the Slow Food movement has taught us to learn about where our food comes from, who farmed it, and under what conditions it has been grown and cultivated, the Slow Fashion movement is asking the same questions about our clothing creation and consumption.

My children, growing up in Vermont, are very familiar with Slow Food. They know that all Spring, Summer & Fall their veggies are grown by Farmer Dave & Farmer Rachel at their organic farm CSA down the road. They have become familiar with the local growing seasons and flavors, eagerly anticipating that first batch of sweet corn, or the taste of a perfectly ripened tomato. Because their Mother, Gyllian Rae Svensson, is a Slow Fashion designer,  they also know that clothing can be made, mended or upcycled on a sewing machine. As we have collectively learned that our food is not grown at the grocery store, it is now time to learn that our clothing is not sewn at the department store.

In 2007, I founded The Bobbin, A Textile Upcycling & Sewing Education Studio promoting skill-building, creativity, family and community through Sustainable Textiles & Slow Fashion. Upcycling is the redesign or reconstruction of products, adding commercial and environmental value to already existing materials. Through The Bobbin, I design my own sustainable products and one-of-a-kind clothing, in addition to creating custom designs and textile restorations for local businesses. I also teach students, from pre-teens to seniors, how to sew & upcycle utilizing sustainable sewing and zero-waste design principles. All of my classes and private lessons are taught in my green studio using vintage sewing machines and sustainable textiles.

There are numerous environmental and human rights abuses that occur in our “fast fashion” global clothing industry. Appalled by what I have learned and observed within the current systems, my work through The Bobbin seeks to offer an alternative. The Bobbin’s motto: “Saving the planet, one stitch at a time” speaks to the idea that we, as consumers, have choices and can effect change in many ways. We can return to the basics: learn to sew, mend, restore and upcycle our existing wardrobes. We can respect the textiles and the labor that predates us, by purchasing vintage and thrift store clothing. We can pass down our cherished textiles to the next generation.  We can also organize clothing swaps in our communities passing along our wrong-style/wrong-size wardrobes to new homes.

We can also *gasp* buy less clothing and pay more for it. Instead of binging at the mall, we can choose to take a portion of our clothing budgets and invest in our local tailors, seamstresses and fashion designers. We might pay something closer to the real cost of that clothing, as the local designer’s wages will be higher than a manufacturing giant’s third-world employee, but it’s worth it. Few things bring us closer to our communities than building relationships with the people who make our food and our clothing. In the 21st Century, online sites such as ETSY allow makers of clothing to sell directly to customers, building national relationships that feel local. It costs a lot to make a nice piece of clothing that won’t fall apart and end up in a landfill in less than a year. Someone’s time AND treasure goes into that creation. Slow Fashion encourages you the consumer to appreciate all that went into making the very shirt on your back. I know that it costs me more to buy organic vegetables from my local farmer, but those vine-ripened tomatoes are made so much sweeter by the knowledge that they were grown by someone who really really cares about tomatoes.

Slow Fashion asks you to question where your clothing comes from, who made it and under what conditions.

I know that Farmers Rachel & Dave grew my family’s vegetables in an organic and sustainable way.

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to say the same about your clothing?

All Photographs by Kirstin LaMonde